Down syndrome from a father's perspective.

Parenting kids with and without Down syndrome, it’s all relative.

As I have mentioned before, my family spends a lot of time at swim meets. Like most sports activities that kids are involved with today, swimming is a year-round thing for us. Prior to getting involved in competitive swimming my girls have participated in other things such soccer, softball, and dance. The one thing that I really appreciate about swimming is that you can lose the race but still walk away feeling good because you beat your own time.

My theory of relativity.

In the post Help your child with Down syndrome perform better during evaluations I describe some of the first experiences we had with therapists and evaluations for Treyton. In my opinion understanding and adjusting to the role of the therapist is one of the most difficult aspects to parenting a child with Down syndrome. There are a lot of complexities involved in that relationship.

There were some “high-energy” conversations in the Arnold household those first few months when we would receive progress reports and evaluations from the various therapists. I don’t think that anyone told these professionals about the rule of thumb that says for every negative you should provide two positives. Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered, I don’t know but I still believe that had we been given these evaluations for our three girls (typically developing children) we would have felt a similar despair.

Unfortunately I perceive an aspect to the evaluation process that provides job security for the therapist. The reality is that no matter how amazing the child is they will always have something else that needs help. The new parent needs to come to terms with the fact that this is not a race with a finish-line; this is a journey that will never end. We are like the dogs chasing the mechanical rabbit around the track, the faster the dog runs the faster the rabbit goes.

In swimming it is possible to win the race and have a bad day, simply surround yourself with slower swimmers. But like I said earlier, you can lose the race and feel good about it because you improved on your own time. It is difficult but important for parents raising a child with an intellectual disability to have the mindset of a swimmer. It is about improving on your own time, getting to the next step, it is continuous improvement. If you can get yourself to take this perspective you will experience a lot more joy in life than if you are constantly trying to compare your child to someone else.

A moment of paternal pride.

Growing up I spent a lot of time handling a shovel. My dad started his own business as a cement contractor when I was eleven years-old. (Coincidently I remember eleven as the age when I decided I was going to college). I spent most of my summers on the construction site working for my dad; much of this time involved a shovel. I am thankful for the work ethic my dad instilled in me as well as the many lessons I learned while on the job site. That is why I was proud as a peacock in the Five Below store this morning.

In an attempt to give my wife a small break from “Treyton the Tornado,” I decided to get him out of the house this morning. My youngest daughter Lindyn also decided to come along as all of her friends were gone. I wasn’t sure where I was going until Lindyn asked, “Dad, do you know where we can get some plastic vampire teeth?” I thought it was a pretty random request but it did give us some purpose.

I don’t mind the Five Below Store but you have to be on your toes when you have Treyton with you. If you haven’t watched the video I posted of him in the store a few months ago you should. Most things in the store are within Treyton’s reach so I spend a lot of time picking up and straightening. However, in a bucket I found a long-handle kids sand shovel that look like the type I use around the house. I showed it to Trey and then he grabbed it from me and proceeded to show me how to use it. Lindyn and I just laughed. The kid can be so much fun.

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.
  1. shann

    Great post! I don’t spend much time looking at the ratings on evaluations. I concentrate on his goals and progress. You are so correct when you state you experience a lot more joy in life when you stop comparing your child to someone else’s child.

    • Rob Arnold

      To me the real measure is “forward momentum.” Is he making progress? If yes, great. If not, why? Even if the child seems to have regressed I think it is important not to get too hung up on it. You need to look at the bigger picture and if there is an overall upward slope all is good and the regression is just one data point. It is a huge mental exercise for parents; there is so much information that it can seem overwhelming.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Treyton’s Dad (Rob)