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A Mother's Guide to Raising a Child With Down Syndrome

My Baby Has Down Syndome

The discovery that your child has Down Syndrome is a daunting one. Believe me, thirty-five years ago, at the tender age of twenty, I was daunted.

But after the shock and awe, after the ‘why me’ and confusion, what you need is information. Learning what Down Syndrome is, the effects and symptoms, becomes tiresome and you start to ask the age-old question: what can I do to help my child?

Below find simple strategies to help your child with Down Syndrome live up to a full potential, and, believe me, there is a lot of potential.

My main advise is not to worry. Anxiety is no good for you or your child. A child with Down Syndrome is, first of all, a child, and like all children, a delight, occasionally bratty (just like all children), and deserving of all the love you have to give.

A baby with Down Syndrome having a great time.

A baby with Down Syndrome having a great time.

How to Help Your Child With Down Syndrome Reach Their Full Potential

  1. Love Unconditionally. This should go without saying, but it's a good reminder.
  2. Offer Plenty of Stimulation. Part of the definition of mental retardation is "an external locus of control." That means that the individual is not going to have a lot of motivation. You have to present your child with a variety of sights, sounds and sensations to capture her interest. But! If my daughter has an external locus of control, how did she decide to practice cutting shapes by snipping triangles, squares and rectangles on my six-foot rubber tree plant?
  3. Expect the Unexpected. Just because they tell you that a child with Down Syndrome will just sit there like a lump until you provide them with stimulation doesn’t mean she’ll sit there like a lump until you provide stimulation. Like it surprised me how quickly my daughter decided to scramble a half dozen eggs in a colander when my back was turned.
  4. Get Out and About. Take your baby everywhere. Provide constant commentary and questions on everything. If your child with Down Syndrome does not have the muscular control to climb the monkey bars, assist her, manipulate those little hands and feet until she gets the hang of it. Take long walks, meet people, go on trips – present the world to your child and your child to the world.
  5. Turn Off the TV. Learning is a multisensory event. Sitting in front of the television makes a child passive and inhibits the development of eye muscles as well as language.
  6. Read Early and Often. A child with Down Syndrome, often somewhat passive by nature, will enjoy spending lots of time snuggled in your lap poring over picture books, catalogues and magazines. The movement of eyes across the page and the understanding that those squiggles and blocks of color represent something in the real world enrich any child’s development and encourage the skills needed for reading.Many children with Down's can learn to read.
  7. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. All children learn by repetition. Some just need a little more than others.
  8. Listen to Music. A variety of music presents different sensations and offers a child a deeper view of the world. Music can be soothing or energizing. It enhances the development of motor skills through dance. Dancing will help your child’s balance, coordination, stamina and strength. My daughter has accumulated quite a lot of junk from winning all those dance contests at the ARC!
  9. Talk. Talk. Talk. Language is civilization. Language allows us to understand the world and adapt to it my means of communication. Language allows a child to become a fully realized individual with ability to make his/her wishes known, ask questions and state observations.
  10. Tongue In. From day one push that tongue in. Children with Down Syndrome have poor muscle control evidenced by that tongue hanging out. It doesn’t look good. A tongue hanging out interferes with the ability to speak. Wash your hands and push that tongue in. Eventually, your child will get the idea.

What Else? Of course, good wholesome, fresh food and supplemental vitamins are especially important for the child with Downs. Finding a doctor who is experienced with Down syndrome may be a bit difficult but well worth the search.

So, quit worrying and get on with life. Having a child with Down Syndrome provides you the opportunity to really make a difference for your baby, yourself, your family and everyone you meet.

Girl With Down Syndrome Atop the Twin Towers! Travel offers the opportunity to expand.

Girl With Down Syndrome Atop the Twin Towers! Travel offers the opportunity to expand.

Will Any Pediatrician Do?

Attempt to locate a pediatrician who has experience with children with Down Syndrome. An experienced doctor can suggest nutritional and supplemental additions to your child's diet that will benefit his or her health. A dentist experienced with patients with Down Syndrome can address the special needs of children who generally have slower progress of tooth eruption and my need help with dental hygiene.

