Every child deserves to have a supportive, loving home. Unfortunately, some adoptive parents shy away from the prospect of adopting a child with down syndrome, as they worry that doing so might prove to be too challenging. Just like parenting any other child, parenting a child with down syndrome comes with unique difficulties, but it also comes with a special set of blessings. If you are considering adopting a child who has down syndrome, here is some key information that you need to know:
Understanding Down Syndrome
Down syndrome is a genetic condition where an individual's cells, which would normally carry 23 pairs of chromosomes, each contain an extra copy of chromosome 21. This condition is present at birth and usually produces several specific physical characteristics, including a flattened face, upward-slanting eyes, reduced height, and low muscle tone.
In addition to affecting a child’s physical appearance, down syndrome may also cause them to experience certain behavioral and emotional issues. For example, children with down syndrome often have comparatively low IQs, which means that they might need extra help with speech development and/or school. Additionally, children with down syndrome may also face other medical and mental health problems, including ADHD, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Despite this, it’s important to know that most children with down syndrome grow up to live long, full, healthy lives. Furthermore, each child is different, and they may therefore experience different combinations of the above symptoms at differing levels of severity.
Raising a Child with Down Syndrome
When parenting a child with down syndrome, the most important thing to remember is that they are a child first. Like all other children, they will have unique interests, dislikes, and personality quirks. Therefore, you should speak to and about them using people-first language. Furthermore, you should encourage them to pursue the activities that they enjoy. Give them opportunities to have playdates with friends, learn new skills, and participate in new hobbies. Above all, remind both yourself and them that their condition should never hold them back from something that they’re interested in — it might just take some outside-the-box thinking to determine a way for them to get involved!
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should ignore your child’s medical needs. Because down syndrome is a lifelong condition, you will need to establish a healthcare program for your child that will last into the foreseeable future. Work with your child’s doctor to determine the best support program for them, and be sure to advocate for your child if you feel that they need more medical care or therapy. Additionally, consider enrolling your child in Developmental Disabilities Services, as this program can provide support for medical treatments, therapy, and even job training.
Establishing a Support System
In addition to taking proper care of your child, it’s vital that you take good care of yourself and your mental health. One of the best ways to do this is by networking with other parents of children with down syndrome. Not only will these parents be able to provide you with emotional support, but they may also be able to share specific advice on parenting a child with down syndrome. Additionally, you should establish a sturdy support system with your friends and family, as they will be able to provide you with love and assistance when you’re struggling.