With an occurrence rate of one out of every 691 live births, Down syndrome is a fairly common chromosomal condition, with 400,000 people currently living in the United States with it. Although the lives of parents and caregivers of children with Down syndrome warrant some extra visits to doctors and therapists, most people with Down syndrome can lead fulfilling and productive lives and are often included in standard classrooms across the country. October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and therefore, it is a great time to raise public awareness about and advocate for such individuals to be embraced by families and communities. Take a look at some tips for parents raising a child with Down syndrome.
1. Stay informed and organized
Down syndrome may come with increased risks of medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, pulmonary hypertension, hearing problems (due to fluid retention behind the eardrum), Alzheimer’s disease, leukemia, thyroid disorders and cognitive delays. Having the right pediatrician (who has the knowledge and experience with this special patient population) is valuable in helping you stay informed and prepared and keeping your child safe and healthy.
Parents and caregivers need to be extra vigilant in screening for these medical issues. Maintain a log to keep track of your child’s chronic health, treatments and education to understand their growth journey.
2. Motivate your child
It is important to treat a child with Down syndrome like someone without any disabilities. Having high expectations for your child will encourage them to be enthusiastic and strive for independence. Nevertheless, still set tasks based on their attention span and abilities. You want to set them up for success while still allowing them to learn and grow.
Divide tasks into small steps if needed. Additionally, children with Down syndrome are often visual learners, so demonstrating an action for them may speed up their learning process. However, remember to present only a few stimuli/objects at a time. If your child makes a mistake, correct it by asking them to try again, and applaud a correct response adequately.
3. Take advantage of therapies
While there is no cure for Down syndrome, therapies, treatments and educational support can improve the quality of life of those affected. Of course, early intervention is the key.
Due to frequent hearing impairment, speech-language therapy can often improve communication skills. Hypotonia (low muscle tone) in extremities is a common issue that physical therapy can help with. Meanwhile, occupational therapy meets the needs for fine motor skills and the performance of daily tasks like getting dressed, brushing teeth, and writing or using the computer.
Lexington Services offers all three of these therapy options to assist your child in developing and achieving milestones that will help them grow more independent.
4. Look into special education and assistive technology
Under the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), special education is available to these children until they either complete high school or turn 21. These services are delineated through an individualized education plan (IEP) drawn up by the school, parents and health professionals. Assistive technology devices such as hearing aids, walking aids, special-grip pencils/pens, touchscreen tablets and computers can also make learning more accessible. Check here for our suggestions on special needs apps!
5. Connect with other parents and support groups
Support groups through social media, local organizations and church groups will not only help you stay informed but also stay strong! Bonding with other people in similar situations provides a level of comfort that you can’t get anywhere else.
With major advances made in understanding this disability, people with Down syndrome are living longer, happier lives. In fact, the life expectancy for these individuals has increased from 25 years in 1980 to over 60 years today. Lexington Services is dedicated to the betterment of both your and your child’s lives through exceptional special needs education services. Explore our website for more information.