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What are Babies with Down Syndrome Like?

Between 50 and 75 percent of parents who have had a baby with Down syndrome report that once over the initial shock. they found the experience rewarding and strengthening.

A study asked mothers of young children whether they felt they had coped with their baby and young child. Over two-thirds said they had coped. Their was no difference in overall response between mothers whose babies or young children had Down syndrome and mothers whose children were "normal."

- Cliff Cunningham, Understanding Down Syndrome: An Introduction for Parents

What will my new baby be like?

He will be like a baby. He will be 100% reliant on you for everything, just like all other babies are reliant on their parents. He will eat, sleep, and go through lots of diapers. He may have some medical problems and he may have weak muscles but he will definitely be cute and adorable and he will be the most beautiful baby ever born.

You will also notice that your baby will look like he belongs in your family. He will look like his brothers and sisters although he will probably have some of the traits associated with Down syndrome, as well. Remember, your child's chromosomes come from his parents. My wife and I noticed that our son looks almost identical to my daughter when she was an infant.

Will my baby learn things?

YES! Your baby will learn to do all the things that other children learn to do but it will take her a little longer and it will take a little more patience on your part. She will learn to walk (usually by age 2), she will learn to dress herself, feed herself, use the toilet (usually by age 5), hold conversations, make friends, develop a range of interests, read, and go to school.

By the time she is one years old she will probably be able to: sit by herself, pick up and play with toys, roll over, and feed herself a cookie. She will be able to bang objects together, shake them, visually examine them, and suck on them. She will play games like "peek-a-boo" and she will laugh and giggle. She will be saying her first words like "ma-ma" and "da-da".

By the time she is two, she will be learning to walk and starting to imitate language. She will be starting to learn to dress and undress herself. She will be scribbling with a crayon and looking at pictures and turning pages in a book by herself. She will use a cup by herself and be able to feed herself with a spoon. Like other children, she will be very imitative of the things that she sees other people doing.

Once she has learned these skills, she will not forget them.

When will my baby reach his developmental milestones?

Your new baby will be like every other baby although it may take him longer to reach certain developmental milestones. Developmental delays are common in children with Down syndrome although at a young age, the delays are usually a matter of a few months. With proper early intervention, these developmental delays can be minimized. Studies have suggested that some children with Down syndrome who are receiving early intervention may actually achieve developmental milestones sooner than some children without Down syndrome. For example, the average "normal" child will be able to complete a 3-piece jigsaw puzzle at around 22 months. Some children with Down syndrome achieve this goal as early as 20 months (although the average is 33 months). Early intervention and a stimulating and loving environment will help your baby.

What kind of help can I get for my baby?

[Note: this section applies to laws within the USA]
By federal law (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA) , your baby has the right to a free, appropriate public education that can help her grow and develop. This education must be provided from birth. A child with Down syndrome has a disability under the law and is immediately eligible for all types of services.  The law and the courts are on your side although you may have to be willing to fight for your and your baby's rights. The law's purpose is defined as follows:
It is the purpose of this chapter to assure that all children with disabilities have available to them, within the time periods specified in section 1412(2)(B) of this title, a free appropriate public education which emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs, to assure that the rights of children with disabilities and their parents or guardians are protected, to assist States and localities to provide for the education of all children with disabilities, and to assess and assure the effectiveness of efforts to educate children with disabilities.

This means that your child should be given physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and any other therapies that are appropriate for her.  In addition, you have the right to receive support and advice on early stimulation for your child. You can also attend special health and development clinics. More information about your rights under the law can be found by contacting either The Arc (a national organization on mental retardation) or  The National Down Syndrome Society.

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This page last updated on 15 April 2008.

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Thomas and Michel Paul - Email: tom.and.michel AT gmail DOT com