A chromosomal defect resulting in a complex pattern of birth defects, including some degree of mental retardation (also known as Down's syndrome). A child with Down Syndrome is developmentally disabled and considered a child with SPECIAL NEEDS. The syndrome is named after British physician Langdon Down, who identified many features of this syndrome.
Down Syndrome is very common, occurring in 1 in 1,000 children. A child with Down syndrome usually has somewhat slanted eyes, with epicanthal (extra) folds at the inner corners, and small hands, feet, ears and nose. About 40% of these children have heart ailments, and another 10% have defects in their gastrointestinal systems. Many of these birth defects are now correctable by surgery.
A prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome may be obtained through the "chorionic villus biopsy," which can be performed at an earlier stage of fetal development than amniocentesis and provides more rapid results than amniocentesis.
What expectant parents do with this information depends on the individual. Some expectant parents will choose abortion, others will continue the pregnancy and elect to parent the child or place the infant for adoption.
It is probably not the appearance of the child that causes biological parents to choose adoption as much as the retardation, particularly if the child will apparently need lifelong care. The degree of retardation varies greatly from individual to individual.
In the past, many parents were urged to institutionalize the affected child. Today, parents of a Down syndrome child may choose other courses, opting to parent the child or place the child for adoption.
There is a specific waiting list for people who wish to adopt children with Down Syndrome. Contact
(Adoption Knowledge and Information on Down Syndrome)
27 Eagle Court
White Plains, NY 10606
Siegfried M. Pueschel, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., James C. Bernier, M.S.W., and Leslie E. Weidenman, Ph.D., The Special Child: A Source Book for Parents of Children with Developmental Disabilities (Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes, 1988).
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©2000 by Christine Adamec and William Pierce, Ph.D. Reprinted from The Encyclopedia of Adoption, 2nd Edition (2nd Edition) with permission of Facts On File, Inc.
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