Our Program

About the Down Syndrome Clinic and Research Center:

The Down Syndrome Clinic and Research Center (DSCRC) at the Kennedy Krieger Institute offers interdisciplinary and comprehensive evaluations and services for children and young adults with Down syndrome. We provide services from birth to adulthood to patients from all over the United States with challenges that include:

  • Pediatric developmental delay
  • Complex neurodevelopmental and behavioral concerns
  • Adolescent and adult mental health needs

Our mission is to help all patients with Down syndrome reach their full potential and function as independently as possible in family, school, and community life. We emphasize clinical care and research to treat underlying cognitive and neurobehavioral dysfunction, and continue to develop research studies into the neurobiological basis of intellectual and co-occurring mental health impairments in Down syndrome. We also participate in clinical trials to study new potential cognitive-enhancing medications for safety and efficacy.

Although we are currently focused on providing individualized clinical evaluation and management, professional training, and research, it is our goal to continue building a comprehensive Down Syndrome Clinic and Research Center that provides seamless integration between clinical services and research in the areas of clinical neuroscience, pharmacology, sleep medicine, and behavioral-mental health interventions.

Clinical Trends:

Down syndrome is the most common and readily identifiable chromosomal condition associated with intellectual disabilities. It is a genetic disorder that occurs in approximately one of 800 live births and is caused most often by an abnormality during cell division in gamete formation called nondysjunction. Some interesting facts about Down syndrome include:

  • Children with Down syndrome who also have an autism spectrum disorder can be correctly diagnosed using existing DSM criteria supported by autism-specific diagnostic interviews and behavioral rating scales.
  • Many children with Down syndrome, poor attention, and behavior problems often have a significant sleep disturbance even if apnea (respiratory pauses) is not present.
  • Approximately 50 percent of children who have undergone tonsillectomy for sleep apnea do not have a complete reversal of symptoms following surgery, or may develop sleep apnea as they get older.
  • Children with daytime inattention, impulsivity, and sleep problems often benefit from a combination of behavior management and better sleep.
  • Difficulties managing weigh can develop in adolescents and young adults with Down syndrome despite a healthy diet and exercise program.
  • More than 75 percent of adolescents and young adults with Down syndrome who develop severe depression also have sleep apnea or a sleep disturbance.
  • Adolescents and young adults with Down syndrome, mental health problems, and sleep problems often require combined therapy that addresses both sleep disturbance and mental health.
  • Donepezil (Aricept) does not help to improve learning, memory, or speech in children or adults with Down syndrome as demonstrated in a large multi-center research study.