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Posts Tagged ‘functional academics’

Two days ago we all learnt about a suicide bombing at Baghdad’s two pet markets, in Iraq, that killed nearly 75 people, wounding 150 people and hundreds of birds and other pet animals. Many of you may not even have read it as these days we have all become immune to such suicide bombings and killings as they have become the daily news in all news papers! and we have lost the sensitivity to even grieve over such matters.

But the most horrible fact about these two bombings were the two suicide bombers were girls with Down’s syndrome! and a person with Down’s syndrome does not have normal intellectual capacity and he/she is a mentally challenged person. How can such a person willingly give consent to be a suicide bomber? Surely, the girls here must have been tricked into it! and that is the most tragic part of the whole incident. How can this be an act of “jihadi”? Would Allah praise such an act??

Many of you may have heard of the term “Down’s syndrome”, but may not know what exactly the term refers to. Let me briefly explain.

Down’s syndrome is a life long condition of disability that results in mental retardation. The retardation can be of mild/moderate/severe degree. It is a chromosomal anomaly called “Trisomy 21” in which there occurs                  3 chromosomes in set 21 instead of 2 chromosomes. Human beings have 23 pairs of chromosomes (46 in total) in each cell of the body, except in sex cells, eggs and sperms, where only 23 chromosomes are present. These 23 become 46 when the egg and the sperm  get fertilized to procreate and the species continues with 46. These 46 chromosomes are arranged in pairs of two and there are 23 such sets. But in Down syndrome child, the 21st set of chromosomes contain 3 chromosomes instead of the usual two (totalling to 47) and this excess genetic material in each cell results in a dsabling condition called Down’s syndrome, named after the scientist Langer Down who described this anomaly.

I have mentioned Trisomy 21 as the cause of this disability. In a small 2 to 3% of Downs syndrome, the cause is Mosaic Trisomy 21 that appears not in all body cells but only in few of the cells. Whether it is plain Trisomy 21 or mosaic, the features are the same and the degree of disability does not depend on the kind of the cause.

All children born in this condition share very similar facial characteristics that make them all look alike. They generally have a round, flat face with slanted eyes. They slant upwards and they have an extra skin fold on their eye lids that accentuate this slant. But they can have normal vision like anybody else. The babies have poor muscle tone and are floppy at birth. Slowly their muscle tone improves as they grow. It is also observed that these kids have a single crease running on their palm instead of the usual three deep ones that run on our palms (some normal kids also have only one crease on their palm, but not have down’s syndrome). They also have a large gap between their big toe and the second toe that usually grips the sandal. Their tongue usually protrudes outside as they have a smaller oral-cavity and a larger base of the tongue that keeps their mouth slightly open always. This may make them vulnerable to many respiratory infections.

Like in any other condition of mental retardation, these children also show delayed developmental milestones. Their motor (movement), speech and language, social and cognitive development are all slow. The condition can be detected at birth itself by the pediatrician and it is obligatory on their part to inform the baby’s condition to the parents at that time. But unfortunately in India, many Downs Syndrome births go undetected or uninformed to parents that it may jeopardize early interventional strategies that can mitigate the damages to a large extent.

The condition can not be cured. But their abilities can improve to a very large extent by training that is given in special schools. A positive and an accepting attitude on part of parents, siblings and other relatives can help the child to a very large extent to improve its skills. These days many early intervention programmes are taken up at various special centres to children of a much younger age, as soon as it is identified. Physio therapy programmes can improve their muscles’ and joints’ strengths that improve their mobility skills and their gross and fine motor skills (bigger muscles and smaller muscles of the body). Most of them have speech delays and speech problems. They may lack clarity in their speech, articulation problems, language reception and expression problems that can be reduced through speech therapy. Most of these children are friendly by nature and they draw attention from others through their smiling face and readiness to strike friendship with others. This also makes them very vulnerable and children need to be protected from any kind of abuse. Their social skills make them very endearing to all and they are very helpful in nature. Many of them love music and dance. Depending on their intellectual level, they can be taught functional academics that teach them the basic reading and writing skills. They are soon trained in vocations of their interest and later on as adults they can work in sheltered workshops under supervision. Some downs syndrome adults can lead fairly independent life.

As I mentioned earlier, they are prone to many respiratory diseases and many children have congenital (by birth) heart defects too. These children may have to undergo heart surgeries at a later date when they can withstand the surgery.

Coming to the sexuality aspect, they also have normal sexual desires like any other person. But their cognitive deficits may make them vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation. And as adults, they get isolated from the mainstream and this loneliness also makes them vulnerable to any kind of affection offered by the abusers. They need to be given sex education like any other person. The fertility rate is reduced in women with Downs syndrome and researchers believe that males may be sterile. But one case of a downs male fathering a child has been cited in journals. Many females with Downs are fertile and there are many instances of them carrying their pregnancy to term and successfully delivering kids – either downs child or a normal child. These are cases from abroad and in India, it is very difficult to get such a person married and expect to carry out the responsibility of a marriage relationship and rearing a child. But it is not impossible with family support. Just because somebody is disabled, we can not deny them their marital and sexual rights. It is purely their family decision.

When such are the abilities/differences in their ability levels of Downs syndrome persons, it is highly condemnable that two downs syndrome girls’ vulnerability was used and abused by the terrorist gang in Iraq and they have now fallen victims to their suicidal bombing pact!

Our heartfelt condolences to the families of these two innocent Down syndrome girls.

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