Trick or Treat: Having a child with Down syndrome will ruin your life

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.

Financial Hardship

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.

Down syndrome, siblings

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:

Trick or Treat: Always Happy

Trick or Treat: All Look the Same

Trick or Treat: Severely Mentally Retarded


  1. says

    I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your blog, Andi…and I feel like I’ve really learned a lot in the past ~2 months I’ve been subscribed. You’re doing a great thing for your kids and humanity in general here. Thank you!

    • Andi says

      Thanks so much, Nancy! Over the past few weeks – particularly during the 31 for 21 Blog Challenge – I’ve felt like my blog was at a crossroads. It’s wonderful to receive positive feedback that reinforces that I’m doing a good thing here.

  2. Bill McCarthy says

    Hi Andi
    I have a wonderful 16 year old son, Brennan, with Down Syndrome. Today is the first time I have ever read blogs. I found your blog by way of reading about Kelle Hampton since I am reading her book, Bloom. I was really surprised about some of the comments about Kelle Hampton which were so negative ( not yours, which I thought were very nice). However, I am also disappointed about how Kelle goes on and on about how she “writhed in agony” on the day Nella was born. Sure, I was shocked too, but her descriptions sound like the end of the world.
    Anyway, your blog is pleasant and you sound like a real person like my wife, and I look forward to reading your blog in the future
    Bill McCarthy

    • Andi says

      Welcome, Bill! Thank you for visiting – I hope you’ll come back and participate by leaving comments. I love to hear from readers – especially ones who like what I’ve written. 😉

      It’s nice to “meet” you!