Many expectant parents would like to see a glimpse of the future with their child with Down syndrome, beyond the lists of medical possibilities. While each family and individual with Down syndrome is unique, one thing most of us can agree on is that the reality of living with someone with Down syndrome is much different than we imagined on that diagnosis day. And that reality is often remarkably ordinary—including soccer practice, sibling squabbles, birthday parties, and snuggles and popcorn during a movie.
While it’s true that some time usually needs to be devoted to speech or physical therapy visits, those visits become part of a daily routine. Speech therapists who come to our homes often become dear friends, and physical therapy appointments may become that time of day where we run to the grocery store. And while it’s also true that our children may have medical issues, some more or less than others, the time spent dealing with those medical conditions is usually a very small slice of a much bigger pie.
Once our children with Down syndrome start developing their own identities, it can sometimes be shocking how they shed those identities we originally envision as new and expectant parents. When my own son was born, I remember writing down everything that scared me: people making fun of him, having other children, having him live with us as an adult, and losing the vision of a child going to college and having a career.
Now at 14, he’s very popular — boys from school show up at my house to play basketball and give him “bro hugs” at the bike trail when they run into him. He has two younger sisters who are 11 and 7, and our biggest challenge there is making sure the girls don’t go in his room without asking and making sure he doesn’t call his younger sisters “embarrassing” and “annoying.” And even though I’m fairly certain he’ll need some help as an adult, he already keeps bags packed in his closet hoping that he’ll get to move to the beach with his best friend someday. There are also now 220 college programs for students with developmental disabilities, and Andy is determined to go and has already shown real promise as a photographer (who has already had an exhibit in Russia and won the PTA Reflections Photography contest for the past 4 years). We also spend our summers as a family on the mountain bike trails.
If you had told me all of this when I was a scared 23-year-old first receiving the diagnosis, I never could have pictured that this was what the future held.
Experienced parents, will you share a peek into your lives? Start with your child’s name and age, and give our expectant parents a snapshot of your present to help them envision their future. Expectant parents are welcome to ask questions as well.
Read about “A Day in the Life” of other moms here: