Topic Overview

Your child may have
developmental delays as well as other problems that
can make children, teens, and adults who have Down syndrome vulnerable to abuse,
injury, and other types of harm.

You can
help manage and prevent these types of problems by being aware and helping your
child learn how to avoid dangerous situations and maintain his or her
self-esteem. Know what to expect as your child with Down syndrome grows and
develops. Potential problems include:

  • Difficulties dealing with hygiene. Issues related
    to hygiene become more pronounced as a child with Down syndrome approaches
    adolescence. You can help your child by establishing a daily routine to
    regularly tend to hygiene needs, such as showering or bathing and using
    deodorant. Hygiene is an important component of peer acceptance, especially
    when your child starts
  • Sexual or physical abuse.
    Children with Down syndrome usually enter puberty and experience the related
    physical changes about the same time as other adolescents. But sexually
    developed teens with Down syndrome often do not have the same understanding of
    physical boundaries and are vulnerable to being sexually abused. Likewise, they
    may not understand when someone means to harm them physically. Carefully screen
    caregivers. Help your child avoid abuse by teaching him or her appropriate
    assertive behaviors and when and how to recognize threats. Teach your child to
    go out with a buddy rather than alone and how to respond to strangers. Help
    your child understand rules about giving out personal information such as his
    or her full name or address.
  • Sexual
    activity and pregnancy. Adolescents and teens with Down syndrome have many of
    the same sexual impulses and feelings as others their age. Provide your teen
    with sexual education at a level he or she can understand. This should include
    ongoing discussions about love, mutual regard, kindness, and how to develop
    friendships. For more information, see the
    topic Talking With Your Child About Sex.
  • Psychological
    problems. Adolescents with Down syndrome often have more than the usual amount
    of difficulties as they grow into adulthood. They may also have a hard time
    trying to sort out their feelings. They are prone to depression and other mental health problems. Many adolescents and adults work these
    issues out by talking to themselves (“self-talk”), which is sometimes
    misinterpreted as a serious mental disorder. Usually, this behavior is no cause
    for alarm. If the talk is self-demeaning or turns to signs of self-hatred,
    contact a doctor.
    Counseling and prescribed medicines may be
    helpful in these and other cases where the problems are not improving.

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ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD – Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Louis Pellegrino, MD – Developmental Pediatrics

Current as ofMay 4, 2017