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Supporting a Child with Down’s Syndrome

Monday 08 April 2019

Down’s syndrome affects thousands of families up and down the UK every day. It’s a genetic condition that babies are born with, and typically causes physical characteristics and some level of learning disability.

With the right care, support and healthcare provision, children and young people with the condition can live happy and fulfilling lives.

For foster carers taking care of a child with Down’s syndrome, the prospect can seem quite daunting, with some children having specialist and complex needs. But don’t worry, as NFA can introduce you to a helpful support network.

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Here, we offer an introduction to supporting a child with Down’s syndrome, including tips on supporting your child’s development and where to go for help, advice and support.

Understanding Down’s Syndrome – Information and Advice

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The more you learn about Down’s syndrome, the better placed you’ll be to offer the right kind of help and support to children in your care.

Most people are familiar with the physical symptoms of Down’s syndrome, such as the distinctive facial characteristics, but it can affect a child’s learning and development, too. All children with Down’s have some level of learning disability which can delay their development, though the effects do differ broadly from child to child.

Very young children with Down’s syndrome may reach milestones like standing, walking and talking much later than other children, and may need extra help and support to develop these kinds of abilities. Many children with Down’s syndrome also develop other mental health conditions as they grow older, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and will therefore need additional support, at home and in school.

As well as problems associated with delayed development, people with Down’s syndrome are also vulnerable to physical health problems. Health conditions commonly associated with Down’s syndrome include heart and bowel problems, difficulties with hearing and vision, and a higher overall risk of infection. This makes it absolutely crucial that children with Down’s receive regular healthcare check-ups from their GP – something foster carers need to be mindful of at all times.

Supporting the Development of a Child with Down’s Syndrome

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In your role as a foster carer, you’ll have the opportunity to help a child with Down’s syndrome develop new skills – from socialising with new people to encouraging them to be independent around your home.

Children and young people with Down’s syndrome may need additional support to help them learn the skills others take for granted. From basic speech, reading and communication skills to physical interactions; there are lots of things you can do as a foster carer to help your child with their learning and development.

Here, we suggest a few things you can do which may be useful for your child:

  • Playing games – Play will help your child develop physical and cognitive skills, so it’s important that it’s encouraged at all ages. Try to find toys or games with a learning element, or ones that promote teamwork, collaboration or healthy competition.
  • Talk about your child’s interests – Try to encourage your child to talk about what they’re interested in, as this will help develop their communication skills. Children with Down’s syndrome often find it more comfortable to talk about their own interests – which can indicate autistic traits.
  • Give your child the opportunity to mix with other children – It’s important that young people with Down’s syndrome develop a sense of independence to prepare them for their adult life. Setting up play dates or encouraging them to go out and interact with other children is a great way to help them develop their communication skills and independence.
  • Encourage your child to be independent at home – Children with Down’s syndrome can easily become dependent on their family and those who care for them, but this can contribute to their delayed development. Encourage them to be as independent as possible – whether that means dressing themselves, brushing their own teeth or getting themselves a snack from the kitchen.

These are just a few examples of some of the everyday interactions which can be helpful for children with Down’s syndrome. Most children will also receive specialist treatment designed to help with their development, including things like speech and language therapy, home teaching programmes and physiotherapy.

Where to Find Help for You and Your Child

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Caring for a child with Down’s syndrome can be challenging, but you aren’t expected to go through it alone. There are lots of organisations out there that can help you overcome the daily challenges of raising a child with Down’s syndrome and put you in touch with support groups and other carers who are going through a similar situation.

In the table below, we’ve listed some of the charities and organisations which can offer help and support to families and carers raising a child with Down’s syndrome.

Service Details Contact
Down’s Syndrome Association The UK’s leading Down’s syndrome charity, offering a wealth of advice and support for people with Down’s syndrome and their parents and carers. 0333 1212 300 or email [email protected]
Down’s Syndrome Research Foundation The UK’s only Down’s syndrome research charity, promoting and funding medical research into the condition and offering specialist advice for parents and carers. 01892 71 1121
Down’s Syndrome Scotland Scotland’s leading Down’s syndrome support charity, connecting people with Down’s support groups across Scotland. 0131 442 8840 or email [email protected]
Down’s Syndrome Group A national charity offering help and support for parents raising children with Down’s syndrome, including links to regional support groups. 0300 102 1644 or email [email protected]
Genetic Alliance The UK’s leading genetic conditions charity, offering help, advice and links to regional Down’s syndrome support groups. 020 7831 0883 or email [email protected]
Down’s Syndrome Guide
2019 – NRS Healthcare
A comprehensive guide to Down’s syndrome, packed with useful resources. 0345 121 8111
Down’s Syndrome Guide
The official Down’s syndrome guide from the NHS, with useful guidance and advice. Visit the website to access NHS services.

Whatever challenges you face as a foster carer, the National Fostering Group will be here to offer fostering support for you and your child at every step. If you are interested in fostering, there are different types of foster care available and National Fostering Group will help chose the best type of foster care for you and your family. 

Find out if you could be a foster carer
Find out if you could be a foster carer
In a few simple questions, you’ll know if you’re suitable to apply to become a foster carer.