Down syndrome from a father's perspective.

Remembering to enjoy your child with Down syndrome.

The last couple of posts that I have written were fairly heavy; they were the result of a lot that has been weighing on me. Having a child with Down syndrome or any other disability is not easy. At times the extra work and concerns that accompany having a child with a cognitive disability like Down syndrome can seem overwhelming. When I start to feel that way I try to remember two things.

The first thing that I try to remember is that regardless of ability or disability, Treyton is my son. He is a gift from God and a heck of a lot of fun to be around. The reality is that all parents need to remember this about their kids, even their “typically developing” kids. It is very easy to lose perspective as we rush to swim meets, parent teacher conferences, doctor appointments, speech therapy, or whatever.

The second thing I try to remember is to choose to celebrate the progress he is making. Treyton is a smart little kid and he is making tremendous strides in his development. We as parents have a choice to make. We can choose to focus on what Treyton still needs to learn or we can focus on what he has already accomplished. There is a time for both and to stay focused on either one for too long is a bad idea – balance is required.

Enjoying the mundane

One of the fun/challenging things about the way Treyton uses sign language to communicate is staying up-to-date as his signs evolve. Occasionally Trey will perceive a similarity between two things and start to use their signs interchangeably or combine them or maybe even stop using one of them. I don’t usually have too much of an issue because I really believe his mind works a lot like mine so I can usually track his “train of thought.”

Well, the last couple of times I gave Treyton a bath he has used the sign for swimming beforehand. One time it started with him finding one of his swimming suits in a pile of clothes. When he found his swim trunks he dropped to the ground and immediately started to put them on. He looked up at me and Leigh and did the sign for swimming. We were so proud of him for making the connection and then being able to get the shorts on that I wanted to reward him with some fun in the tub.

Well, the next time he used the sign for swimming in reference to a bath was all on his own. We were outside and I think Bailey said something about giving the dog a bath. After flashing a few signs about Beckett taking a bath Trey turned to me and did the sign for swimming and then pointed inside because we were in the front yard. I should have known!

The video below is what followed my conversation with Treyton. I did eventually get to wash his hair and body but I think you will be able to see that he was never concerned with getting clean. Trey was simply looking for a good time. Videos like this one help me to take a step back and enjoy the person that Treyton is becoming. I love that little man and he is living proof that a life with Down syndrome is a life worth living.

Rob Arnold has been married to his high school sweetheart for almost 19 years. Together they have three daughters and one son. He earned his bachelor's degree in General Business from Grand Valley State University as well as an MBA in Strategic Management from Davenport University. He enjoys reading, hunting, scuba diving, and spending time with his family.