As part of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I’m posting a series, “Trick or Treat,” throughout October to expose some myths about Down syndrome. I hope that you’ll find it helpful and informative.
Myth: Having a child with Down syndrome will ruin your life.
Clearly, “will ruin your life” is a subjective statement, defined differently by different people. Typically, though, the cited negatives of having a child with Down syndrome are financial strain, stress on the marriage, and negative impact on the typical siblings.
First Things First: The Critics
Often, when parents like me talk about the benefits of having a child with Down syndrome, some people react with something like “she thinks that now because her kid is young and cute; she won’t be singing the same tune when he’s grown.” True, I don’t know what it’s like to care for an adult child (but neither do some parents who have adult children with Down syndrome, as many of them live independently or semi-independently without their parents), but the people who make those assertions only have their own flawed assumptions to back them up – they don’t even have the experience of raising a child with Down syndrome. The information provided below isn’t based on my personal opinion – it’s based on documented research.
Yes, it costs money to have a child with Down syndrome (or any disability). Therapy and medical appointments aren’t cheap. But in the grand scheme of things, therapists and doctors are only a small portion of the total amount of money spent on raising a child. All children have to be fed and clothed!
Even in the case of severe financial hardship due to medical complications (not a given!), it’s important to remember that we can plan and save all we want, but there’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to live a financially comfortable life, with or without a child with Down syndrome. Disasters occur – economies stagnate – companies lay off workers – elderly parents need care from their adult children. And note: if cost was THE key factor in choosing to have children, very few people would do so.
Stress on the Family/Marriage
Studies have shown that the divorce rate among couples who have a child with Down syndrome is actually lower than that of typical families. When divorce does occur, it tends to happen within the first two years of the child’s life (Isn’t that ironic, given that in so many cases, the first two years are the ones most like the first two years of a typical child?) The majority of families report that they are stronger, closer, and more focused on the things that really matter in life.
Negative Impact on Siblings
Typical siblings may receive less attention than the sibling with Down syndrome (and may resent it), may be teased because of their sibling, and may feel uncomfortable when in public because their family is “different.” However, parents often report that even if the typical sibling has issues with the sibling with Down syndrome at home, they are loyal and protective of their sibling in the presence of others.
Studies have also shown that siblings of individuals with Down syndrome exhibit higher levels of maturity, are more accepting of others, and exhibit a great deal of wisdom and empathy relative to their peers. In short, they are better people.
The results of a new survey of families with a child who has Down syndrome, conducted by Dr. Brian Skotko, a physician at Children’s Hospital Boston, was recently released. I encourage you to click through and read the report – the results may surprise you.
Choosing Down Syndrome
Currently in the U.S., long waiting lists exist to adopt children with Down syndrome. The demand is so high that many parents-to-be pursue international adoption to fulfill their desire to have a child with Down syndrome. Reece’s Rainbow is an international adoption ministry that helps facilitate the placement of children with Down syndrome and other disabilities.
Often (but not always), these parents-to-be are family members of an individual with Down syndrome. A wonderful blog about a family with not one, but two, adopted children with Down syndrome is Pudge and Biggie – be sure to read their backstory here and here.
How do you feel about “the rest of the story?” Tell me!
Reminder: Seven Snippets Fridays begins this week! All bloggers welcome. Come back on Friday to link up!
Other Posts in this series: