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Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is caused by a chromosomal defect and is marked by certain distinctive physical characteristics as well as typically some level of intellectual disability. Current estimates place the prevalence of Down syndrome at 1 in 700 persons. Persons with Down syndrome are highly susceptible to a number of other medical conditions including hearing deficiency, congenital heart disease, thyroid problems, obesity, atlantoaxial instability and early onset of Alzheimer's disease.

In addition to these considerations, persons with Down syndrome often have some level of communication impairment. Understanding and facilitating nonverbal communication may be necessary to effectively relate to persons with Down syndrome.

Because individuals with Down syndrome frequently have some level of intellectual disability, the physician must make every effort to assure that the patient fully understands the instructions being given to him or her. This may be less of an issue for a child who is accompanied by an adult.

However, remembering to speak in terms that the person can easily understand (without being condescending) and verifying that the patient has understood any instructions are important considerations of which to be aware.

One idea to ensure that patients understand instructions is to write the instructions out for the patient and verbally go over them. Another idea is to arrange a follow up call to remind and make sure that the patient is following the instructions.

For more information about Down syndrome:

Health Care Guidelines for Individuals with Down Syndrome: http://www.denison.edu/dsq/health96.html

National Down Syndrome Congress: http://www.ndsccenter.org

National Association for Down Syndrome, http://www.nads.org

National Down Syndrome Society, 800-221-4602, http://www.ndss.org