A Mother's Guide to Raising a Child With Down Syndrome
My Baby Has Down Syndome
The discovery that your child has Down Syndrome is a daunting one. Believe me, thirty-five years ago, at the tender age of twenty, I was daunted.
But after the shock and awe, after the ‘why me,’ and confusion, what you need is information. What Down Syndrome is, the effects and symptoms become tiresome and you start to ask the age-old question: what can I do to help my child? Below find simple strategies to help your child with Down Syndrome live up to a full potential, and, believe me, there is a lot of potential.
My main advise is not to worry. Anxiety is no good for you or your child. A child with Down Syndrome is first of all, a child and like all children, a delight, occasionally bratty (just like all children), and deserving of all the love you have to give.
Help your child with Down Syndrome live up to full potential.
2) Stimulation. Part of the definition of mental retardation is "an external locus of control." That means that the individual is not going to have a lot of motivation. You have to present your child with a variety of sights, sounds and sensations to capture her interest. But! If my daughter has an external locus of control, how did she decide to practice cutting shapes by snipping triangles, squares and rectangles on my six-foot rubber tree plant?
3) Expect the unexpected. Just because they tell you that a child with Down Syndrome will just sit there like a lump until you provide them with stimulation doesn’t mean she’ll sit there like a lump until you provide stimulation. Like it surprised me how quickly my daughter decided to scramble a half dozen eggs in a colander when my back was turned.
4) Get out and about. Take your baby everywhere. Provide constant commentary and questions on everything. If your child with Down Syndrome does not have the muscular control to climb the monkey bars, assist her, manipulate those little hands and feet until she gets the hang of it. Take long walks, meet people, go on trips – present the world to your child and your child to the world.
5) Turn off the TV. Learning is a multisensory event. Sitting in front of the television makes a child passive and inhibits the development of eye muscles as well as language.
6) Read early. Read often. A child with Down Syndrome, often somewhat passive by nature, will enjoy spending lots of time snuggled in your lap poring over picture books, catalogues and magazines. The movement of eyes across the page and the understanding that those squiggles and blocks of color represent something in the real world enrich any child’s development and encourage the skills needed for reading.Many children with Down's can learn to read.
7) Repetition. All children learn by repetition. Some just need a little more than others.
8) Music. A variety of music presents different sensations and offers a child a deeper view of the world. Music can be soothing or energizing. It enhances the development of motor skills through dance. Dancing will help your child’s balance, coordination, stamina and strength. My daughter has accumulated quite a lot of junk from winning all those dance contests at the ARC!
9) Talk. Talk. Talk. Language is civilization. Language allows us to understand the world and adapt to it my means of communication. Language allows a child to become a fully realized individual with ability to make his/her wishes known, ask questions and state observations.
10) From day one push that tongue in. Children with Down Syndrome have poor muscle control evidenced by that tongue hanging out. It doesn’t look good. A tongue hanging out interferes with the ability to speak. Wash your hands and push that tongue in. Eventually, your child will get the idea.
Of course, good wholesome, fresh food and supplemental vitamins are especially important for the child with Downs. Finding a doctor who is experienced with Down syndrome may be a bit difficult but well worth the search.
So, quit worrying and get on with life. Having a child with Down Syndrome provides you the opportunity to really make a difference for your baby, yourself, your family and everyone you meet.
Girl With Down Syndrome Atop the Twin Towers!
Attempt to locate a pediatrician who has experience with children with Down Syndrome. An experienced doctor can suggest nutritional and supplemental additions to your child's diet that will benefit his or her health. A dentist experienced with patients with Down Syndrome can address the special needs of children who generally have slower progress of tooth eruption and my need help with dental hygiene.
School age children benefit from summer camps or extended school programs so that education and physical activity is not interrupted during school vacations. Many recreations centers and programs offer activities that are adapted to children with special needs.
Special Olympics offers continuing physical activities and competition that encourage exercise and the opportunity to excel in sports. Field and team sports, swimming, and sailing as well as winter sports are available with instruction and guidance for children with Down Syndrome and other special needs. Some areas even offer adaptive equestrian programs.