As promised, today I rocked my pink socks, royal blue stilettos and red skirt suit. I walked to the sitting room feeling Christmas tree-ish but positive to start day and the holy week that will usher in the Easter Season. No sooner had my brother in law, sister and domestic manager saw me, than they burst into laughter. Saying I was happy is an understatement I was extremely elated because I got their attention and therefore an opportunity to sneak in important information about Down syndrome- it was a set-up! I contained myself not to laugh and when they signed off their hearty laughter I gave them some early morning awareness on Down syndrome. I left for work feeling accomplished whistling “As for me and my house, we will know and create awareness about Down syndrome”
The following is the focal point of my awareness creation which I am doing around the office and on the streets of Nairobi for anyone who cares to listen (I still have my socks on by the way and I love the astonishment in people’s eyes):
- 21st March of every year is the World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD). This year marks its 11th
- Down syndrome (DS), also called Trisomy 21, is a condition in which extra genetic material causes delays in the way a child develops, both mentally and physically.
- Normally, at the time of conception a baby inherits genetic information from its parents in the form of 46 chromosomes: 23 from the mother and 23 from the father. In most cases of Down syndrome, a child gets an extra chromosome 21 — for a total of 47 chromosomes instead of 46. It’s this extra genetic material that causes the physical features and developmental delays associated with DS.
- Down syndrome, the most commonly identified cause of mental disability occurs in about 1 in 700 births.
- Some common physical signs of Down syndrome include:
Flat face with an upward slant to the eye, short neck, and short ears
Stubby and short fingers
Slanted eyes with an epicanthic fold
Poor muscle tone
Small hands and feet
They are shorter than average height of their age mates
- Down syndrome is not a degenerative disorder. It cannot be cured. It is a life-long condition that benefits tremendously from early intervention programs to maximise the potential of persons living with Down syndrome. Medical conditions such as heart defects can be corrected through heart surgery and medication. Low muscle tone can be toned and improved through physiotherapy and occupational therapy. Speech challenges can be improved through speech therapy.
- In many important ways, children who have Down syndrome are very much the same as other children. They have the same moods and emotions, and they like to learn new things, to play and enjoy life. You can help your child by providing as many chances as possible for him or her to do these things. Read to your child and play with him or her, just as you would any other child. Help your child to have positive experiences with new people and places.
- Each child with Down syndrome has his or her own talents and unique capacities, and as a parent or a teacher, it’s important to recognize these and reinforce them.
- Many kids with Down syndrome go to school and enjoy many of the same activities as other kids their age. Many also transition to semi-independent living and are able to hold jobs, thus finding their own success in the community.
I take this opportunity to thank my all time friend Mchikirwa Ndelejai for joining me in this…one love dear. You are doing great in Taita Taveta County. Let’s join hands and advocate for maternal and children health because a population with healthy mothers and children and safe environments are important pre-conditions for a sustainable future.
Happy World Down Syndrome Day!