To a lot of parents, especially first-time ones, a diagnosis of Down syndrome for their highly anticipated baby-to-be seems like a monumental disappointment. However, it’s important to know that there are beautiful, amazing rewards that come with raising a Down syndrome baby, writes one of our Westchester Health Pediatrics pediatricians, Robert Pitaro, MD, in a recent blog.
Down syndrome: 7 positive things to keep in mind
Here are some thoughts that hopefully will enable parents of a Down syndrome baby to appreciate and eventually be thankful for the special gift they’ve been given.
- First, your baby is a baby. You are not giving birth to a “Down syndrome” baby. You are giving birth to your baby, a unique individual who will resemble you and your family in some ways and will also have similar features to others with Down syndrome.
- Your baby will still achieve the usual milestones, even if it takes a little longer.
Try not to compare your baby to typically-developing ones. Instead, concentrate on the things that he/she has accomplished. Your child will develop at his/her own pace, and you’ll find that even the little things can be cause for big celebrations.
- There is a lot of support and help available to you. There is a wide network of support for parents with a child who has special needs. Because the first years of life are so critical for a child’s future development, all babies born with Down syndrome are eligible for free early intervention services via the federally mandated Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These include physical therapy (to bolster motor skills and improve muscle tone); speech-language therapy (to heighten listening and speaking skills, as well as help with swallowing problems); and occupational therapy (to help children master life skills such as feeding and dressing oneself, opening doors, and holding crayons and pencils). Also, here’s a very helpful website: The National Down Syndrome Society.
- There is much beauty in Down syndrome. There are many, many lovely and unique aspects of your baby that you will come to cherish and love. Cast away the stereotypes of what beauty is and see the true beauty that exists right there in your child.
- Like all babies, your baby will experience a wide range of emotions. People might tell you (wrongly) that your Down syndrome baby will be happy all the time, which of course is ridiculous. The truth is that your child will display all types of moods—happy, sad, silly, angry, whiny, hysterical, delighted—just like any other baby.
- Weather the frustrations you may face by realizing that every child learns differently. For example, if your child has difficulty communicating verbally, teach him/her sign language. Remember, too, that an inability to express himself/herself is probably very frustrating to your child, as well as for you. Taking a break and trying again a little later, maybe after a snack, often works wonders.
- Down syndrome will not define your child’s entire existence. Though probably not desired, this diagnosis does not have to darken your whole life. Eventually, it will even shift into the background of your normal family life. You will have bad days that have nothing to do with Down syndrome, and you will laugh and cry about other things. Hopefully your whole family will enjoy life, with all of its ups and downs, with your child, and take each day as it comes.
We’re here to help, and to listen
If you’re concerned or have questions about raising a Down syndrome baby, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment with one of our Westchester Health pediatricians to come in and talk about it. We have years of experience and lots of advice and guidance to help you along your journey.Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
To read Dr. Pitaro’s blog in full, click here.