What I've Learned Is Important in Raising a Child with Down Syndrome
1. Don't Wait For Readiness
Start early on any endeavour, they will need more time to master a skill, so give them more time. We applied this successfully with everything from toilet training to crawling and walking to second languages.
2. Don't Listen To Experts
I hate painting with such a broad brush, but if we had listened to experts who told us what a child with Down syndrome isn't capable of, I shudder to think how low functioning my son would be.
3. Never Say Die - No Retreat No Surrender
Never give up on a goal that will better your child's life. They can learn just about anything - it takes time and patience, which makes it hard, but not impossible.
4. Never Say Never
Science and technology make a lot of things possible that were unthinkable in the past. Prior history is not a measure of the future as they say in investment circles.
5. Do Sports and Exercise
There is a reason the Special Olympics exist. Purely intellectual pursuits might not be a good fit for a child with Down syndrome (though never say never), so sports and exercise are a healthy outlet that will not only improve strength and co-ordination but there can also be neurological integration benefits that will pay off in academic or other mental scenarios (problem-solving, spatial planning).
6. Peer Modelling is Important
Having an older sibling to imitate has been a boon to our son. While the Special Olympics is good, we have always placed our boy in extra-curricular activities with typical children, usually of the same age. In sports and life, we end up performing at a higher level when in a situation with higher-level players.
7. Fight For Inclusion
Getting access to the opportunities you want for your child in sports, education and art is a constant battle. Some doors seem closed, some seem open (but aren't completely open). The world is inherently and systematically ableist and the system would prefer it if your child would just go away or not exist at all. It's exhausting, but if you remember you're fighting a longtime campaign, hopefully, you can not let individual lost battles discourage you.
8. Live Life Out Loud
Even positive stereotypes (people with Down syndrome are always happy) ultimately have a negative effect. We mostly post about his accomplishments, but the more we let people know about his life, the more people know about an individual with Down syndrome. Stereotypes and ignorance are best fought by simply getting to know people - nowadays, it's possible to 'know' someone you don't even get to meet in person.
9. Toilet Train Early
There's a wealth of programs (classes, camps, etc.) that can enrich a child's life, but there are very few people who are willing to change a dirty diaper. Points #1 and #4 were crucial in achieving this milestone.
10. Look For Ways to Make it Fun
Spot words from the week's spelling list in reading or on signs on the road. Incorporate the physio exercises they are to do into playtime. The more you can embed the extra work you have to do into your day-to-day life, the more benefits from that work you will reap.