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Down syndrome is a set of mental and physical symptoms that result from having an extra copy of chromosome 21. This happens in the early stages of pregnancy. Having this extra chromosome usually slows the development of the brain and body.
Some common physical signs of Down syndrome include:
- Flat face with an upward slant to the eyes
- Short neck
- Abnormally shaped ears
- Deep crease in the palm of the hand
- White spots on the colored portion of the eye
- Low muscle tension
- Small hands and feet
Down syndrome also causes intellectual disability. Most people with Down syndrome have a level of intellectual functioning (IQ) that is in the mild to moderate range of intellectual disabilities. They may also be slow in developing language skills and learning to control their movements.
Down syndrome has no cure. But children with Down syndrome can often be helped by:
- Speech therapy
- Physical therapy to help them learn to control their movements
- Occupational therapy to help them learn activities of daily living
- Special education
With help early in life, many people with Down syndrome can live productive lives well into adulthood.
Explore other publications and websites
Down Syndrome — This fact sheet describes the characteristics of Down syndrome and employment and educational implications, as well as provides a list of additional resources.
Down Syndrome — This publication presents information about Down syndrome (DS), including prevalence, screening, diagnosis, and living with DS through the different stages of life.
Down Syndrome (Copyright © New York Online Access to Health) — This Internet site presents a wealth of information on Down syndrome, including basic descriptions, causes, prenatal testing for, physical development, complications, concerns, management, and therapy. It includes resources from all over the United States.
Down Syndrome: Caring for a Baby Who Has Down Syndrome (Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians) — This publication provides information for parents on how to care for a baby with Down syndrome. It includes information on learning disorders, health problems associated with Down syndrome, and breastfeeding challenges. There are also resources for more information.
Health Care Guidelines Downloadable PDFs (Copyright © National Down Syndrome Society) — This web page links to health care guidelines for people with Down Syndrome in each stage of life: neonatal, infant, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Each stage of life has its own page and includes information about when and how often to see the doctor for specific checkups.
Managing Behavior: Behavioral Challenges in Persons With Down Syndrome (Copyright © National Down Syndrome Society) — This publication addresses the different behavioral challenges you may face as the parent, guardian, or teacher of a person with Down syndrome. It discusses some common behaviors, how you can respond to these behaviors, and where you can go for more information.
Connect with other organizations
American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
Birth Defect Research for Children, Inc
March of Dimes
National Association for Down Syndrome
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, CDC
National Down Syndrome Congress
National Down Syndrome Society
President's Committee for People With Intellectual Disabilities, ACF, HHS
Content last updated September 22, 2009.
Resources last updated September 22, 2009.
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