Can Down Syndrome be Cured?

Currently, there is no cure for Down syndrome. It is the "overdose" of genetic information on the extra 21st chromosome that causes Down syndrome. Although all people with Down syndrome have this extra chromosome in every cell of their body (except for people with mosaic Down syndrome), the impact of this overdose of genetic information differs among individuals, depending on which genes in the overdose are expressed. This is why not all people with Down syndrome have all of the same characteristics, health problems, and cognitive abilities associated with the syndrome. For the time being, a nurturing environment, aggressive medical care, and specialized early and continuous intervention are the best treatment for Down syndrome.

Does Down Syndrome Run in Families?

All types of Down syndrome are genetic conditions (relating to the genes), but only 1% of all cases of Down syndrome have a hereditary component (passed from parent to child through the genes). Heredity is not a factor in trisomy 21 (nondisjunction) and mosaicism. However, in one third of cases of Down syndrome resulting from translocation there is a hereditary component.

What is the Likelihood of Having a 2nd Child With Down Syndrome?

Once a woman has given birth to a baby with trisomy 21 (nondisjunction) or translocation, it is estimated that her chances of having another baby with trisomy 21 is 1 in 100 up until age 40.

The risk of recurrence of translocation is about 3% if the father is the carrier and 10-15% if the mother is the carrier. Genetic counseling can determine the origin of translocation.

Should Children With Down Syndrome be Institutionalized?

No. Admitting children with Down syndrome to an institution is just like putting them in prison for life, although they have committed no crime. An institution cannot provide the same nurturing environment, protection, health care and loving support that a caring family can offer. Even with the best of intentions, institutions usually end up providing custodial care rather than truly providing a solid education for people with intellectual disabilities.

Does Inclusive Education Lead to Better Outcomes for Children With Down Syndrome?

When inclusion is effectively implemented, children with Down syndrome have positive outcomes. Effective implementation includes specialized support and trained personnel with the skills and knowledge necessary to improve the academic achievement and functional performance of children with disabilities. When compared to students in non-inclusion settings, students in inclusion settings have better academic skills, social skills, communication skills and peer relationships. The Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz Schools for Down Syndrome provide effective, comprehensive, specialized education in two model programs along with training for educators and support staff in these specialized methods.  These methods can be replicated in different settings, including regular classrooms, provided the staff is well trained. Our classrooms are inclusive in that same-aged children are in the same class, regardless of ability, and all students have access to academic and functional programs. We are also the first program in Saudi Arabia to provide community-based vocational training and employment, where people with Down syndrome are included in the community workforce.

Is there any Evidence that Introducing Children With Down Syndrome to Computers and Tablets at a Young Age is Beneficial?

Technology has provided more tools for learning, but has not changed the way children learn. The learning process and the stages of learning remain the same, and interaction remains the basis of all learning. Children with Down syndrome can benefit from using technology, and the timing of its introduction should be determined by each child's abilities and needs. When computers and tablets are used in educational settings, each student’s objectives while using them should be clearly stated in his or her individualized education plan. The benefit can then be measured by assessing whether the student has met the stated objectives. In homes where other children and adults are using tablets, and a young child with Down syndrome is interested and motivated to use them, he or she can certainly do so. But parents should not worry that their child will be deprived--or left behind--if he or she does not have a computer or tablet. Books, puzzles, and toys are still very beneficial teaching and entertainment tools.

How Do I Know if my Child With Down syndrome also has Autism?

If your child is three years of age or younger, look for the following behaviors:

  • repetitive motor behaviors (fingers in mouth, hand flapping)
  • fascination with and staring at lights, ceiling fans, or fingers
  • extreme food refusal
  • receptive language problems (poor understanding and use of gestures)
  • no spoken language, or language that is highly repetitive.

Along with these behaviors, other medical conditions may also be present including seizures, dysfunctional swallow, nystagmus (constant movement of the eyes) or severe hypotonia (low muscle tone) with a delay in motor skills. Older children, most often between the ages of three and seven years, experience a dramatic loss (or plateauing) in their acquisition and use of language and social-attending skills.  This developmental regression may be followed by excessive irritability, anxiety, and the onset of repetitive behaviors.

If you are concerned about any of these symptoms, please take your child to a trained healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis. For more information on this topic, please click here.