Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Other syndromes

Now that I have a child with Down syndrome, my eyes have certainly been opened to the reality that DS is but one of many possible genetic conditions a person can be born with. Receiving a diagnosis of any of these can be traumatic, to say the least:


"I'm very sorry, I have the results of the genetic tests and they have confirmed our suspicions that your fetus is what we call . . . Normal.

Some people prefer the terms "Ordinarily Challenged" or "Normal Syndrome". The syndrome can be easily identified by a complete lack of any interesting genetic characteristics. I know this will come as a shock to you, but you should be aware of what this is likely to mean. If your fetus manages to survive the rest of the pregnancy and the birth, which is becoming more common these days, he or she will face some daunting challenges. Children who suffer from normalcy are prone to health and psychological problems. It is almost certain that the growing child will suffer a seemingly endless stream of viruses. They will frequently damage themselves, and sometimes others, from their excessive energy. Their relentless demands will put a strain on your existing family and, of course, your relationship with your partner will suffer, and possibly end in a painful and acrimonious separation. Any children you already have, even if they also suffer from normalcy, will be jealous of the newcomer and all their extra attention. Many siblings are liable to be psychologically scarred by the new arrival. I need hardly mention the financial consequences, although disastrous, they will be nothing compared to the emotional turmoil your life will suffer.

After a while, you may be lucky and find they can be kind and loving young children. They may find some temporary happiness in things such as music, dancing, food or playing with toys. But if they survive early childhood, a Normal child is almost certain to grow into a Normal adolescent. Your years of sacrifice will be thrown back in your face as they become disobedient, wild and reckless. Unable to find happiness and contentment, they will treat you with contempt until they manage to leave home. Even then the suffering will continue, as they will often return to try and extract money. They will blame you for their own faults and leave you bitter and twisted. They may well become criminal; over a quarter of Normals will have trouble with the law, many will spend time in jail. Many will have problems with alcohol or drug abuse. Normal marriages are often unhappy and short and over half end in divorce. Even if they become successful this is likely to be because of the often observed tendency of Normals towards excessive greed. The chances of them sharing their success with you are remote and they will tend to see you as an embarrassment.

Finally, Normal people are likely to die before their time: 23% will die of cancer, 33% of heart disease. Hundreds every year in this country alone are so distressed by their condition that they take their own life. I'm sorry to say that many will have had a lonely, painful and pointless existence.

I am afraid that Normal Syndrome is a genetic condition that affects every cell of the body, and so is impossible to cure."

By Anon.

["borrowed" from Chrystal ;)]


"Imagine that you have just given birth. You notice a sense of excitement in the room. Finally, the doctor comes to you with a big smile and says, "I have some important news to give you. Based on our preliminary examination, we believe your baby has Einstein syndrome!"

The doctor goes on to tell you that children with ES typically read by age three, and by six or seven read at a high school level. They can master many languages during their preschool years, develop phenomenal vocabularies, and complete high school by age ten or eleven and college by fifteen. Furthermore, children with ES ( Einstein Syndrome ) have remarkable physical skills. Many Olympians have ES ( Einstein Syndrome ). And they tend to be excellent musicians.

Now, how are you going to treat this child? It is doubtful that you are going to leave him in his crib for the first two months, watching a mobile. Instead, you will keep your child in a room full of activity. You will talk to him, naming items, and expecting him to be gin to understand you. You will surround him with classical music. You will read to him as much as you can and begin teaching him alphabet letter sounds very early.

This child will go with you everywhere, just so you can teach him more about the world. He won’t be in a playpen; you will be giving him lots of opportunities to learn to crawl, and you will expect him to go get things himself. You will probably hire a nanny who speaks another language, and will likely enroll him in gymnastics or swimming classes.

Guess what? Even if the diagnosis was wrong, by the time your child is five or six, people will begin commenting on how incredibly bright he is. He will be an excellent reader, have a tremendous vocabulary, have a good ear for music, and be exceptionally coordinated, all because of the extra input that you have given him based on your expectations.

Contrast this with another scenario, this one all too real. After giving birth, there is stillness in the delivery room. The nurses seem to avoid you. Finally, maybe several hours later, the doctor tells you what is wrong. "Your baby has Down syndrome. Try not to let it ruin your life."
As you read more about Down syndrome, this dreary prognosis emerges: Your newborn baby is retarded. He will learn to crawl and walk late. His language skills will always be minimal, and he will never be able to express himself well. This child might learn to read a little, but certainly not by the age that normal children do, and never well. Even as an adult, he will always do stupid things because he will never learn to think well.

With that dreary prognosis, how are you going to treat your baby? Why bother talking to him? He won’t understand you anyway. Why bother reading to him? He’ll never learn. Why bother even getting him out of his crib? He isn’t supposed to crawl for many months. And guess what? He doesn’t learn to walk, read, talk, or think well, just like they all said.

I am convinced that the biggest handicap Down syndrome children have is the low expectations of their parents.

This baby may have physical problems. Maybe he doesn’t hear well. Maybe he has poor muscle tone or a heart defect that leaves him weak and causes difficulty with new physical skills. This little baby needs lots of extra sensory input just to balance his physical handicaps.

As a baby, my daughter, Mary would have been content to lie on the floor for hours sucking her thumb. As a toddler, she hardly demanded any attention. With five other children, I had plenty to do and easily could have ignored her. But Mary needs more input, not less. I needed to make a constant effort to interact with her and involve her in what the family does. As a result of all that extensive input, by the time Mary was three, she wasn’t in the least passive, but was on the go non-stop.

I have been accused by a social worker of not dealing realistically with Mary’s condition, of being in "denial." Yup, I’m in denial. But as long as I believe that she is capable of normal function, I will be willing to give her the input she needs to get there."

Copyright 1994-2008 Miriam Kauk

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