Health expert calls to empower children with Down syndrome

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“It takes a village to raise a child, more so with children with Down syndrome,” says Dr. Leanith Haya, Medical Officer IV of the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) Department of Pediatrics during the regular Kapihan sa Baguio held at the Department of Health (DOH) Secretary’s Cottage on February 8.

Down syndrome is a disorder caused by an error in cell division resulting to an additional chromosome 21, referred to as Trisomy 21. This condition entails that every cell in a human body will consist of three chromosomes 21, instead of the usual two. The physical features of a child with Down syndrome include upward slanting eyes, flatted nose and facial profile, small mouth, large tongue, small ears, poor muscle tone, and a deep groove between the first and second toes. This disorder is also regarded as the most common cause of mild to moderate intellectual disability, formerly known as mental retardation.

Additionally, 75% of these kids have difficulty in hearing and 50% have blurred vision and heart problems.  Most of them also have stomach problems, allergies, and late speech development.

According to Dr. Haya, 1 in every 800 children in the world has Down syndrome. Ninety-five percent of the incidents occurred sporadically or by chance. Only 3-4% has hereditary components which refutes the common misconception that once a child with Down syndrome is born, the succeeding offspring of a couple will have similar condition.

Despite their conditions, Dr. Haya informed that there are interventions that parents can do to help their children become functional members of the society. The kids can undergo physical therapy to help strengthen their muscles and occupational therapy to teach them how to eat, wear clothes, or do household chores on their own. Speech therapy is also an option for children two to three years old. Regular checkup is also encouraged for they are prone to a disease called hypothyroidism.

With regards to schooling, the doctor said that their education should depend on the capacity of the children. They should be grouped according to their abilities and needs and they should be pushed to their maximum extent in order to maximize their full potentials.

“At this time because of awareness programs, we learn their difficulties. And from these we can see that instead of making fun of them, we should try to help them because somehow and in some way, they will also help us,” Dr. Haya concluded. Press Release/DOH Health Promotion / ABN