How to Cope with a Diagnosis of down Syndrome in a Child

Your first indication that something was different with your unborn child might have come during an ultrasound exam. The tone may have become quiet as the technician left and returned with the doctor. No need to go over the medical details; suffice it to say that the indicators suggested a great possibility that Down Syndrome was present. What a shock to you and your spouse. Even if you were an older couple at greater risk, the reality hits a whole lot closer to home than the possibility.

You probably then had an amniotic fluid test ordered, which may have quickly confirmed your fears: It’s positive; no doubt about it. This began your introduction into the world of Down Syndrome. It most likely has not been easy, but perhaps it has also been filled with victories and rewards. Perhaps you have found wonderful support from family and friends. Perhaps doctors and therapists have been of tremendous help and encouragement.

One of the great discoveries of new parents to a child with Down Syndrome is that they are not alone. Parents have many resources available. Health care has made great strides in treatment; involvement in early childhood development can make huge differences in a child’s capabilities; advocacy and social awareness has made mainstreaming a reality. But all of this can be of little comfort for parents coping with the diagnosis. That is when the sheer humanity of the situation comes in.

When you look at your child, you probably now see past the diagnosis to all of his special qualities. Perhaps he is graceful and gentle, or good-natured and easy to get along with. A child with Down Syndrome can be just as energetic and involved with life as children without the diagnosis.

Although some parents may be worried about how to cope with the diagnosis, it is more likely that you simply worried about how to provide a good start with the resources at hand. You likely never doubted your ability to love your child with Down Syndrome. In actuality, there is no true “normal” life for a child; your child will show you the way.

When you realize what could affect a life, you understand that any comfortable definition of ‘normal’ could be changed in a moment. As parents of a child with Down Syndrome, you are probably now more keenly aware of what you might have known all along; that life is a gamble. You hedge your bets and make the most of the results. That is true for all of us. But what you might not have known was how much joy you could experience once got past worrying about “perfect”.