Coping and support
When you learn your child has Down syndrome, you may experience a range of emotions, including anger, fear, worry and sorrow. You may not know what to expect, and you may worry about your ability to care for a child with a disability. The best antidote for fear and worry is information and support.
Consider these steps to prepare yourself and to care for your child:
- Ask your health care provider about early intervention programs in your area. Available in most states, these special programs offer infants and young children with Down syndrome stimulation at an early age (typically until age 3) to help develop motor, language, social and self-help skills.
- Learn about educational options for school. Depending on your child's needs, that may mean attending regular classes (mainstreaming), special education classes or both. With your health care team's recommendations, work with the school to understand and choose appropriate options.
- Seek out other families who are dealing with the same issues. Most communities have support groups for parents of children with Down syndrome. You can also find internet support groups. Family and friends can also be a source of understanding and support.
- Participate in social and leisure activities. Take time for family outings and look in your community for social activities such as park district programs, sports teams or ballet classes. Although some adaptations may be required, children and adults with Down syndrome can enjoy social and leisure activities.
- Encourage independence. Your child's abilities may be different from other children's abilities, but with your support and some practice your child may be able to perform tasks such as packing lunch, managing hygiene and dressing, and doing light cooking and laundry.
- Prepare for the transition to adulthood. Opportunities for living, working, and social and leisure activities can be explored before your child leaves school. Community living or group homes, and community employment, day programs or workshops after high school require some advance planning. Ask about opportunities and support in your area.
Expect a bright future. Most people with Down syndrome live with their families or independently, go to mainstream schools, read and write, participate in the community, and have jobs. People with Down syndrome can live fulfilling lives.
There's no way to prevent Down syndrome. If you're at high risk of having a child with Down syndrome or you already have one child with Down syndrome, you may want to consult a genetic counselor before becoming pregnant.
A genetic counselor can help you understand your chances of having a child with Down syndrome. He or she can also explain the prenatal tests that are available and help explain the pros and cons of testing.