Down's Syndrome is a condition someone is born with which causes learning disabilities, caused by an extra 'number 21' chromosome. It can come from either the mother or the father and there is no way to predict it. Down's Syndrome is the most common cause of developmental disability.
There are thought to be up to 120 features of Down's Syndrome, but many children experience no more than a handful of these. Aside from several physical traits, the main mental symptoms include a slower rate of learning new skills, meaning those affected often meet their 'developmental milestones' such as walking or talking later.
Parents or other carers of those with Down's Syndrome can feel extremely stressed, especially immediately after diagnosis. It is important during this time to seek help; usually a community midwife and health visitor will visit the family at home early on, offering emotional support and advice on practical ways of coping with difficulties such as feeding problems. The help they provide, as well as that provided by other organisations and support groups, can lead to a period of positive adjustment and optimism as the realisation sets in that people with Down's Syndrome can live a life every bit as full and rewarding as anyone else.
As the child grows up, meetings with the health visitor should be ongoing and can really help to look after the health of the family as a whole. A speech therapist, physiotherapist and occupational therapist may well have important roles too, both from a very young age and later during the child's schooling.
There are a great many avenues of support that parents or carers of people with Down's Syndrome can investigate, from respite care, to benefits and other financial support (social services benefits could include, for example, Disability Living Allowance).
Carers may also wish to meet other families who have a child with Down's Syndrome. They can do this through their local branch of the The Down’s Syndrome Association.
The The Down’s Syndrome Association, and other organisations such as those listed here, will also have information available on their website on support available for adults with Down's Syndrome.
Finally, we would encourage carers who wish to make contact with other families with experience of Down's Syndrome to visit our discussion boards and chat room.