After a long and tumultuous labor with many complications, Pratham came into this world. Little did his parents know that he'll be a little different from any other kid his age. The doctors diagnosed him as having Down's Syndrome. These two words started his journey full of social and emotional obstacles and physical hindrances.
Down's Syndrome is a genetic condition caused due to presence of an extra
chromosome at the 21st site. It's easily picked up by doctors during birth because of its prominent features- small head and ears, protruding tongue, poor muscle tone and upward slanting eyes. It was first identified by a British doctor "John Langdon" in 1959. This condition isn't caused by exposure to any teratogens or a mother’s food intake and behavior during pregnancy, rather it’s merely a chance. Nevertheless, older parents (above 35) have 20 times more risk of conceiving a child with down’s syndrome (Campbell et al, 2015) .
Pratham faced many challenges while growing up. He had partial visual and hearing impairment, obesity and rudimentary speech. Up to 60 percent children with Down's Syndrome have heart defects leading to short life expectancy (Kucik et al, 2013). Pratham, luckily, didn’t have any congenital heart problems. But, he suffered from moderate intellectual disabilities. He always needed extra time and assistance in dressing up, doing academic work and required encouragement in problem solving and decision making. There were days when he was extremely anxious and on other days, impulsive. Nearly 40 percent of people with Down's syndrome also meet the criteria for an autism spectrum disorder (Warner et al, 2014).
Despite such hurdles, these children have various strengths. They have high sense of empathy and social understanding due to which they can relate to, play with and interact with people of various ages (Pochon et al, 2017) . Even if it's not verbal, their cheerful gestures of beautiful smile and joyful high-fives can make anyone fall in love with them.
Pratham’s parents made sure he gets extensive special education and occupational therapy through IEPs and grew up to be a successful entrepreneur when he opened his own kitchen garden and nursery. He is working towards a greener and happier Earth.
On this 21st March, Down's Syndrome Awareness Day, let's acknowledge and LEARN from these wonderful and bold individuals who are working hard to live a meaningful life despite their troubles. Let's stop sympathizing or discriminating against them, rather support and push them to do better, work harder and be happier. Let’s have gratitude for our abilities and acceptance of their quirks, so they continue to spread joy throughout the world with their brightest smiles and comforting hugs!
Campbell, C. & Furlotte, N. (2015) Escape from crossover interference increases with maternal age. Nature Communication Journal. Volume 6, Article 6260. Retrieved from: https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms7260
Kucick, J. E. & Shin, M. (2013) Trends in survival among children with Down syndrome in 10 regions of the United States. Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Volume 131 (1) Page Link- 27-36. Retrieved from : https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/1/e27
Warner, G. & Moss, M. (2014) Autism characteristics and behavioural disturbances in ~ 500 children with Down's syndrome in England and Wales. International Society for Autism Research. Volume 7, Issue 4, Pages- 433-441.
Pochon, R., & Touchet, C. (2017) Emotion Recognition in Adolescents with Down Syndrome: A Nonverbal Approach. Journal of Brain Sciences. Volume 7(6), Page 55. Retrieved from : https://www.mdpi.com/2076-3425/7/6/55