Down syndrome and its characteristics
Currently, some myths persist about children with Down syndrome that have distorted the way in which they should be educated and generate appropriate processes that stimulate them. To clarify all this, we will begin by explaining what Down syndrome is.
What is Down syndrome?
Although many consider it a disease, the truth is that it is not so: it is a genetic alteration caused by an extra chromosome in pair 21. That is, children with Down syndrome have 3 chromosomes in pair 21, when normal is two, resulting in a total of 47, taking into account that there are 23 pairs; with which, the common would be, namely, 46 chromosomes. Hence, this syndrome is also known as trisomy 21.
In turn, this extra genetic material produces irregularities in the functional development of children, both physically and cognitively. These variations can be characterized, evidenced, in the aspects that we will point out below:
Characteristics of a child with Down syndrome
Regarding the characteristics of a child with Down syndrome, which will be grouped into 4 categories to make it more illustrative: physical, cognitive, perceptual and motor.
- Physical: in general, those who suffer from this genetic alteration tend to have upward slanted eyes, a short neck, small ears, as well as hands and feet, small white spots on the iris of the eye, a only a fold in the palm of the hand, a tendency for the tongue to stick out of the mouth, a weak muscle tone, a short stature in both childhood and adulthood, and small pinky fingers, in some cases bent towards the thumb (clinodactyly).
- Cognitive: in relation to cognitive development, they have difficulties in abstraction and conceptualization during learning. In addition, they present difficulties in making adequate and coherent decisions, in planning strategies for conflict resolution and in mental calculation. They show slowness in the processing and coding of information, spatial and temporal disorientation, variable intellectual disability and attention deficit.
- Perceptual: in turn, and with regard to sensory and sensitive stimuli, they process visual information more easily than auditory information.
- Motor: with regard to motor skills and movement, they have muscle weakness (hypotonia), coordination problems and ligament laxity.
There is no exact cause that explains why this genetic alteration occurs, but there are studies that have shown that the mother's age can be a determining factor for this to happen, especially if the mother conceives the child after the age of 35. .
Needs of children with Down syndrome
In the first years of life of the child with Down syndrome, the environment in which they grow up is a fundamental part of their integral development, which makes it important to expose them to different stimuli on which they can focus their attention, such as, For example, those in which their senses are activated, such as the manipulation of objects, painting or contact with textured objects.
Some of the most important elements, and to take into account, are the reinforcement of secure attachment and shared play, since constant socialization will help the child to gain security and greater autonomy. Regarding play, they must be with children of the same age, whether or not they have a disability, since in this way social and collaborative learning is promoted, which will help them develop social skills.
In a future post we will talk about the main conditions that children with Down syndrome suffer from and what other important brain areas should be stimulated.