by Kimberley Allen R.N.
A friend once told me that for her the only thing that was scarier than having a child with down syndrome was knowing she was going to have a child with down syndrome and waiting fir her to arrive. Then she explained that the reason she wasn’t as afraid when her baby was born was because she had used the ‘waiting time’ to educate herself and her family on down syndrome.
The really difficult part was not knowing the severity, by that she meant the other health problems that frequently accompany down syndrome like congenital heart defects that can be life threatening. At first knowing the potential complications was overwhelming, however she found that having the knowledge came in very handy after her baby was born and they had to have her screened and tested. Some babies require corrective surgery ffor heart or other defects soon after birth. Even if there are no apparent life threatening health issues at birth all babies with down syndrome should be thoroughly screend and receive regular check ups due to the potential for developing complications.
There are a variety of organizations that provide pamphlets and information on the different screenings and tests your baby should get as well as height and weight growth charts to help you monitor your childs growth and development if your Dr doesn’t have them.
When you bring your baby home he/she has all the same needs as other babies and despite what you may have heard babies with down syndrome can be breast fe and many are. This early time is just like with other babies, with the exception of health issues, they need to be cuddled and cooed too. Like all babies, this is a time of developing trust and getting to know each other. Many new parents worry that they need to begin providing regular stimulation immediatly or their child will miss out on developing the skills needed in life. That is not the case, it’s more important to give yourself time to adjust and to
learn about your new baby. Get to know your babys likes and dislikes, let him/her know that you are interested in their feelings, needs and interests and talk with your baby. My friend always said she had more fun playing ‘patty cake’ and ‘peek a boo’ with her daughter than she ever would have imagined. She also firmly believes that taking the time to develop the bond between her and her daughter significantly helped her daughter as she got older and started in early development programs.
There are a variety of educational and developmental programs available today ot help children with down syndrome to not only
develop and learn language skills but to help them excel. Early intervention is the key. Most programs to help children with learning disabilities associated with down syndrom begin at age 3. Many children with down syndrome that have a good support system and early intervention are able to graduate high school and get employment earning wages and some even go on to college. The important thing to remember is that just like any other child a child with down syndrome needs love, encouragment and support to be all they can be.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.