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Down's Syndrome

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Understanding the condition


All children with Down’s Syndrome do not look alike. A child with Down’s Syndrome will have the physical characteristics of his/ her family.  They will have their own personality, abilities, hopes and dreams. Individuals with down’s Syndrome will have some degree of learning disability.

When born, a child with Down’s Syndrome may have the following features:

  • floppiness (hypotonia)

  • eyes that slant upwards and outwards

  • a small mouth with a tongue that may stick out

  • a flat back of the head

  • below-average weight and length at birth

  • their palm may have only one crease across it


Down's syndrome is usually caused by an extra chromosome in a baby's cells. In most cases, this isn't inherited – it's simply the result of a one-off genetic change in the sperm or egg.

There's a small chance of having a child with Down's syndrome with any pregnancy, but the likelihood increases with the age of the mother. For women aged 20, it is 1 in 1,500 chance and for women aged 40 plus it is 1 in 100.

There is no evidence to suggest that anything done before or during pregnancy can increase or decrease the chances of having a child with Down’s Syndrome.

Associated conditions


Respiratory infection

Individuals with Down’s Syndrome are more likely than others to develop infections of the respiratory tract and as a result may require admission to hospital.

Heart Problems (Cardiac Disorders)

Around half of children with Down’s syndrome will be born with a heart defect, of those 1 in 5 will be serious. Where children do have a heart condition, some will be minor where others will require surgery.


It is important that a child is assessed as soon after birth and it is highly recommended that any conditions are identified within the first two months of a child’s life.


The UK Down’s Syndrome Medical Interest Group (DSMIG) recommend the following heart checks:


  • By age 6 weeks, formal heart assessment including echocardiogram

  • At all ages low threshold for reviewing heart status if signs or symptoms develop

  • From adolescence onwards as part of routine health checks listen to heart for signs of acquired heart disease.


Congenital heart disease can have a number of symptoms, including:

  • rapid heartbeat

  • rapid breathing

  • excessive sweating

  • extreme tiredness and fatigue

  • a blue tinge to the skin (cyanosis)

  • tiredness and rapid breathing when a baby is feeding


The most common types of congenital heart disease are:

  • Septal defects – where there's a hole between two of the heart's chambers (commonly referred to as a "hole in the heart")

  • Coarctation of the aorta – where the main large artery of the body, called the aorta, is narrower than normal

  • Pulmonary valve stenosis – where the pulmonary valve, which controls the flow of blood out of the lower right chamber of the heart to the lungs, is narrower than norma

  • Transposition of the great arteries – where the pulmonary and aortic valves and the arteries they're connected to have swapped positions


There are a number of treatments available so it is important to ensure your child has a health check at birth or shortly afterwards to determine their needs and if treatment is required, what forms of treatment would be suitable.

Additional conditions

  • Gastrointestinal problems

  • Neck Instability

  • Coeliac disease

  • Nasal congestion / catarrh in children

  • Depression

  • Thyroid

  • Weight difficulties

  • Sleep problems

  • Mental Well Being

  • Hearing Loss

  • Sight difficulties

Challenges faced by students


Speech, Language and Communication

Children with Down Syndrome may also experience communication difficulties and become frustrated if they are unable to communicate their needs and feelings. To understand how you can support the communication skills of a child with Down Syndrome in your class,  click here .

Learning difficulties

 Click here  for more information on Learning Difficulties



A child with Down’s Syndrome may take a little longer to wean and self-feed but there is no reason why they can not be supported to wean as any other child.



There are no specific behavioural conditions associated with Down’s Syndrome however a child with Down Syndrome may need additional support to understand what appropriate behaviour in different situations is. They may also find it difficult to distinguish between public and private behaviour.

Toilet Training

Toilet Training may take longer for a child with Down’s Syndrome but again with patience and support children with Down’s Syndrome can be toilet trained. If a child with Down’s Syndrome in your class is experiencing difficulties in toilet training, these tips on toilet training may prove useful in supporting the parents/ carers and in school.


 Click here  for tips on toilet training.


Children with Down’s Syndrome are more likely to experience sleep difficulties, this can be behavioural or physical in nature, related to sleep disordered breathing.

Health and well-being

Find out how you can promote good health and well-being for children with Down’s Syndrome in your class.

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