In the human body all cells except egg and sperm have 46 chromosomes. Egg and sperm have 23 chromosomes. When the sperm fertilizes the egg, these two cells combine and ”create” a child with 46 chromosomes in each cell, which is a number of cells that a normal person has.
But sometimes the egg (and occasionally the sperm) has a double number of some chromosomes (extra copy of their 21st chromosome); fertilized egg, in this case, has 47 instead of 46 chromosomes, so the child in each cell has 47 chromosomes. Such a child has a Down syndrome.
Newborns with Down syndrome are recognized by their facial features. The outer angles of the eyes are slant upward, they have small head and ears and their neck is small, the face lines are inexpressible, and the tongue is long and often out of the mouth.
Children with Down syndrome must attend special schools, but they can be active participants in family life because they are obedient, caring and good natured, and many enjoy music.
Down syndrome affects one in 1000 children. If the mother is over 40 years old, there is a big danger that she will give birth to a child with this abnormality. It is equally dangerous if a mother or father have a rare anomaly of the chromosome. Amniocentesis is performed in the women who are endagered, and if the test is positive, it is recommended to stop pregnancy.
If a young woman with normal chromosomes gives birth to a child with a Down syndrome, there is almost no danger that the next child will have Down syndrome.
About 25% of children with Down syndrome also have some form of congenital heart defect. Among these children, there is more frequent intestinal atresia and leukemia. These children are particularly prone to ear and respiratory infections.
What to do?
For children with Down syndrome, it is much better to be raised in family than in certain institutions for kids with special needs, unless this presents a permanent tension for parents.
Children with Down syndrome attend special schools where teachers are trained to work with them.
Teachers in co-operation with parents try to teach the child not only speech, but also independent actions such as feeding, dressing and using toilets.
Children with Down syndrome can learn to do useful things, but they will always need a protective environment, as well as family care.