Downs Syndrome – EDU 245-50

Do the brains of children with Downs Syndrome develop differently? The brain of children with Down Syndrome develops very differently than a normal one. The size is smaller and is altered in its set up.

Down syndrome, the most frequently occurring chromosomal condition, appears in 1 of every 691 babies, or about 6,000 babies annually in the U.S. It typically occurs when, at the time of conception, an extra copy of chromosome 21 — or part of its long arm — is present in the egg or, less commonly, in the sperm. It is not known why this error occurs, and it has not been linked to any environmental or behavioral factors, either before or during pregnancy, but the risk is markedly increased with the age of the mother. At age 25, the risk is about 1 in 1,250 births; at age 40, it is 1 in 100. Because of higher fertility rates in younger women, 80 percent of children with Down syndrome are born to women under 35 years of age. Prenatal screening tests, such as the triple and quadruple screen blood tests, can accurately detect Down syndrome in about 70 percent of fetuses. Definitive prenatal diagnoses can be obtained with either chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis.[i]

Cognitive Development

Children with Down syndrome usually learn and progress more slowly than most other children. However, not all areas of development are equally affected. There is a specific pattern of cognitive and behavioral features that are observed among children with Down syndrome that differs from that seen in typically developing children and children with other causes of intellectual disability. We refer to this pattern of characteristic strengths and weaknesses as a ‘developmental profile’.

Social Development

The social functioning of babies and children with Down syndrome is relatively less delayed than other areas of development. Babies with Down syndrome look at faces and smile only a week or two later than other children and they are usually sociable infants. Infants with Down syndrome enjoy communicating and make good use of non-verbal skills including babbling and gesture in social situations.

Motor Development

Motor skills develop at a slower rate for children with Down syndrome than for those without. These delays in motor development reduce infants’ opportunities for exploring and learning about the world around them and therefore further affect cognitive development. Poor oral motor control may impact the development of language skills.[ii]

Emotional Development 

Although often described as temperamentally “easy” and sociable, children with Down syndrome also exhibit behavior problems. Effective development is important for social and behavioral competence. We examined negative effective expressions and a range of emotion regulation/coping strategies during a frustrating task in a sample of children with Down syndrome, nonspecific mental retardation, and typical development. Results revealed that children with Down syndrome displayed significantly more frustration and more orienting to the experimenter without asking for help. Typical children used more goal-directed strategies, including assistance-seeking and cognitive self-soothing. Findings suggest that children with Down syndrome may use a limited repertoire of strategies for coping with frustration[iii]



[i] S. (2012, April 1). Down Syndrome. Retrieved April 6, 2017, from

[ii]Development and learning for people with Down syndromeS. (n.d.). Retrieved April 06, 2017, from

[iii] Jahromi, L. B., Gulsrud, A., & Kasari, C. (2008, January). Emotional competence in children with Down syndrome: negativity and regulation. Retrieved April 06, 2017, from

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