Quality educational programs, a stimulating home environment, good health care, and positive support from family, friends and the community enable people with Down syndrome to develop to their full potential and lead fulfilling lives.
It is important to remember that while children and adults with Down syndrome experience developmental delays, they also have many talents and gifts and should be given the opportunity and encouragement to develop them.
Most children with Down syndrome have mild to moderate impairments but it is important to note that they are more like other children than they are different. Early Intervention services should be provided shortly after birth. These services include physical, speech and developmental therapies.
Most children attend their neighborhood schools, some in regular classes and others in special education classes. Some children have more significant needs and require a more specialized program. Some high school graduates with Down syndrome participate in post-secondary education. Many adults with Down syndrome are capable of working in the community, but some require a more structured environment.
Many children with Down syndrome have health complications beyond the usual childhood illnesses. Approximately 40% of the children have congenital heart defects. It is very important that an echocardiogram be performed on all newborns with Down syndrome in order to identify any serious cardiac problems that might be present. Some of the heart conditions require surgery while others only require careful monitoring.
Children with Down syndrome have a higher incidence of infection, respiratory, vision and hearing problems as well as thyroid and other medical conditions. However, with appropriate medical care most children and adults with Down syndrome can lead healthy lives.
Life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased dramatically in recent decades - from 25 in 1983 to 60 today. Researchers are making great strides in identifying the genes on Chromosome 21 that cause the characteristics of Down syndrome. Many feel strongly that it will be possible to improve, correct or prevent many of the problems associated with Down syndrome in the future.