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Whether you are having a baby or fostering, adopting, or simply parenting a child with Down syndrome, continual preparation and understanding will be needed. The capabilities of one child may differ greatly from those of another, so getting to know your child will be the most helpful in gauging the best ways to support them. Here are a few tips for preparing for a child with Down syndrome to help you enjoy the time with your kiddo to the fullest.
The best thing you can do for yourself and your child is to keep your hopes up. High expectations will help you and your child avoid setting limits on possibilities. Have you ever heard the Henry Ford quote, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right?” Obviously, you will face hurdles, but this is true with parenting and life in general. Setting high expectations for what your child will be capable of will undoubtedly maintain their morale and set you both up to be more successful. You never know what growth you’ll see in the coming years due to your efforts and continuously raising the bar.
When possible, give your child opportunities to socialize with other children who do not have Down syndrome. Whether they’re playing with siblings, friends, or children in a playgroup, there is a lot to learn for all participants. Your child needs chances to play, develop skills, work on problem-solving, communicate, and explore. Children don’t handle people with gloves the way adults do, so it’ll be an opportunity for your kiddo to fully immerse themselves in a virtually unbiased social situation with other children.
Autonomy is an important part of growing up. Your child is no different from anyone else in their need to be able to care for themselves in different scenarios. They also need to understand what they can expect of others and what their duty is as part of a group dynamic. You may adjust the chores or tasks you give your child based on their level of capability, but you should increase the difficulty and intensity as they grow. Allow them to build skills that can help keep them safe, included, and independent. With all children, it’s important to gradually release responsibility by first setting an example and doing things yourself, then working on a task together, and finally allowing them to try the task on their own.
There are many ways to lend support to your child. Encouraging continual growth and learning will help. You can engage together and separately in physical, occupational, and speech therapies. Consider ways to incorporate fun with these efforts, such as engaging in hippotherapy. This way, your child gets to do something enjoyable in a way that ultimately helps them target and develop a variety of skills. You may also play different types of physical or mental games that allow you and your child to work on specific skills in an exciting way.
There are many tips for preparing for a child with Down syndrome that will help them be successful in life. The learning process will never stop, and there will most likely be surprises along the way. You may find that through the experiences that help your child grow and be successful, you find your own growth and success.