October is Down syndrome Awareness Month, and here’s a homegrown written-by-mommies list of Down syndrome myths and facts. You might not find these in a textbook, but you will find real parents debunking these myths over coffee, margaritas and occasionally, some tears.
Myth: Being like Gumby is cool!
Fact: “While it is adorable that [my daughter] can put her feet behind her ears or sleep folded in half, it’s actually not a good thing,” shares Larina P., a North Carolina mom of a 4-year-old daughter with Ds. Children with Down syndrome (Ds) have an increased flexibility that is the result of low muscle tone. Low tone can create a laundry list of health and mobility issues, affecting everything from speech to walking.
Myth: Those children are so sweet!
Fact: All children, including those with Down syndrome, experience all emotions, from temper tantrums to joyous outbursts, and from moments of charm and manipulation to flat-out stubbornness. Children with Down syndrome and “typical” children truly are more alike than different.
“Children can feed off the energy of others, so if you are reacting to a child positively, then you will most likely get happiness back,” says Tamara I., a North Carolina mom of a 4-year-old boy with Ds.
Myth: You’re so strong! Your child is so lucky!
Fact: “This isn’t always true and creates a pressure in the public arena to hide struggles and frustrations as a special needs parent,” says Corey C., a North Carolina mom to a 6-year-old daughter with Ds. “We’re not always strong, knowledgeable, patient or at the ready. We are scared, struggling and working ’round the clock.
“Is she lucky to have me? When I am being a prepared, patient, fun Mom — yes. When I am a late getting out the door, impatient, easily irritated Mom — no. [But] I’m trying. Just like every other parent in the world.”
Myth: There are “levels” of Down syndrome
Fact: There’s no “mild” or “moderate” Down syndrome. “You either have it or you don’t!,” emphasizes Ashley W., a North Carolina mom to a 7-year-old boy with Ds. “However, all [children with Down syndrome] have different strengths and weaknesses and develop at their own rate just like typical children do!”
What can vary, however, is the extent of an individual’s cognitive delay. Most people with Down syndrome have mild to moderate cognitive delays, but no test exists to know just how mild a delay will be until it presents itself.
Learn more myths and truths about Down syndrome, or post a question below!