Raising a Daughter With Down Syndrome

By Eliza Martinez
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Understanding the issues and challenges of having a daughter with Down syndrome can help you in making the best decisions for her in her early years. Even though an "American Journal of Medical Genetics" study found that 79 percent of parents report having a happy outlook on life because of their Down syndrome child, raising a daughter with special needs can be difficult at times. If you're prepared for what might come up, though, you and she will be likely to enjoy a happy life as she grows up.

Health Problems

Down syndrome is a genetic malfunction that results in easily recognizable facial features, but it can also cause less obvious health issues throughout life. Being prepared for them ensures prompt treatment and a better prognosis. About half of children born with Down syndrome have heart defects, according to Kids Health. Your daughter's pediatrician is likely to test her at birth for such a defect and provide treatment if one is present. Intestinal problems, an increase in the incidence of infections, breathing issues and eye and ear problems are also possible. Some girls with Down syndrome develop leukemia.

Developmental Delays

Developmental delays accompany Down syndrome. Your daughter is likely to be behind her peers in terms of social, cognitive and language development. Once she reaches school age, she'll probably need to be in special classes that help her learn and develop at her own pace. While your daughter might not develop past a certain mental age and is likely to be physically smaller than her peers, she will eventually experience puberty, menstruation and sexual feelings at the same age she normally would, notes the National Down Syndrome Society. Appropriate sex education is vital, whether she gets it at school or at home.

Parents' Role

As with any child, you'll get to know and bond with your Down syndrome daughter as you raise her. This will help you tune in to her specific needs. However, some basic steps can help to ensure good overall health and promote optimal development. Feed your daughter a healthy, well-balanced diet combined with plenty of exercise, suggests the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan. Your daughter might need a few hundred fewer daily calories than her peers since Down syndrome increases her risk of obesity. Biking, running, walking and swimming are ideal types of exercise for your daughter. Make sure she gets enough sleep because she might suffer from sleep disturbances, such as sleep apnea.

Support

Involve your daughter in social situations with other kids who have Down syndrome. This will boost her self-esteem and happiness because she will get the chance to interact with other people like her. This support can help her stay healthy and enjoy her life. At the same time, getting support for yourself is important. Having a network of other parents raising Down syndrome daughters can give you a sounding board for advice and comfort when things aren't going as you expected. These people can also give you referrals to specialists in the various challenges you might face while raising your daughter.

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.