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.
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 puberty.
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.
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.
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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