What is Down Syndrome?

Jaliya Uduwella, Chief Physiotherapist, Lady Ridgeway Hospital, Colombo, explains how physiotherapy can help


Down Syndrome is caused by genetic abnormality. Generally speaking, it was first introduced as mongolism. The disease can be divided into three groups: Trisomy 21, Mosaicism, Translocation.

The group, which could be generally seen, belong to the first grouping Trisomy 21 — a condition of extra chromosome of the 21st genetic pair.

The mouth of these children are small with a high palate. The tongue is too big and the child usually puts the tongue out. The bones of the flat nose can be observed grown incompletely, with eyes generally turned upwards and having small waves inside the edge of the skin.

The ears are small having with equally small lobes. Some children are born without ear lobes. Rough dry skin, short neck and with the fifth finger in the hands generally small. Sometimes, they also suffer from heart-related conditions.

The abdomen is large and the back of their little head is flat in shape. The muscles are also very soft. As a result of these features, these children are described as "floppy babies".

There is less gender development, infertility and they are mentally retarded. There’s a way of measuring to test the intelligence of these children. It is known as ‘IQ level‘. The value of the ‘IQ level’ of children suffering from Down Syndrome is generally in the range of 20-50. They are receptive to music and are very clever at imitating others.

Down Syndrome cannot be cured, but with physiotherapy exercises done from the first stage, their physical and mental activities could be improved. Strengthening exercises for the muscles should also be done.

(The writer is also the President, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy)

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