Down Syndrome in Your Teen: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Most teens with Down syndrome are able to live healthy, happy lives.

Puberty starts at about the same age for teens with Down syndrome as for other young people. Your child will have many of the same sexual feelings as other teens.

Teens with Down syndrome have the same social needs as other teens. Most will want to date, make friends, and have close relationships. You can help prepare your child to do these things. Teach your child about proper social skills and behaviour.

Be aware of the social challenges and risks your child may face at this time. For example, these teens are more at risk for sexual abuse, injury, and other harm. They often don't have the same understanding of physical boundaries. They may not know when someone means to harm them.

Your teen may have a hard time with strong emotions that are normal at this age. At times these struggles can lead to mental health problems like depression.

As your child matures, occupational therapy can help. It teaches your teen the skills to hold a job. Your child will learn how to live on his or her own. Counseling may help with social skills. And it may help your child with his or her emotions. Your doctor can help answer your questions. Ask how to get help with your child's long-term care needs.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your teen at home?

  • Encourage your teen to take part in school and community activities. Give your teen the chance to form healthy friendships. Friends can help make your teen feel happy and like they are part of the group.
  • Support your teen's interests, such as in art or music.
  • Start early to prepare your child for healthy adult relationships.
    • Discuss birth control in a clear, simple way.
    • Teach safer-sex practises to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
    • Teach respect for his or her body and the bodies of others.
    • Talk openly about your morals and beliefs.
  • Encourage your child to learn and to be social.
  • Be involved with your child's education. Your child may need an adapted curriculum and may sometimes attend special classes.
  • Help your child set a daily routine to take care of hygiene needs. Teach him or her to shower or bathe and use deodorant.
  • Encourage your child to be active. Find activities your teen enjoys. Regular exercise is important for your child's health and well-being.
  • Help your child avoid abuse by teaching how to be assertive and to recognize threats. Carefully screen caregivers.
  • Teach your child to go out with a buddy rather than alone. Talk about how to respond to strangers.
  • Discuss love, mutual respect, kindness, and how to form friendships.
  • Seek counseling for your teen if you notice signs of depression. Your teen is at increased risk for depression, especially after a loss or a major upset in the normal routine. A change in behaviour is often the first sign of a problem.
  • Start planning for your teen's future living arrangements. Many adults with Down syndrome live independently in group homes or apartments with support services.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if your child has any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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