Down (or Down’s) syndrome is when someone is born with an extra chromosome 21 in the cells of their body. It lasts for life and makes it harder for people to learn things.
What is it like for siblings if their brother or sister has Down syndrome?
Siblings often get on very well with their brothers and sisters who have Down syndrome. However, their brothers and sisters may need more help from their parent with managing every day activities. This can make siblings feel left out. Siblings may also worry about who is going to look after their brother or sister when they are adults. They worry about what will happen in the future.
What causes Down syndrome?
Inside our bodies are billions of cells and inside each cell are even smaller things called chromosomes. Most people have 46 chromosomes in each cell, 23 from their mother and 23 from their father. People with Down syndrome are born with an extra number 21 chromosome in each cell. This means that they have 47 chromosomes instead of 46. We do not know what causes Down syndrome. People are born with it, you cannot get it after you are born or catch it from someone else.
What does it mean?
People who have Down syndrome will have some of the same looks as other members of their family.
People with Down syndrome will also have similar features to each other. They often have a flat face, eyes that slant upwards, smaller ears and a flat back of the head. They may be shorter than other people and have short, broad hands with only one crease across the palm.
People with Down syndrome often find it hard to learn new things. They may need help with learning to talk, and how to look after themselves.
People with Down syndrome may also be affected in other ways. Some people’s eyesight, hearing or heart are affected. They may also get colds more often than other people and take longer to get better from them. Some people with Down syndrome also have autism.
What treatment is there?
There is no cure for Down syndrome but people with it live full lives. Many will go to mainstream school, make friends and have hobbies. Some children with Down syndrome attend special schools. They may have physiotherapy and speech and language therapy, as well as treatment from doctors for any medical conditions they have.
As they grow up, people with Down syndrome can be helped to learn how to look after themselves and to live their own lives with a little or a lot of support from other people.