Lack of information about genetic conditions has led to misconceptions about children born with the disorders being labelled as cursed and thus end up failing to get basic care like education.
This month is down syndrome awareness month. Down syndrome is a chromosomal disorder in which a baby is born with an extra chromosome that determines how their bodies develop and function during pregnancy and after birth. Under the theme “Inclusion Means”, this year's awareness month advocates for making efforts to include people with down syndrome in all aspects of daily life without discriminating.
Also known as Trisomy 21, children born with the disorder may have a different appearance characterised by poor muscle tone, almond-shaped eyes that slant up, short neck, small ears and a flattened face particularly the bridge of the nose, among others.
According to the UN, approximately 3,000 to 5,000 children are born with this disorder each year. Individuals with down syndrome can achieve optimal quality of life through parental care and support, medical guidance, and community-based support systems such as inclusive education at all levels.
According to experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the extra chromosome changes the way the baby's body and brain develop, resulting in mental and physical challenges. However, children born with the disorder are aware of their environment and have the ability to comprehend.
Children with down syndrome have often been neglected and treated differently. However, they should be involved in other children’s activities like games. They have the right to health care and education in order to live decent lives, just like other children.
Although down syndrome cannot be cured, early intervention through therapy helps children to lead normal lives. Children with the disorder may require physical therapy. According to the Down Syndrome Society of Kenya, early intervention programmes can help children develop motor, language and social skills that will give them a better chance to success.
With support from family, therapists, teachers and friends, children with down syndrome are able to thrive in the society and participate in day-to-day life activities.
Gone are the days when children with disorders were excluded and hidden away from society due to the perception that they were a shame to the family. These children should be loved and supported.
Raising a special needs child is not only a parental obligation alone but the responsibility of the community to make them confident and included.
Ms Wasilwa is a communications and PR specialist