Children with Down’s syndrome learn and grow in different ways and and at different
speeds. They each have their own unique strengths, interests, talents and needs. In their
first years of life, your child will develop through moving, having fun and interacting with
other people. They are helped to learn new skills by being shown how to do them and by
having enjoyable ways to practice.
Later they’ll get to develop by being educated at school, getting early intervention, having
their health needs met (e.g. getting their first hearing aids) and progress in all other areas
of life. Being socially included in their schools, neighbourhoods and families will be a big
help. Support at school and at home, as well as high expectations, are of great benefit to
them – just like any other child.
There’s plenty of support available to help children with Down’s syndrome lead fulfilling,
happy lives, without needing a miracle “cure”. Plenty of people with Down’s syndrome are
able to move out, have successful relationships, work, and lead mostly independent lives.
★ Talking to a range of different specialists, and having access to decent healthcare.
★ Joining a support group. The Down’s Syndrome Association will be able to connect
you with other families whose children have the condition.
How Will Down’s Syndrome Affect My Child?
Children with Down’s syndrome are usually of average size when they’re born, but might
take longer to grow and will often stay smaller than other children of their age. Kids with DS
tend to develop middle ear infections, respiratory infections that keep coming back and
tonsillitis (infected tonsils). In childhood, many kids with Down’s syndrome will share a
number of physical features like an upward slant to the eyes, smaller-than-average ears,
protruding tongue and flat facial profile.
Children and toddlers will sometimes have delayed speech and basic skills like eating,
dressing and potty training. Babies may seen especially “floppy”, as hypotonia (low muscle
tone) is particularly common in children with Down’s syndrome. Most children with DS
typically reach developmental milestones like crawling, standing and walking later than
other kids – even though their reduced muscle tone will often improve over time.
Children with Down’s syndrome are between 10 and 15 times more likely to develop
leukemia – a disease that can be fatal – in their early years of life than their peers.
Pneumonia is also more common in children with DS than in their peers.
Low muscle tone can contribute to digestive issues like constipation, as well as difficulty
sucking and feeding in infants.
Children with Down’s syndrome have plenty of talents, and when they’re born there’s no
way to tell what they will be capable of when they’re older. Kids with DS can and do learn,
and are capable of developing skills throughout their lives. Most children with Down’s
syndrome will have mild to moderate intellectual impairment, and the condition can affect
their ability to learn in a number of ways.
It’s really important not to compare a child with Down’s syndrome to siblings with no such
impairment, or even other children with the condition. Every child will reach their goals at a
How Can I Be Supportive?
There are plenty of things you can do to help your child’s development and education.
These might include…
★ Use pictures to make a daily schedule your child can see.
★ Create a daily routine and stick to it as best you can. For example, the morning
might be “get up / eat breakfast / brush teeth / get dressed.”
★ Support for your child’s development – this may include speech and language
therapy, physiotherapy, and home teaching.
★ Encouraging your child to be as independent as possible from an early age with
things like feeding and dressing, getting ready for bed, brushing teeth, and going to
★ Naming and talking about things your child’s looking at and is interested in.
★ Helping your child to learn through play. Use their toys to encourage them to grasp,
move and stretch, and show them how to play with their toys properly.
★ Creating opportunities for your child to socialise with peers. This gives them the
opportunity to develop social relationships and learn new skills in an inclusive
★ Teaching your child new words through play. You can ask for ideas from your
speech and language therapist or a home visiting teacher.
Kids with Down’s syndrome tend to work best with a routine, just like most other children.
Positive support tends to create a better response than discipline, too. As you try these tips,
try to keep both of these things in mind.
★ Use very clear signals to help your child switch between activities. Singing a song or
looking at an image can be helpful for younger children.
As with all new babies, at times they’ll need to fit in with what’s going on around them. Any
fun activity with the family can be beneficial. Always remember that it’s important to do all
the normal things families do, and not just focus on the “special” activities.
The activities you do with your baby don’t always have to be meaningful or informative.
Children Aged Two to Five: Early Education
In most cases, children with Down’s syndrome will attend mainstream early years
programmes with their peers (both with and without the condition). To find out more about
early education and childcare, contact your local Family Information Service.
From the age of three, all children are entitled to free early education for up to 15 hours
each week. Children with disabilities or special educational needs, as well as some other
groups, are eligible from the age of two.
For more information about Down’s syndrome, check out The Essential Guide to Down’s
Syndrome from Need2Know Books, which explains in straightforward language what
exactly Down’s syndrome is, how to accept the diagnosis and move forward, and what
support is available should you need it. Your child deserves the best start in life, and you
can provide that by getting informed.