What You Need to Know About Adopting a Child with Down Syndrome

All around the world there are children with special needs who are waiting to be placed with loving families. As adoptive parents, it is important that you understand the amount of care that goes into adopting a child with special needs. Adoptive parents should ask themselves if they are prepared to handle any medical, physical or behavioral conditions that the child may experience while growing up. In many cases, adoptive parents become lifetime caregivers, depending on the severity of the child’s condition and the amount of assistance needed throughout the child’s life. It is also important to consider if your family is financially able to provide the health care needed to support the child. With all things considered, adopting a child with special needs can be a very rewarding experience. Many children with special needs flourish in loving and permanent homes.

What is Down Syndrome?

Understanding Chromosome Disorders:
Down Syndrome is a chromosome disorder. Chromosomes are structures that contain our genes, which are the determining factor in how our bodies develop. Genes also decide certain characteristics such as a person’s hair color, eye color and blood type. When a chromosome defect happens, the chromosomes do not divide correctly. According to adoptspecialneeds.com, “Down Syndrome is chromosome disorder that is caused when the cells of chromosome 21 do not divide correctly. There are three types of abnormal cell division. All three abnormalities will have extra genetic material from chromosome 21.” –Adoptspecialneeds.org Although the exact cause of Down Syndrome is unknown, some research does indicate that older maternal age can contribute to infants being born with Down Syndrome.

 Down Syndrome Characteristics:
A child born with Down Syndrome may have a wide variety of characteristics and medical complications throughout their lives. According to Disabledworld.com, “The disability happens in around one out of every eight-hundred children, and there are greater than fifty characteristics that identify a child who has Down syndrome.” Children with Down Syndrome appear to be short in stature and have upward slanted eyes. The child could also appear to have  poor muscle tone and flattened facial features.

Important things to know about Down Syndrome:

Possible Complications:
Children with Down Syndrome have a delayed range of mental development. Other complications can also include heart defects, hearing impairment, vision complications, leukemia, sleep apnea and obesity. However, with the right treatment plan and care, these complications can be monitored, and managed to improve the quality of your child’s life.

Treatment:
Though there is no cure for Down Syndrome, children with this particular special need will benefit greatly from different types of therapies including physical, speech and occupational therapy. The earlier the child is started in therapy, the greater the child will benefit from these types of professional care. Early intervention programs that incorporate special education, speech, and physical therapy have been shown to improve the developmental potential of children with Down Syndrome.

Schooling:
Most children with Down Syndrome begin at conventional schools. Though this is a great option, some parents choose schools that specially handle special needs children. These special schools will have programs tailored to their child and will provide them with special individualized attention. This is completely a preference in which your family feels most comfortable with.

Support System:
It is equally as important to have a support system in place for not only your child, but your family as well. Adopting a child with Down Syndrome can be a rough journey at times. It is important that you have tools to fall back on when times become difficult. You can build a support system by seeking out local groups and parent network organizations for families that have a child with Down Syndrome. Hearing first hand experience will be very helpful to gain knowledge on raising your child with Down Syndrome.

Children growing up with Down Syndrome are normally able to integrate into society and lead healthy and happy lives. In many cases, children with Down Syndrome can live independently or in supportive group environments, and can even sustain employment. Adopting a child with Down Syndrome is a great undertaking, but can also be a very rewarding experience. Many families have successfully adopted children with Down Syndrome. Here is a look into a very touching video of a couple’s adoption video which shows them bringing their baby girl, Sunflower Mae, home for the first time.

Resources:
Educating your family about Down Syndrome before adopting a child is very important. Here are a list of books that could be helpful to reference before the adoption, and post placement.
• Down Syndrome Parenting 101: Must-Have Advice for Making Your Life Easier -By Natalie Hale
• My Friend Has Down Syndrome (Let’s talk about It Series) – By Jennifer Moore-Mallinos
• The Upside of Down – By Rebecca Talley
• Babies with Down Syndrome: A New Parent’s Guide- By Woodbine House

When adopting a child with Down Syndrome it is very important to understand that specific special need before you are placed with a child. Like many factors involving adoption, educating yourself on the topic is key. Also, speaking with other families who have not only adopted with special needs, but adoption in general will give you a great basis, and prepare you for your own adoption process. All children with Down Syndrome can thrive in a loving environment and can benefit greatly from a permanent home that your family has to offer.

adoption is a blessing

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