The more children with Down syndrome you know, the more it is apparent that not all children with Down syndrome are alike. Children with Down syndrome are not all born with identical learning problems, health problems, appearance and potential nor are they born in the same environment. Some of the variables that contribute to the differences are:
- Genetic differences: Two children with Down syndrome who have the same parents, grow up in the same environment, and have the same educational opportunities can be very different individuals with different potential, physical characteristics, and medical conditions depending on which genes in the overdose of genetic information on the 21st chromosome are expressed. Therefore, the person may or may not have a particular heart defect, learning difference, or any other medical, cognitive, or physical characteristic associated with the syndrome.
- Untreated, uncorrected, or undiagnosed secondary medical conditions associated with Down syndrome: Most children receive aggressive medical care that successfully treats medical conditions such as heart defects, hearing and vision problems, thyroid dysfunction and other conditions. These problems, if left untreated, can greatly impair anyone’s learning.
- Additional disabling conditions not associated with Down syndrome: It is possible for children with Down syndrome to have the same prenatal, perinatal and postnatal injuries that cause mental disabilities and other delays in typical children. Having Down syndrome does not immunize a child from having these other disabling conditions such as autism, attention deficit disorder, and brain damage among others.
- Environmental factors: It is well known that the environment has an important impact on the development of any child. All development stems from interaction between individuals’ genetic makeup and their psychological and physical environment. Deprived environments put all children at risk for developmental delays and would certainly compound the delays that are often seen in children with Down syndrome. A nurturing and enriching environment that fosters the child’s development will certainly enhance his or her ability to learn.
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