It is common to experience a wide range of emotions when your baby is born with Down syndrome. While you have joy from your child's birth, you will also need to learn about and care for his or her special health care needs. Most families choose to raise their child, while some consider foster care or adoption. Support groups and organizations can assist you in making the best decision for your family.
Treatment for Down syndrome focuses on making sure that your child has regular medical checkups, helping your child develop, watching for early signs of health problems, and finding support. With treatment and support, you can help your child live a happy, healthy life.
Get your child regular medical care
You can help your child stay healthy by scheduling routine checkups. This will help to identify, manage, and monitor any diseases and health problems that people with Down syndrome have a higher chance of developing.
Doctors look for specific problems at various ages, such as cataracts and other eye conditions during a baby's first year. These checkups are also a good time for you and the doctor to talk about any concerns you have. Many parents have similar concerns as their children grow, including:
- Newborn concerns, such as where to get emotional support and learn about Down syndrome.
- Infant concerns, such as what therapies your child may need and how to prevent colds.
- Early childhood concerns, such as how to teach healthy behaviors, social skills, and diet and exercise.
- Middle and late childhood concerns, such as how to support independence and education, and what team sports your child can play.
- Adolescent and young adult concerns, such as what to expect during puberty and adulthood.
Help your child to develop
Although it may take extra time for your child to learn and master skills, you may be surprised at how much he or she will be able to do. With encouragement, your child can learn important skills. You can help your baby learn to walk, talk, or eat by himself. You can help your child make friends and do well in school. Later you can help him or her learn job skills and maybe live independently.
To learn how to help your child throughout life, see Home Treatment.
Get treatment for health problems
- Medicines, such as antibiotics for ear infections and thyroid hormones for an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism).
- Surgery to correct problems such as heart defects, bowel obstruction, or spinal problems.
- Different types of therapy, such as speech therapy, nutritional advice from a registered dietitian, or counseling for behavior problems.
Find resources and support
Your doctor or local hospital can refer you to community resources to help you learn what to expect and how to care for your baby who has Down syndrome.
You may also want to think about joining a support group. Talking and sharing with other parents of children with Down syndrome can help you manage difficult feelings. It can also help you know what kinds of challenges to expect, as well as help you to discover the joys other parents have experienced with their children. To learn more about support groups, see the Other Places To Get Help section of this topic.
Families of children who have Down syndrome may need other types of resources, such as:
- Financial assistance. Children with Down syndrome have special needs that may create additional expenses for the family. In the United States, some state and federal government services help cover the costs of certain programs. The amount your child receives depends on different things such as your income and your child's level of disability. To find out about financial assistance in your state, call your state's Department of Developmental Disabilities.
- Estate planning. Become familiar with tax issues and estate planning to ensure that your child will have proper care and necessary resources available if you die.
- Family counseling. This therapy involves regular sessions with a qualified counselor who has experience working with families who have children with Down syndrome.
It's also important to take time for yourself. Common frustrations and frequent highs and lows can all lead to exhaustion. Take good care of yourself so you have the energy to enjoy your child and attend to his or her needs. For more information, see the topic Caregiver Tips.
What to think about
There are several controversial treatments (including supplements, surgery, and medicine) for Down syndrome that either have not been proved helpful or have questionable benefit. Some treatments may even cause physical harm or have ethical implications. Talk with your child's doctor before you try treatments that you and the doctor haven't yet discussed.