The Basics of Raising a Child with Down Syndrome

Take your time


These are five basic things you should know about raising a child with Down syndrome.

Give Yourself Time to Process

Allow yourself to process the initial stage of learning that you child was born with Down syndrome. Every parent may take this news in a totally different way, and there is no right or wrong reaction. Some parents may get mad, others may get depressed; some others may get a little obsessed about acting fast and immediately.

Only a few of them will take it easy and let go. None of these feelings are a measure of your love for your child. Instead, they are the proof of much you love him and how much you want for him to be happy and live a life with no boundaries.

Don’t blame yourself, and avoid the judgmental people around you. Only people who really love you and your family will understand how important it’s for you to take your time, understand and overcome your conflicted emotions. Many parents may feel guilty or ashamed of going through this period of emotional difficulty. But it’s totally okay to be concerned, scared or confused, and it's not until you face your feelings that you’ll be ready to move on and take action for the sake of your child and your whole family.

Figure Out Your Child's Medical Needs

It’s important to dedicate the first couple of weeks and months to getting a clear idea of your child’s medical needs. Finding the right pediatrician is crucial. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The right pediatrician for your child will have experience, compassion, but most important of all will have a great desire to take care of your child as an individual.​​

Developmental and physical characteristics are important to evaluate the growth of your child and to work on prevention, but encouraging your child’s development and sharing the family’s pride and excitement over every small step is truly important and is not an easy thing to find in a doctor.

Find an Early Intervention Program

Contact your local Early Intervention program. Early Intervention is an important part of your approach to raising a child with special needs. With the right support and advice, you may learn important tips on how to take full advantage of your child’s natural environment. The Early Intervention team in your area is in charge of evaluating your child’s development and keeping up with it for his 3 first years of life.

The Early Intervention program will suggest therapies and services based on your child’s unique development.

However, be aware that this is beginning of your career as your child’s advocate, and it’s important to know that as a parent, you are the expert on your child, and you decide what services he needs more or less of. Early Intervention is a state-funded service for children with special needs in United States. Take a look here if you live in USA.

Practice Love and Acceptance

Therapies are important, but love and acceptance is crucial. It’s not uncommon for new parents to think that therapies are the most important piece of their kid’s development. But therapies are only a guidance to support his natural development, and they should be always offered in the child’s natural environment to reinforce his growth, by taking advantage of everything he has around him in his daily routine.

More therapy doesn´t mean more advancements or faster results, but a great opportunity to learn to stimulate our kids with love, by respecting their individual abilities. To put pressure on yourself or on your child by trying to incorporate more and more therapy may have the opposite outcome. It’s much better for you and your child to enjoy time together, and for you to teach him to believe in himself while teaching relatives and community members to support him without making him feel different.

Include Your Child

My last but not less important tip is to include your child from the very right beginning. New parents are often worried about how their child will be perceived by others in his community. However, the sooner your child is included in the typical activities of any other child, the easier it is going to be for him and for others to accept his diagnosis as a natural circumstance that doesn’t define him.

Natural inclusion starts as play dates and evolves during the years. When a child is raised with no limits or exclusions, his social and developmental skills improve. The secret is to cross the line of parental concern, and let your child with Down syndrome learn, experiment and take full advantage of a life free of prejudice.

Part of growing up is facing challenges, questions and unexpected reactions from others. All these circumstances will help your child learn to fight his own battles, and reinforce his self-esteem. Never forget that we all go back home to get a hug and a reminder of how special and important we are for those who love us. That´s the only way we have to protect our children from the world—with our love and affection. 

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