“Kids should be eating solid foods by six months old.”
“Kids should be walking by one.”
“My kid is going to be so behind.”
Those thoughts used to run through my head on a regular basis.
Looking back, I can’t believe that I ever worried about that.
Of course, receiving a Down Syndrome diagnosis, it is hard not to fear that your baby will not develop as they “should”. You worry about what people will say, or how much extra work it will be to get them to do basic things. Let me tell you from experience, the journey is not as difficult as your brain will make it out to be.
Kids all develop at different speeds, whether they have and extra chromosome or not.
This is a topic that comes up for me a lot both in my personal life raising children and my professional life as a second grade teacher.
Just last week, I was about four days into teaching my students about a certain subtraction strategy. Subtraction is always intimidating to kids, so I take it slow each year. About half way through the lesson, I heard a voice on the rug whisper:
“Oh my gosh I get it now.”
Were there kiddos who understood it on the first day that I introduced it? Sure! Were there kids who were still struggling with it? Absolutely. The point is that they are not required to understand it at the same moment. That one student was able to have their “aha moment” that day, and I was as proud as I could be of that student’s success. The best thing that I could do for that student was give them all the tools that they needed to succeed and guide them through some practice.
The same is true for developing toddlers, in my opinion.
This bad habit of comparing people to other people can sometimes be toxic. It can cause unnecessary anxiety for both the parents and the children.
Just like in my math lesson, the best thing that you can do for your child is give them all the tools that they need to be successful and guide them through some practice! By enrolling Nicholas in early intervention, communicating with therapists about best practice, and using those methods outside of sessions, I am doing just that!
That is all you can do! Educate yourself and practice practice practice!
I was even guilty of giving Nicholas a deadline just earlier this year, and I am kicking myself for it! I was saying that he was going to be walking by the time he had his second birthday. He had been so close for so long, and we were practicing every single day, but it just wasn’t happening. His birthday came and went, and he still wasn’t walking.
He still had plenty of fun at his party anyway!
If you are a parent just receiving the diagnosis, do yourself a favor and don’t look at typical milestone ages. Those ages, of course, exist for a very important purpose. It helps parents and doctors have an indicator to see if there needs to be testing for any possible diagnosis. It also helps flag kids for early intervention services!
It is NOT a deadline.
It is NOT doomsday if your child isn’t quite there yet.
Down syndrome can mean a lot of different things. Just like typically developing children, kids with Down Syndrome will all develop differently!
Nicholas has been learning at lightening speed lately, and that is all I care about. He is behind the development of kids his age in many ways, but he stays engaged during therapy, and tries everything they ask him to try, and that is all I can ask for! He even participates in his therapies until he can barely stand it anymore!
Note the dramatic collapse at the end…
Of course I get a little twinge of jealousy when I see my friends’ children having full conversations with them, but Nicholas’ time will come! Right now, he is able to use sign language to communicate his needs, and he is even using two signs in a row! I am sure the day will come when I can’t get him to stop talking! So, instead of hurrying him to that point, I am enjoying watching him learn each day and soaking in the successes.
Nick and I were meant to have Nicholas. We were both very fast-paced and high strung before. Nicholas has really given us an opportunity to slow down and enjoy life’s small celebrations.
What I don’t want, is for people to see it as a failure when their child is not doing something that they are “supposed to be” by that age. As long as you are giving your kids all of the tools they need, then you are doing everything that you can. What comes next is their ability to make the connections that they need to make in order to use that skill regularly.
Don’t feel like you aren’t doing a good job, and certainly don’t make them feel like that.
Whether you are a toddler with Down Syndrome learning to walk and talk or a second grader in a general education class learning to subtract, just keep trying your best! It will come!
Oh, and by the way, I can finally say the words I have been longing to say for two years.
My son can walk.
Next, I would love to be able to say “my son shares his toys with his little sister” but that stage of development is still in the works…