To follow on from a previous post about October being Down syndrome awareness month, I wanted to share what I personally have learned about Down syndrome.
Prior to having Chloe, I was completely ignorant to the world of special needs – Down syndrome in particular. Sure, I knew what the condition was but I realise that my perception was completely off the mark in comparison to the reality. I never gave much thought to people with Down syndrome and if I am to be honest, I will say that I was a bit scared of them.
Overall though, I never paid much attention when I was out and about and if I did see a person with Down syndrome or any disability for that matter, I felt sorry for them. I thought ‘how unfortunate for those poor people’. I never once considered the fact that these people were just people and that they were actually happy and living fulfilling lives. I was completely ignorant. I just didn’t have a clue.
So, with that in mind, over the past 12 months or so, this is what I have learned:
A child with Down syndrome is no different to any other child
A child is a child. Babies with Down syndrome have the same basic needs as any other baby. They cry, smile, get hungry, sleep, play with toys, grow and need lots of kisses and cuddles from their Mummy and Daddy.
|Chloe – 10 weeks old|
It can happen to anyone and it’s no one’s ‘fault’
Contrary to what I first thought, Down syndrome does not happen because of something a parent did or didn’t do. It can happen to anyone at any time and is a naturally occurring chromosomal abnormality caused by an error during cell division. The condition is not hereditary or genetic and it can occur in people of any age or race.
A child with Down syndrome is very capable of learning and reaching their milestones
When I became aware of Chloe’s condition, it was like I imagined that the baby growing inside of me wasn’t human. That this child had no future and wouldn’t be capable of anything and that she would have a difficult life. How wrong I was!
Raising a child with Down syndrome does come with extra challenges but these challenges are far outweighed by the joy of their achievements. Chloe is doing very well with her milestones. Yes, she is delayed in comparison to her peers (by my estimate, she is currently the same size and of the same development as a 9 month old baby) but she WILL get there. Every day, I am astonished by Chloe’s ability. She has grown and learnt so much. She is determined, inquisitive, playful and very interactive. A few weeks ago, she started waving goodbye and she is also just about ready to start crawling properly. She is gaining more strength in her legs and can stand supported for longer too!
|So pleased with herself!|
Most of the limiting perceptions about Down syndrome exist because of a lack of education and understanding. Families of children with Down syndrome want people to recognise their child for their abilities and to see them for the little person that they are – not their extra chromosome. I have said it so many times before and I will say it again – there is so much more to Chloe than Down syndrome.
They have a bright and happy future
I realise that Chloe will never be a Doctor or Lawyer but she will achieve great things on her own merit. With all the early intervention programs, awareness campaigns and efforts of parents, families, friends and educators to create a more accepting and inclusive environment, I believe that Chloe has a very promising future. This pleases me so much!
Like the rest of us, a person with Down syndrome is different to any other person who has Down syndrome. They are not ‘all the same’.
There are many physical features associated with Down syndrome but not all of them will be evident in a person with the condition. People with Down syndrome look like their families just like every other baby.
|Emma and Chloe have the same big blue eyes|
There are also many potential health and development issues associated with Down syndrome (if you were to google and see exactly what these are, it is really quite scary!) but again, it is not a given that a person with Down syndrome will have all or any of these problems. Some children with Down syndrome have serious health problems and then there are many who don’t. Chloe was born with a heart condition but asides from that, we have been lucky so far that she has remained relatively healthy with no other major medical concerns.
Babies with Down syndrome are beautiful and they bring so much joy to their family
I had never met a baby with Down syndrome until I met Chloe and I was blown away by her beauty. My head was so messed up during that time that I forgot I was having a baby. There were so many images in my head but not of a sweet newborn baby.
|Chloe – 2 days old|
I also worried for Emma and how having a sister like Chloe would impact her life. But when I see the two of them together, I don’t know why I even thought that. As Chloe is becoming more interactive, their relationship is so far developing into the one I thought they would have before I discovered Chloe had Down syndrome. They are very lucky to have each other.
Chloe has brought so much joy and love to our family. I couldn’t imagine us without her.
Now that my eyes have been opened, I am happier, stronger and more compassionate. I have become more accepting and understanding of all the differences there are in the world. This journey I have been on has taught me so much and I am excited and thankful that I get to learn and experience so much more. xoxo