Book review of Down Syndrome: Current Perspectives edited by Richard W Newton, Shiela Puri, and Liz Marder

by Arnab Seal

Department of Community Paediatrics, NHS Leeds Community Healthcare, Academic Department of Paediatrics, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK

Published in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, September 2015

Front cover of Newton: Down Syndrome

 

Whether you are a general paediatrician, a community paediatrician, a ‘super-sub’-specialist in a tertiary unit, or an allied health professional it is likely you will be called upon to deliver care for a child with Down syndrome. When doing so this textbook is a helpful one to keep at hand. It is a comprehensive collection of up-to-date practice written by contributors with expertise in the field. In addition to being a helpful guide for professionals, it also serves as a reference book for parents and support organizations. The book has dedicated individual chapters on all aspects of care. This allows the reader to dip in to a single section to clarify a point or read it all in one go to get the whole picture.

The book covers a wide range of issues including a chapter on ‘Life with and for a person with Down syndrome,’ written by contributors from the Down’s Syndrome Association (UK) which gives clear guidance for professionals regarding family expectations. This includes sharing the diagnosis in antenatal clinics and also in postnatal and paediatric wards. It is perhaps disheartening that this still remains a significant problem at present.

The book’s Foreword and Prologue are effective in setting the context and outlining the importance of publishing this book particularly at a time when textbooks are increasingly losing status. To gain a deeper understanding of this context, I suggest that the reader moves straight on to the aforementioned Chapter 4 on family life and living with Down syndrome and returns later to the biological underpinning and counselling sections. As an example, the chapter on molecular genetics of Down syndrome is written with great technical expertise but may be difficult to digest for non-clinicians; although the chapter on antenatal diagnosis is easier to follow with useful case examples.

In addition to these chapters other highlights are the chapters on growth, endocrine disorders, musculoskeletal manifestations, and the three sections on neuropsychiatry. In the last few decades, there have been better social attitudes towards disability and improved medical care, resulting in longer and more fulfilling lives for most people with disabilities. This challenges paediatricians to be more aware of and research further into the realm of ‘what next?’ There is currently a knowledge gap in these adult congenital conditions where past experience has been limited due to lower life expectancies. This book helpfully delves into a number of these issues for the young person and adult with Down syndrome; for example, congenital heart disease and Alzheimer disease. Most chapters in this book follow a handy question/answer format with a summary of the key issues for practitioners. It was disappointing however that the editors did not insist on all chapters following this format as it would have made the book more coherent, although this can be a big task in any multi-author project of this size.

For most parts the book is an easy read and the hardbound copy makes it feel special, though this comes at a price. Overall, this is a successful book which brings together current thinking, clinical practice, and parents’ perspectives about this important biological condition. It successfully encompasses the biopsychosocial narrative and will be equally accessible to parents, support groups, and paediatric practice professionals.