Outdoor Education

School-age children benefit from summer camps or extended school programs so that education and physical activity is not interrupted during school vacations. Many recreations centers and programs offer activities that are adapted to children with special needs.

Special Olympics

Special Olympics offers continuing physical activities and competition that encourage exercise and the opportunity to excel in sports. Field and team sports, swimming, and sailing as well as winter sports are available with instruction and guidance for children with Down Syndrome and other special needs. Some areas even offer adaptive equestrian programs.

Down Syndrome-Special Olympics offers peer competition and exercise

Down Syndrome-Special Olympics offers peer competition and exercise

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on December 05, 2012:

Hi Karen - I took a moment to read a bit on Edward Syndrome as well as to read one of your hubs. I will certainly be back to read more. I agree that love has no boundaries. All children have imperfections - just like us! Thanks!

Karen Wilton from Australia on December 04, 2012:

Dolores after the initial shock of learning our baby may have Down Syndrome we welcomed her into the world as any other baby. Sadly in our case she had Edward Syndrome which meant we were faced with other challenges. The beauty about having children is loving them regardless of their imperfections. Thank you for such an informative article. I wish this had been around when we needed answers.

Camille Harris from SF Bay Area on August 15, 2012:

Hi Dolores,

Thank you for writing this informative Hub! I have always been curious (as have many others, apparently!) about what life is like for people with DS and their families. As I suspected, the quality of their lives has a lot to do with the quality of their families (as with us all). Your daughter is lucky to have you, and you're lucky to have her. Best to you and yours!

Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on October 15, 2011:

HI, Gloria - when we marry, we marry the family. You didn't know about this behavior before you got married? Sounds like Dad has some kind of guilt, or weakness so ignores a real problem. He isn't doing his son any good and is encouraging him in inappropriate behaviors. Of course he should not lock the kitchen at night, that sounds nuts. But the son should not be trashing the kitchen at night. Then again, I know a lot of young men who trash the kitchen at night, and they don't have DS as an excuse.

Gloria on October 14, 2011:

I 3 months ago married a man with a 25 year old Down Syndrome child......was very loving at first, but after marriage has beem a constant power struggle.....there are a lot of things his dad does "kust to appease" him....he is let to do whatever he wants...father says it is his house and refuses to lock the kitchen at night as he creates a miserable mess in the kitchen and with the food in his room and goes ballistic if I try just to clean the stinky food out of his at my wits end!!!

Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on October 06, 2011:

Maria - whoops, I said DC when I meant DS. My daughter, grown now, has a good friend with whom she has some occasional conflicts. The friend can be very nasty. His parents are total angels. Every time she tells me about his nasty behavior, I remind her that he is behaving like a spoiled child - everything has to go his way.

Maria on October 05, 2011:

Oki dokie, fully agreed :)

Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on October 05, 2011:

Maria - thank you. I can't see how an 8 month old child can be aggressive. Some children with DC become aggressive when they are a bit older. Such behavior that I've seen appears to me to be in kids that have been spoiled and allowed to do whatever they want to do without correction or direction. In other words, spoiled brats. Many children have bratty phases, but inappropriate behavior needs to be controlled right away.

Maria on October 05, 2011:

I like your article Dolores, our little daughter of 8 months has also DS. Can you say whether this "aggressive etape" they should go through in the early childhood is a must or it depends as everything on all the other circumstances of life.?

One more thing, we are a bilingual family too and we do speak both languages at home. However it is still very helpful to me to get opinions of others: do you think some babies with DS could eventually pick up? or it is way too complicated to even think about.

Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on September 30, 2011:

Sophia - people with DS have an increased risk for heart problems as well as early onset Alzhiemers. But risks are out there for all of us. We could fall off a roof or get run over by a bus. It's not how long a life is but how it is lived. I see my daughter meet with her friends for lunch before bowling. Such a large crowd. Such a supportive group! Such a wonderful life! Thanks.

Sophia on September 29, 2011:

is there life a shortage if they have down syndrome, or does there life stil continue just like everyone elses?

Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on May 18, 2011:

Hi, Nicholas - try getting a 5 month old baby to do exercises! haha. Aside of doing a Bronx cheer you will not be very successful. Pushing a baby's tongue in (wash hands first) will get the baby used to keeping it in and build up a habit easily. Thank you!

Nicholas on May 15, 2011:

Interesting article. I do not understand though how pushing in a babies tongue is going to improve muscle strength. It would seem more logical to do tongue exercises.

Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on April 13, 2011:

xanzacow - my daughter went to school til she was 21 also. But now, in my area, the program for young adults with developmental delays is held at the local community college. My daughter would have been so proud to attend community college. And I know the program director, a lovely women. It would have been so cool. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

Cynthia from North Myrtle Beach, SC on April 13, 2011:

Phil I love your comment. I too have a son with Down's Syndrome. He is now 25. He started in a program that came to my home and taught me how to stimulate him as much as possible, when he was 6 weeks old. He continued in some sort of education until he was 21 when he walked and received his certificate in the graduation ceremony at the high school he attended. He is VERY proud of that as I am of him. He has brought so much joy to my life! Thank you for your wonderful post.

Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on February 26, 2011:

Koffee - thank you for your kind words. Ha, ha - my daughter is no child but is almost as old as I am - well it seems like that. But it was the other way around. She has taught me so much about life and continues to be a darling. She lives independently, has a job, and a vivid social life.

Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on February 23, 2011:

Delores, what a wonderful outlook you have. I did my student teaching with Downs Syndrome children in the 4 to 5 age group. They were loving, giving, and eager to please. How lucky your child is to have you.

Cindy A Johnson from Sevierville, TN on February 13, 2011:

Very informative hub. Thanks.

Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on July 15, 2010:

Sally - the reason that the word 'retarded' has gone out of polite use is because it has been used as an insult. 'Developmentally delayed' and 'intellectually limited' are 2 more acceptable terms. Great question! Thanks!

Sally6767 on July 14, 2010:

is it rude to say those with down syndrome are retarded?

Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on March 11, 2010:

philmaguire, the opportunity to associate with people with Down syndrome can teach us a lot about ourselves and humanity. Thank you for your inspiring comment.

philmaguire from Jersey, Iles de la Manche on March 10, 2010:

During my holidays from university, I used to help out at looking after the kids from Mont a L'Abbe school who had all sorts of physical and mental issues like Cri du Chat and, of course, Downs Syndrome children. I found their emotional honesty so refreshing. They liked you instantly, treated you like they had known you forever and were always happy to see you. Years later, I was talking to someone about various mental situations and she used the phrase "suffering from Down's Syndrome" to which I laughed and said "if that is suffering, then we should all suffer from Down's Syndrome and the world would be a happier, friendlier and better place".

Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on February 03, 2010:

habee, thank you so much. I've known lots of people with Down's and while my own daughter is just wonderful, I've known a couple stinkers. People with Downs are people too. But you do have a point. I think they try harder.

Holle Abee from Georgia on February 02, 2010:

Dolores, you da bomb! I knew a woman with a Down syndrome child, and she said he's the best thing that ever happened to her! she told me these kids lack aggression. All the ones I've known at school were super sweet and cuddly.

Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on November 25, 2009:

Mom - I am so glad that you enjoyed the hub, Please check out my hub on How A Child With DC Will Improve Your Life. I honestly think that my daughter has made me a better person. But then again, don't they all! Good luck with your family and your child. God bless you all!

DSMom in India on November 25, 2009:

Thank you very much for your post. I have a one year old baby with Down Syndrome and I think this is one of the most useful and comprehensive articles I have read on raising a child with Down Syndrome. Thank you.

Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on September 28, 2009:

BK, thank you for such a lovely comment. I so appreciate it!

BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on September 27, 2009:

This is just great! You're the best there is!

Thanks for sharing such a loving thoughtful hub!

Dolores Monet (author) from East Coast, United States on February 06, 2009:


LondonGirl from London on February 04, 2009:

An awful lot of that - love, stimulation, reading, etc, applies to all babies equally, I think?