Down Syndrome: A Different Development

The word “retarded” has been used in many ways throughout this society. Once said out loud, people don’t understand how offensive it is to others. We all may know a couple of affected individuals, therefore, this word should not be in use by those who know them. Down Syndrome (DS) is a well-known chromosomal condition, that is in many cases, caused by having an extra 21st chromosome in each cell and known as a cause for mental retardation. This condition affects individuals diagnosed with it by having cognitive delays, an intellectual disability, and a characteristic facial appearance. Although many lack the knowledge of what the conditions to Down Syndrome are, it is momentous to be able to understand how it affects them and how they contribute with our society. Before detecting any genetic disorder, the parents have a choice to whether or not get a test called amniocentesis. This test is done by inserting a needle into a pregnant woman’s abdomen and into the uterus. Once that’s done, doctors then take a sample of the left-behind amniotic fluid, which surrounds and protects the baby after the needle has been inserted. With the sample, doctors can then look at the fetus’ DNA and determine whether or not the baby will have a genetic disorder, such as DS. When some parents find out their child has been diagnosed with DS, they have the choice to whether or not have the baby. In most cases, parents take it very hard when they find out, and tend to feel fear and disappointment, which is not considered selfish. The parents are simply worried that their child may have difficulties with their condition as they grow up. At first, parents may struggle a lot in the beginning, but many end up deciding to have their child. To many people, individuals with DS “look alike,” however, they all may or may not share the same medical conditions or symptoms. Some characteristics may involve the “upward-slanting eyes with narrow eye slits, a flat-seeming face with a low-bridged nose, low-set ears, broad feet with short toes, broad hands with short fingers, and a large tongue or small mouth that makes the tongue seem large and stick out”. One of the reasons to why many affected individuals may “look alike” is due to having an extra 21st chromosome.

Some health conditions that some with DS may have would be gastroesophageal reflux, celiac disease, hearing and vision problems, autism spectrum disorder, leukemia, and Alzheimer disease. If one has gastroesophageal reflux, it means that they have acidic contents that goes back up into the esophagus. For celiac disease, it means they cannot tolerate a wheat protein, also known as gluten. For hearing and vision problems, there is a chance for them to lose one of the senses and therefore need help and medical attention; about 15% of the individuals with DS have an increased risk of having those problems. For leukemia, it is a cancer in which affects the blood in our bodies by not being able to fight infections; there’s a very small percentage of those with DS affected by this cancer. For Alzheimer disease, it is when one loses their judgement, ability to function, and overall their memory. This disease normally develops when in their fifties or sixties, but now half of the adults with DS are developing this disease. Finally, for autism spectrum disorders, the individuals tend to lack communication and social interaction; there’s a small percentage of individuals with DS diagnosed with this disorder.

Many people with DS may experience symptoms such as delayed development for speech and language, and behavioral issues, such as attention problems and obsessive compulsive behaviors. These symptoms, however, may come during their infancy, childhood, or their adolescence stage and further. Although they may face many deficits, they may still develop strengths as they age.

During their infancy and toddler stage, there is a much slower transition in communicating, and their intelligibility when speaking is poor. During this stage, the child will have some first words and two-word combinations. Furthermore, their language development becomes slower after that, in both vocabulary and being able to put sentences together. Some strengths during this time of age are that their cognitive skills’ delay, improves and accelerates with age, they have more interest in social face-to-face interaction, they use more gestures for communication, and have better visual memory. While in this stage, it is important for the parents to understand that there is a high expectation that the child will not go through the average steps while developing.

During their childhood stage, some problems may be that they develop a verbal short-term memory for their daily socialization and living, they have exclusion of the amount of verbs well-put together, errors when speaking, and intelligibility problems. They may also develop problems such as withdrawal, anxiety, and depression, which may start to also appear with increasing age. Some strengths are that they may demonstrate more participation, become intimate with friends, and being able to play/work alone and with others, too.

While in their adolescence stage, they may face delays on language, their syntax comprehension getting slower, and problems with their vocabulary levels. In this stage, their syntax comprehension is delayed by being behind their nonverbal cognition development and their sentence structuring is behind their development in vocabulary comprehension and speaking. Some strengths they may encounter are that their intelligibility improves with age, vocabulary comprehension may no longer be behind their nonverbal cognition, and their learning process will continue throughout their adolescence and young adulthood stages. Although this may be close to their last stage: adulthood, this stage impacts the rest of their life and their decisions, too. When deciding what school a child with a mental disability should go to, the parents have a choice to either put their child in a mainstream class or a special education (special ed) class. However, wherever the child goes, it may depend on their learning difficulties or their mental disability to address the child’s individual needs and differences. Some differences between both types of education are the daily life teachings, the type of socialization they’ll get, and communication skills on receptive and expressive language, reading, and writing. Although some cases may not be very severe, it is still up to the parents to decide what type of education their child will have

. A child in a mainstream classroom will be in a regular school for part of their academic time. Some advantages to attending a mainstream class for a child with DS is that they will be involved with more diverse people, have better social skills and lives, being more involved with the school, improvement on their language, speech, behavior, and social development. They also tend to score higher in their communication skills, especially in writing and reading. Some disadvantages are that there is a chance for judgement, taunting, teasing, having a lack of acceptance, and they might also lack social involvement. Parents choosing what school their child should go to may be a hard decision for them because they wouldn’t like their child to be bullied; however, they still want the best education for their child. The other choice for education would be a special ed class. A child in a special ed class would be taught in a “trainable” classroom in which they will not be focusing on academic education, but more on their independence and self-care. Although they may limit the academic education, they focus on the socialization skills, daily life skills, and relationships with the other students. In this classroom, the students have a chance to develop many friendships who may share similar interests and abilities. Some disadvantages for a special ed class is that they don’t focus on nonverbal and social cognitive skills, they are surrounded by students with disabilities, meaning they won’t have positive role models or examples, and they won’t be able to have a very beneficial learning environment. Although this type of education may not help academically, parents still believe that it is important that their child has better social skills, self-care skills, and being able to be independent.

Within the many symptoms there is for DS, many of them mostly depend on the group they fall under for their causes of mental retardation. DS causes mental retardation due to the many conditions or symptoms that fall under it, such as cognitive delays. Mental retardation is an intellectual disability which is normally based on their below-average functioning. Some possible causes for mental retardation may be an “inherited disorder, abuse of certain drugs or alcohol during pregnancy, malnutrition before and after birth, complications of prematurity, birth injury, lack of oxygen during delivery, and accidents that causes brain damage”. Mental retardation may also come at a later time, it doesn’t necessarily have to come during birth. There is a Two-Group Theory in which many with mental retardation may fall under: organic and cultural-familial group. If an individual falls under the organic group, that means that their genetic or physical cause for mental retardation that has been identified. A genetic example would be if someone was born with it, and a physical example would be if someone had a serious head injury or a severe illness. People that have been diagnosed under this group often have “serious intellectual disabilities combined with physical disabilities. ” On the other hand, if an individual falls under the cultural-familial group, they’ll have an unidentifiable organic cause for their condition and tend to have a much milder form of mental retardation. Some examples for being in this group would be if they have a lack of proper physical affection, nutrition, and intellectual stimulation. Not having those things can affect the child’s potential for learning and developing for their entire life. Research has also shown that if a child who has been severely emotionally, physically, and intellectually neglected during their early three years of life, then they may not ever fully recover and can develop mild mental retardation. While being in any of those groups, it is important for a child to be treated right away.

There are many possible ways to detect mental retardation such as through the Intelligent Quotient (IQ) test done by educators and medical professionals. This test assesses the child’s wanting to perform well in school than in their normal life functions. The average score is between 81 and 109, but if a child scores below 70, then he/she might have mental retardation. Although some may think that the IQ tests are not very accurate in measuring a child’s intelligence, there are other ways, too. Another way is when “a psychologist, medical professional, or educator will look for whether or not the child has limitations in two or more adaptive skill areas,” such as the ability for speaking, reading, listening, and more. Mental retardation is normally diagnosed before the age of 18 due to the problems being more visible than others.

In conclusion, people with disabilities, such as DS, should not be thought of not being able to participate in today’s society, or that they always rely on other people’s help. With the many medical conditions out there, no matter how severe they are, may impact everyone in any way. Learning about their advantages and disadvantages should be applied to everyone to understand their differences and what they are struggling with every day. People with disabilities want to be known for what they can do, not for what they can’t do.

10 October 2020
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