According to the National Down Syndrome Society, there are 400,000 people in the United States living with the condition. In fact, Down Syndrome affects nearly one in every 700 babies, so millions over parents and carers now help affected children cope with the condition. Learn more about the effects that Down Syndrome can have on your child's life, and find out why you may need to claim social security disability.
Why Down Syndrome occurs
Down Syndrome occurs when your son or daughter has one extra copy of a special chromosome. All children have two copies of chromosome 21, but children with Down Syndrome have three. This chromosome causes delayed physical development and impairs the child's mental abilities.
Doctors recognize three types of Down Syndrome:
- Trisomy 21 (non-disjunction) accounts for 95 percent of all cases. In these cases, the extra chromosome occurs in every cell in the body.
- Mosaicism occurs in around 1 percent of children. These children only have the extra chromosome in some cells in their bodies.
- Translocation occurs when part of the extra chromosome breaks off and attaches to another chromosome. This occurs in the remaining 4 percent of cases.
Children with mosaicism or translocation may have different or less severe symptoms than kids with non-disjunction.
The physical effects of Down Syndrome
Down Syndrome can have a profound effect on your child's development. Life expectancy for kids with the condition has increased significantly, from 25 in 1983 to 60 in 2015. People with Down Syndrome can often attend school, get jobs and live fulfilling lives, but they still face physical challenges.
Children with Down Syndrome generally have several distinctive physical features. These features include:
- An upward and outward slant to the eyes
- A fold of skin on the inner side of the eye
- Smaller, lower set ears
- A smaller than average head
- Poor muscle tone (hypotonia)
- Loose-jointedness (hyperflexibility)
These symptoms can vary from one child to another, but you will find most of these characteristics in 80 percent of affected children.
These characteristics can lead to other physical health problems. Hypotonia can cause delays in motor development, making it harder to eat or speak. Hyperflexibility can make it difficult for your child to walk. Occupational and physical therapists can help your child develop properly, but these treatment types can become expensive.
Down Syndrome also increases the risk of other physical health problems. Congenital heart defects, respiratory problems and vision impairments are often more common. Corrective heart surgery has greatly increased the life expectancy of children with the condition, but you may face large medical bills to help your child recover and continue to develop more healthily.
The cognitive effects of Down Syndrome
All people with Down Syndrome tend to suffer with cognitive delays, but half of children and adults with the condition also experience a major mental health problem during their lives. Common mental health issues include:
- Obsessive-compulsive behaviors
- Sleep disorders
The severity and nature of these disorders can vary according to age. Early school age children can become disruptive, inattentive and hyperactive, while older school age children are more prone to generalized anxiety and chronic sleep difficulties.
Parents must often quickly adapt the way they help their children cope with these problems. You will also often need to consider the help of therapists and mental health experts to help your child. Doctors will sometimes recommend drugs as part of an overall treatment program, as these can help moderate some of the more severe symptoms. For example, a low dose of clonidine can help stop disruptive behavior in younger children.
Why you may need a social security disability lawyer
The Social Security Administration differentiates between Mosaic and Non-Mosaic Down Syndrome. The SSA automatically views a child with Non-Mosaic Down Syndrome as disabled from birth. Parents must still provide the SSA with a chromosomal analysis to prove this diagnosis.
For children with Mosaic Down Syndrome, the SSA asks for more evidence. As well as the chromosomal analysis, you will need to provide proof of the physical and mental impairments the condition causes. This process is often time-consuming and complex, and if the SSA rejects your application, it's generally difficult to overturn the decision.
Until recently, legislation stopped people with Down Syndrome earning a certain amount of money or having savings, without losing disability benefits or health insurance. In December 2014, the government passed the ABLE Act, which aims to change this situation, but it's still important to contact your lawyer, so he or she can make sure your child has a secure financial future.
Down Syndrome doesn't mean your child cannot have a happy, fulfilling life, but parents cannot ignore the financial problems this condition can cause. Talk to a social security disability attorney to make sure you get the outcome your child needs.