Raising a Child with Down Syndrome


How does Down syndrome affect children who are awaiting international adoption? What kind of lifestyle can a child with Down syndrome expect to live?

Bethany Christian Services partners with countries around the globe advocating for precious children with identified special placement needs. We ask you to join us in prayer specifically for children with Down syndrome because many of these children do not survive in utero or long into childhood. There are hundreds of children languishing in orphanages and awaiting the opportunity to allow their great potential to explode with the love and resources of an adoptive family.

Q:  What is Down syndrome?

A:  Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal abnormality in humans. Typically, the nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent.  Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome #21.  This additional genetic material alters the course of fetal development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome.  There are three types of Down syndrome: Trisomy 21, Translocation, and Mosaicism. (Source: National Down Syndrome Society).

Q:  What are the physical characteristics of Down syndrome?

A:  Common physical traits of Down syndrome include the following:

  • Low muscle tone
  • Small stature
  • An upward/almond shape to the eyes
  • A single deep crease across the center of the palm
  • Wider spacing between the big and little toes

Each person with Down syndrome is unique and may possess these characteristics to varying degree, or not at all.  Individuals with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions as well:

  • Heart defects
  • Vision impairments
  • Hearing impairments
  • Respiratory challenges
  • Thyroid issues
  • Childhood leukemia (rarely)
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Prospective adoptive parents should know that during the past few decades, the medical field has made great strides in helping people with Down syndrome lead healthy lives.

Q:  What kind of lifestyle can a person with Down syndrome expect to live?

A:  Most individuals with Down syndrome are able to attend school, work, and contribute to society.  All individuals with Down syndrome possess many strengths and talents and yet they also experience mild to moderate cognitive delays.  With quality educational programs; a stimulating home environment; good health care; and positive support from family, friends, and the community; individuals with Down syndrome can develop to their full potential and lead fulfilling lives. (Source: National Down Syndrome Society)                                                                   

Q: How does Down syndrome affect the children who are awaiting international adoption?

A:  As with other institutionalized children, children with Down syndrome may have global delays.  In general, adoptive parents can expect these children to have histories of neglect and abuse.  Sadly, the characteristics of Down syndrome may be difficult to identify separately from the characteristics adoption professionals often see with institutionalized children.  

Babies born with Down syndrome in the United States are eligible to begin receiving services at birth that include occupational and physical therapy.  Many medical resources and therapeutic services are accessible to U.S.-born children—resources that will help them to reach their fullest potential.  Unfortunately, such social service programs and resources are not always available to the children Bethany serves in other countries.




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