Stop comparing our kids. Skip homework sometimes. And love them.
Here is an update from Malia, mum of the gorgeous Maia that we all fell in love with when we first started following her a few months ago.
After reading the book ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ by Amy Chua, it made me wonder if I had truly reached my potential? Maybe I could have been an Olympic athlete or a virtuoso musician, if my parents had pushed me? Nah, probably not. But it made me think about our role as parents in helping our children to thrive. When we found out Maia had Down syndrome we knew that meant she would be developmentally delayed. But we were determined to help her achieve her potential, whatever that would be. These are some of the ways I try to help Maia to thrive, or in other words reach her potential.
Keeping up to date with health checks: There are a number of routine health screens Maia requires because she has Down syndrome. There are guides available if you are unsure what is recommended. The amount of tests can seem a bit overwhelming. But once you have a plan developed with your Paediatrician it is pretty straight forward. Maia takes a low dose of thyroxine daily which helps with her brain development, because she has an underactive thyroid. After having grommets Maia now has sufficient hearing for normal speech and language development. If these health issues were left unresolved this may mean Maia’s development would be further delayed.
Early Intervention: We have had a variety of specialist support available to us since Maia was born. In the hospital the physiotherapist showed us exercises to help with Maia’s low tone and the speech therapist helped us with feeding issues. The social worker connected us with the state government therapy provider and Better Start funding. Maia has since transitioned onto the NDIS and all her supports are funded. Starting intervention as early as possible gives Maia the best chance to support her development.
Stop comparing: It is human nature to compare ourselves to others. People love to ask at what age your child started crawling, walking or talking. It can sometimes feel like a bit of a competition. For children with Down syndrome the range in which they meet these milestones is very broad. I remember Maia was 4 months old when we were visiting family over Christmas. Someone remarked that by next Christmas we would be watching Maia running around with her cousins. But I knew that wouldn’t happen. It wasn’t until her fourth Christmas that she was able to walk. Don’t worry about what other children are achieving, just be patient and focus on what your child can do, not what they can’t do.
Involve others: We are given therapy homework to complete with Maia. Since I’m the one attending the appointments sometimes it feels like it is just me who is responsible for her learning. I try to involve the rest of the family by sharing the key word signs, skills or songs that she might be practicing that week. Instead of giving her what she wants when she grunts and points, her siblings ask her to sign “I want … please”. Teaching the family key word signs has other advantages. I can tell my naughty children that I am angry at them from across the room, without making a sound.
All you need is love: After Maia was born, I read a book called “The Miracle of Love” by Ondine Sherman. It was about the emotional rollercoster she went through as her twin boys were diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder. The book left me with the impression that you can overcome anything when you have love. I was holding Maia when I finished the book and the Beatles song “All you need is love” played on the stereo. I found myself singing along with the chorus ‘All you need is love … love is all you need’. I’ve realised the main thing needed to help your child to thrive is a loving home.
Be patient, relax and stop feeling guilty that you sometimes skip therapy homework. Provide your child with lots of love and they will continue to thrive and reach their potential and don’t forget to enjoy the journey along the way.