If you have recently found out your baby has Down's syndrome, you may be feeling a whole range of emotions, including fear, joy, sadness or confusion. There's no right or wrong way to react.
It's important to remember you're not alone in your situation. Thousands of people in the UK have Down's syndrome.
There are also lots of people who have experience of supporting and caring for people with Down's syndrome.
The Down's Syndrome Association helpline (0333 1212 300) can offer you advice and answer any questions you may have.
Lots of new parents find it reassuring to talk to other parents. The Down's Syndrome Association can also put you in touch with another family who have a child with Down's syndrome.
Read more information for new parents on the Down's Syndrome Association website.
Helping your child
There are various things you can do to help your child with their learning and development.
Things that may be useful include:
- using play to help your child learn – for example, show them how to play with their toys, and use toys to encourage them to reach, grasp and move
- naming and talking about things your child's looking at and is interested in
- giving your child the opportunity to mix with other children
- encouraging your child to be as independent as possible from an early age with things like feeding and dressing, getting ready for bed, brushing teeth and going to the toilet
- playing games to teach new words – a home-visiting teacher or speech and language therapist can give you some ideas
A number of different professionals experienced in supporting children with Down's syndrome will be able to help you and your child.
Ask your child's paediatrician, GP or health visitor about the services available in your area.
Services for children with Down's syndrome typically include:
- speech and language therapy
- home teaching programmes
You'll be advised about things you can do at home to help your child learn and develop.
You can also call the Down's Syndrome Association helpline on 0333 121 2300 for advice.
Regular health check-ups
Children and adults with Down's syndrome need regular check-ups to monitor their health.
These check-ups will usually be with a paediatrician at first. Your GP may do them as your child gets older.
The health check-ups may involve:
- hearing and vision tests
- measuring height and weight
- blood tests to check for thyroid problems
- checking for signs of heart problems
If your doctor has any concerns, they can refer you to a specialist.
School and your child
Lots of children with Down's syndrome are educated in mainstream nurseries or schools with support.
But individual needs vary, and some parents feel a special school will be most suitable for their child.
It might help to visit some mainstream and special schools in your local area. Talk to the staff about how they would meet your child's special educational needs.
You can also find out more about education on the Down's Syndrome Association website.
Teens with Down's syndrome
Until the age of 18, child health and social care services are responsible for the care of children with Down's syndrome.
From 18, it's usually the responsibility of adult services. Between the ages of 16 and 18, your child will start a "transition" to adult services.
Adults with Down's syndrome
Further education and employment
Lots of young adults with Down's syndrome pursue further education, and many go on to work.
With help and support, lots of adults with Down's syndrome can lead an active and fairly independent life.
Although it may not be possible to live completely independently, some adults with Down's syndrome leave home and live in their own accommodation with support.
Adults with Down's syndrome often move into property owned and staffed by a housing association.
Staff can provide different levels of support depending on the person's particular needs.
If necessary, a social worker may be able to help with finding accommodation.
An occupational therapist can offer practical advice to help make independent living easier.
Relationships, sex and fertility
Lots of people with Down's syndrome have loving relationships, although they may need some support.
They'll need to learn what relationships mean and how they can have a happy, safe relationship.
Men and women with Down's syndrome tend to have lower fertility. This does not mean they cannot have children, but it does make it more difficult.
If one partner in a couple has Down's syndrome, there's around a 1 in 2 chance of each of their children having Down's syndrome, too.