In Jamaica, there is an incidence of Down syndrome (DS) for 1 in every 868 live births, as reported by the Jamaica Down’s Syndrome Foundation (JDSF).
The term ‘Down syndrome’ was originally called ‘Mongolism’ but was changed in the early 1970s after large-scale negative feedback.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a public health agency in the United States of America (USA), DS is a condition where a person has an extra chromosome (chromosome 21). This extra chromosome occurs due to abnormal cell division which changes how a baby develops and can cause mental and physical challenges.
In 2018, local Paediatric Cardiologist, Dr. Charmaine Scott, said that the most common diagnostic test for DS is Amniocentesis. This involves examining the amniotic fluid (the fluid from the sac surrounding the baby) to screen for any possible abnormalities.
Statistics have shown that the risk of children being born with DS increases in cases where mothers are over age 35. There are a range of ailments associated with DS including respiratory illness, hearing impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, childhood leukemia and thyroid conditions. The life expectancy for DS was age 25, but after significant medical advancements, it is now age 60.
Caring for Children with DS
– Stay up-to-date on facts about Down syndrome
– Aid in the child’s development through use of therapy
– Use visual aids to boost reading skills and consider teaching sign language
– Join a support group
· Early Stimulation Programme – An intervention programme designed by the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) through the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS). The programme targets children between age 0 to 6 years and provides assessment, physiotherapy and counselling services. Children are referred to the programme by healthcare workers, educators, social workers, parents and other agencies that serve young children.
· Jamaica Down’s Syndrome Foundation – This is a nonprofit organisation established to maintain up-to-date information, provide support to families and caregivers and reduce stigma. The foundation has over 600 families registered.
· Special Education Schools – The GOJ has helped to establish institutions that aid in the development and smooth integration of persons with disabilities such as DS. Some of these schools include:
– Abilities Foundation – The foundation collaborates with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS) to train and produce graduates that can be gainfully employed, allowing them to become competent and self-sufficient.
– Randolph Lopez School of Hope – This organisation works alongside the Ministry of Education Youth and Information (MOEYI) and provides services such as educational assessment and placement, transition and vocational programmes, continuing education for adults, integration support and social services as well as counselling.
– Windsor School of Special Education – This entity partners with the MOEYI and focuses on programmes at the primary and secondary levels. Its emphasis is on life skills, mathematics, literacy and skills training which includes woodwork, art and craft, soft furnishings, home management, cosmetology, agriculture and landscaping.
For further information, contact:
Ministry of Health and Wellness
10 – 16 Grenada Crescent
Jamaica Down’s Syndrome Foundation
1 Stanton Terrace, Unit 10
Telephone: (876) 978 0829
Early Stimulation Programme
95 Hanover Street
Telephone: (876) – 922-5585
191 Constant Spring Road,
Telephone: (876) 969-5720
Randolph Lopez School of Hope
7 Golding Avenue
Telephone: (876) 927-2054/ 977-1118/ 977-0134