Adapting Your Home for a Child With Down Syndrome

By Amanda Lutz

November 7, 2023
Toddler bedroom with pictures of animals on a yellow wall.

There are many physical and mental challenges that children with Down syndrome face, including navigating their homes. As parents, caregivers, or loved ones, creating a safe and inclusive home environment is a priority. When adapting your home for a child with Down syndrome, consider practicality, emotional concerns, and the profound impact your child’s environment has on their development.

To support our research on how to achieve this, we spoke with the following experts:


Understanding Down Syndrome and How It Impacts Children

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that occurs when a person has an extra copy of chromosome 21. Typically, humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes in each cell, or 46 chromosomes in total. However, individuals with Down syndrome have three copies of chromosome 21, resulting in a total of 47 chromosomes. This additional genetic material can lead to various physical and cognitive differences.

Children born with Down syndrome often exhibit physical features that are characteristic of the condition, such as almond-shaped eyes, a small nose, and a flat face. Although these distinctions are surface-level, there are also cognitive challenges associated with Down syndrome that can affect an individual’s ability to effectively navigate their surroundings. For this reason, implementing safety precautions and keeping the home clutter- and obstacle-free is paramount when adapting a space for a child with this disorder.


Creating a Space for Children with Down Syndrome

The environment in which a child lives heavily affects their development and quality of life. This is even more important when caring for a child with Down syndrome.

“Children with Down syndrome encounter various challenges, including cognitive and developmental delays, speech and language difficulties, motor skill issues, and health concerns,” explains Donna Beckmann, advocacy and outreach director for the North Carolina Down Syndrome Alliance. Here’s how to adapt your home for added security and comfort.

Safety-Proofing

Because of the physical and cognitive challenges children with Down syndrome may face, safety-proofing the home is an important measure to prevent accidents and injuries.

Adapting Bathrooms and Bedrooms

Adapting bathrooms and bedrooms for children with Down syndrome requires thoughtful consideration of their unique needs and abilities. Here are some specific tips for making these spaces more accessible and supportive:

Fostering Independence, Learning, and Development

Fostering development in children with Down syndrome requires a patient and supportive approach that recognizes their unique abilities and challenges. Here are some strategies to help promote these aspects of growth:

Creating a Sensory-Friendly Space

Children with Down syndrome often have sensory processing differences, and creating a supportive environment can help them thrive. Here are some tips to help you create a sensory-friendly home:


How to Support Children With Down Syndrome

Providing support for children with Down syndrome involves creating an inclusive, nurturing, and empowering environment that helps them be themselves.

What to Do

Devise a space that allows your child to safely have fun while exploring their unique interests. Here are some things you can do to provide support:

What Not to Do

Discouragement and assumptions are hallmarks of an unsupportive environment. Avoid doing the following:


Organizations That Assist People with Down Syndrome

Several organizations worldwide provide assistance, resources, and support for people with Down syndrome and their families. “Connecting with local support organizations and other parents of children with Down syndrome can be immensely valuable for parents seeking guidance and reassurance,” says Beckmann. Here are some prominent organizations that focus on Down syndrome:

Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network

The DSDN is dedicated to supporting families who have recently received a diagnosis of Down syndrome for their child. They offer private online groups for new and expectant parents. 

Down Syndrome International

DSi is a global organization that works to improve the quality of life for individuals with Down syndrome all over the world. They promote inclusive education, health care, and rights for individuals with Down syndrome.

Global Down Syndrome Foundation

Founded in 2009, GDSF has been at the forefront of advancing knowledge, health care, and inclusion for people with Down syndrome. This international foundation actively supports research focused on Down syndrome, aiming to advance scientific understanding and discover effective treatments and interventions.

National Down Syndrome Congress

Founded in 1973, NDSC is a prominent advocate for legislative and policy changes that support the rights and well-being of individuals with Down syndrome. They work at the federal, state, and local levels to effect positive change.

National Down Syndrome Society

A well-known nonprofit organization, NDSS’s primary mission is to enhance the quality of life for individuals with Down syndrome and promote their rights, opportunities, and full participation in all aspects of society. Since its founding in 1979, NDSS has played a crucial role in advancing the rights, inclusion, and well-being of people with Down syndrome.


In Conclusion

Children with Down syndrome face physical and cognitive challenges, but adapting your house to their needs can help mitigate one: navigating their home. Creating a space for children with Down syndrome includes safety-proofing, such as eliminating choking hazards and installing safety gates. It also requires adapting your bedrooms and bathrooms by installing grab bars, using nonslip mats, and making the space sensory-friendly with dimmable lights and solid colors.  

You’ll also want to foster independence, learning, and development in the space with educational materials, structured spaces, and consistent schedules. Keep in mind that the specific adaptations you make to your home will depend on the individual needs and preferences of the child. If you can, try to involve them in setting up the space, as they will often show you what they want and need.