Down syndrome from a father's perspective.

Happy 4th Birthday Treyton!

On the first day of spring in 2009 the Arnold family welcomed a new member into our house. Shortly after that we learned that our newest member of the family was given something a little extra and as a result was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Well just a few days ago we celebrated Treyton’s fourth birthday and it was a truly fun occasion for our entire family.

Stretching out the festivities.

Trey’s mom (my beautiful wife), with the help of Lindyn, made and decorated some cupcakes and also found some cool little birthday Legos at the Lego store in Chicago. When I asked Treyton about handing out his treat at school his eyes lit up and he let out a big laugh/exclamation. It was clear that he enjoyed the experience. Treyton started celebrating his birthday on Tuesday the 19th at school where he was able to bring in a birthday treat to share with his class. We decided to bring Trey’s birthday treat to school a day early because there was another little girl in class that had the exact same birthday.

The next day the girls and I had left the house before Treyton was awake. We were not planning on doing much because we had a party planned for Sunday and the reality is that Treyton would not know the difference. However, I did. I knew the difference and as the day went on it began to bother me that we were not going to have a celebration that night. By the time I got home I was determined to adjust our plans. With a little encouragement Leigh Ann stopped at the store to get a birthday cake when she picked Taylor up from practice.

We made the mistake of showing Treyton the birthday cake before he was done eating his supper; he made sure to save plenty of room for cake. One of the great things about celebrating Trey’s birthday is that the entire family really enjoys it and gets involved. We all had fun asking him how old he was and watching him do his best to hold up four fingers. When it came time to blow out the candles the entire family turned into a cheering section.

After the cake and a little bit of clean-up time we unveiled Trey’s birthday present, we got him a battery powered dune-buggy to drive around our yard. Given that his birthday is the first day of spring I was hopeful that we would be able to test it out but Mother Nature shattered that hope when she sent us somewhat of a snowstorm. It was getting a little late so we let him try it a little in the house but then had to put it away for a couple of days.

Sock monkey celebration.

My wife always puts a lot of thought into the birthday parties we have for our kids. They are always nice but there are some parties that do seem to rise above the others, at least in concept. For some reason Treyton enjoys playing with sock monkeys. So much so that we had to buy him one because he would sneak into Lindyn’s room on a daily basis to steal a little pink sock monkey she had. That is why it was like a light went on when Leigh Ann discovered the sock monkey party decorations.

She really out did herself this time. We had a sock monkey birthday-banner with Treyton’s picture on it. She made cupcakes that looked like monkey faces. There were sock monkey plates and napkins and then she decorated jars with red and brown ribbon which contained red and brown M&M’s as well as red licorice and pretzel rods dipped in white chocolate. Leigh Ann also found some bouncy balls and tattoos with pictures of sock monkeys that the kids could keep.

As I stated earlier, Treyton’s 4th birthday was a lot of fun for the entire family. His mom and I really had fun watching how excited he was as people showed up and placed presents on the table in the living room. Just to see the joy in that kid’s face was a true gift.

Treyton did not disappoint as he opened the gifts either. There was no question that he understood the process and thoroughly enjoyed it. He would smile and get excited with each gift and when his mom prompted him, Treyton made sure to sign “thank you” to each person.

It was typical.

One of the things that parent’s that have children with Down syndrome spend a lot of time doing is making comparisons between the actions of their child and the actions of “typically developing” kids. I am personally not a fan of this practice but I am also a pragmatist and know that it is something most people do.

Either way, what Treyton showed us, once again, is that despite having Down syndrome, he is more like other kids than he is different. If you are a parent that is still trying to come to terms with your child’s diagnosis I hope that you read this story and find hope. Down syndrome does create some challenges for Treyton but when I look at him I don’t see a diagnosis. I see a little boy that just turned 4 and loved every minute of his birthday.

Take a look at this video below. Treyton is starting to get the hang of driving, we need to work on turning but I am sure he will be a pro by the summer.

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.