What is Mongolism?
Mongolism is an inherited disorder in which mental retardation is a major feature. Are some babies at special risk? Most certainly. The risk of it occurring rapidly escalates when a woman exceeds the age of 40, and especially with a first A Down’s syndrome child suffers a chromosomal abnormality that results in mental retardation.
In fact, this is now often considered to be a valid reason for a legal termination of the pregnancy. A test carried out following amniocentesis at week 14 of pregnancy may detect the abnormal chromosome. But just the same, cases do occur, and these with younger women for reasons unknown.
The head tends to be small, the eyes slanting, broad hands, with the fifth finger curving inwards, a wide space between the second and third toes and floppy joints. The earlobes may be small, and occasionally they are missing altogether. The mouth may remain open, cheeks red and rosy, teeth irregular, the palate (roof of the mouth) high and arched. The infant may have other congenital abnormalities such as heart defects, and blood cancer (leukemia) is said to be more common in these little ones.
A mental age of seven or eight years may be reached, but seldom to any greater extent. The child may live for quite a few years, but many die at a relatively early age.
Often a parent will become devoted to the child, sometimes at the expense of the rest of the family. The affected child takes an enormous amount of time, perseverance and patience. The end point is often unsatisfactory in the long run, despite all this care and effort, which is very sad to say and to witness.
Some infants may be placed in institutions where trained personnel take care of them. Often excellent advice is offered, or care extended to the patient. Becoming involved with some group is often a very satisfactory idea. As they become older, some children may learn certain skills and may take their place in society in a very limited manner. Some do surprisingly well, and seem to defy the odds. But in the main, they take an enormous amount of time and effort, and this invariably falls to the lot of the mother.
Mongolism is named after Dr John Langdon Down, a London physician born in the year 1828, was probably the first to describe the disorder. It was once known as mongolism, but as racism started to rear its head in the world, this fell from favor and Down’s syndrome is now the universally accepted name. The Mongols are said to have an eye appearance similar to these children, and so the relationship of the name in earlier days.