In the United States today, Down Syndrome affects approximately 350,000 people. It is very important to remember that Down Syndrome is not caused by anything the mother did or did not do before or during the pregnancy.
Most children with Down syndrome have:
- Distinct facial features, such as a flat face, small ears , slanting eyes , and a small slanting mouth.
- A short neck and short arms and legs.
- Weak muscles and loose joints. Muscle tone usually improves by late childhood.
- Below-average intelligence.
What can you expect with Down syndrome?
Children with Down syndrome usually have delayed development in speech and movement. They may have a slower rate of growth and may be shorter than their peers.
They may also have certain physical problems. Many of these conditions can be treated and controlled, though. They include:
- Heart defects
- Hearing and vision problems
- Tendency to get infections more easily
- Intestinal problems
- Thyroid problems
- Early-onset dementia
It would be nice if everyone could think of children with Down Syndrome as children first, and their disability second, hence “Children with Down Syndrome”.
When a baby with Down Syndrome is born, parents can feel shocked, angry and sad. Many parents find it useful to join support groups that provide both information and understanding.
These groups often support for other family members too, such as brothers, sisters and grandparents. Many families say that becoming involved in educational activities through playgroups or early intervention programs is helpful, also.
Some things you may want to consider:
- Most children with Down syndrome are healthy and active.
- Parents can support their child with Down syndrome by providing a caring and safe environment.
- It is important to give the child with Down syndrome opportunities like other children in the family.
- Children with Down syndrome will benefit from extra help in their early years, such as speech pathology, physiotherapy and the services provided in early intervention programs.
Children with Down syndrome benefit from lots of stimulation through many types of experiences with different people, places, toys, sounds, feelings, etc. These experiences help your child’s development.
- Talk to your child as much as possible. A child needs to hear your voice even though she may not understand exactly what you are saying.
- Create an environment that suits your child’s needs and abilities. Encourage movement and exploration.
- Encourage your child to play with toys of different sizes and textures.
- Accept that your child will develop at his or her own speed and in his or her own way.
- Understand that you may have to repeat an activity many times before your child can do it well.
- Say your child’s name often, especially when you are giving praise.
It is important to remember that while children and adults with Down Syndrome experience developmental delays, they also have many talents and gifts and should be given the opportunity and encouragement to develop them.
Most children with Down Syndrome have mild to moderate impairments but it is important to note that they are more like other children than they are different. Most children attend their neighborhood schools, some in regular classes and others in special education classes.
Some children have more significant needs and require a more specialized program.
- Early intervention programs give you the chance to learn about the special needs of your child. They will also show you different ways to help your child to learn.
- Children benefit from mixing with other children. As well as going to early intervention programs, your child can go to childcare and preschool.
- Childcare centers and prechools are usually given special help when a child with Down Syndrome attends. Children with Down Syndrome can join in many of the lessons at school. They will need extra help to learn to read and write.
- It is important to concentrate on developing listening and talking skills. Speech is often slow to develop in children with Down syndrome. Therefore, the use of hand gestures (signs), short sentences, clear instructions and visual cues is a great help to these children.
- People with Down syndrome are slower to learn many things, but like everyone else they go on learning for all of their lives.
If we could look through the eyes of these Special People our thoughts would change like…..
Downs Syndrome children are a special blessing and a hidden treasure for a society that must see that beauty is not skin deep.
How can you describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this……
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.””Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”
But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.” And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.
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