Down Syndrome (DS) remains an incurable condition but experts believe that acceptance by the family and early intervention can go a long way in ensuring that a person with DS lives a normal life and is socially independent.
Worldwide, March 21 is celebrated as the World Down Syndrome Day. DS is a genetic condition that affects 1 out of 800 people and is universally present across racial, gender or socio-economic lines, according to Down Syndrome International, a UK-based organisation for creating awareness about DS.
The people having DS often suffer from mental retardation, have a flat face, long or protruding tongue and slanted eyes.
"Down Syndrome is a genetic condition and so far, medical science has no cure for the condition. It is not something that can be prevented. The parents often blame themselves and wonder what did they do wrong," Aarti Anand, clinical psychologist at Delhi's Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, told IANS.
Anand claimed that more than the child, the family members need counseling and professional help as "they are often unable to accept the fact that their child has Down's syndrome."
Calling it a handicap, Anand said that the acceptance of the family members was very important as only after accepting the disease can family members properly take care of the patient.
Geeta Chhabra, 36, has DS but her parents didn't realise about her condition at the time of her birth. According to doctors, only 25 percent of her brain is functional but when her family put her in a special school, she shone as a student.
"Even the doctors at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) were unable to cure her, but at the (special) school, she was encouraged to participate in dancing and sports. She even won several medals," her mother Harish, told IANS proudly.
While DS can be detected during pregnancy and parents can decide whether they want to continue or abort, child image consultant, Abha Kashyap claims that most children affected by DS, "can do very well if given proper stimulus and care."
"Early intervention can certainly guarantee a normal life and independence for the person living with DS," she added.
"In fact, DS-affected children are often much more loving than normal children. They are truly God's children," Kashyap told IANS.
Kashyap said that while celebrating World Down Syndrome Day was a great initiative, "It is yet to pick up in India. I believe such awareness programmes should be organised more often."
(Nikhil Walia can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)