For a long time, one of the campaign slogans for the National Down Syndrome Congress is "More Alike Than Different". If you ask any one of us parents who have a child with Down Syndrome, we will tell you that our children are more alike their typical peers than they are not.
Just like other kids his age, Colin loves to run and play, explore, watch his favorite shows on TV, relax when he is tired, eat his favorite foods, enjoys sports, has a wide range of emotions that he can show at any one time (despite the stereotype regarding people with Down Syndrome, Colin is definitely not happy 100% of the time) and he also gives a really hard time at bedtime, with potty training, he gets in trouble, he gets into things he's not supposed to, rides the bus to school (although maybe a bit earlier than kids his age) and the list goes on and on.
I think Chris' and my feeling on this issue are pretty evident in the way we raise Colin because he is also treated the same as all of his peers, including his sister. If he does something he isn't supposed to, he gets spoken to and may get a "timeout" or if he does something that's awesome and great, we will cheer him on and give lots of hugs and high fives. We have him involved in activities, we do things as a family, and for the most part, we don't even think about Down Syndrome.
However, even though Colin will always be more alike his peers and his sister, there are challenges that come with the fact that Colin does have Down Syndrome that can not be denied.
One of these differences is the fact that it may take Colin a little bit longer to learn certain skills. For example, he sat independently, crawled, walked and ran later than his peers because it took him longer to build the strength needed to do these tasks due to low muscle tone. People often thought Colin was younger than he really was because he had always been doing some of the physical tasks a little bit later.
Another challenge that Colin faces is his difficulties in communicating. Although we are seeing some improvements in this area on a daily basis, we often find it frustrating on both of our ends that he can't be understood when trying to communicate something specific. It is a difficult thing for us because we know what he is capable of, but often is just unable to relay that information to us. However, despite these challenges, we celebrate the small stuff around here!
Just yesterday, Colin pointed to himself and said "Colin, Fresh Beat, Go" while we were in the bathroom on the potty to tell me that Colin wanted to watch Fresh Beat and we needed to go to the other room. Today, Colin said "Mom, Mickey?" meaning, "mom, where is Mickey" and I told him Mickey was by mommy and daddy's bed. He left the family room, and several minutes later he came back with his Mickey doll that he had collected from next to our bed. He got it, he just couldn't adequately communicate it!
Finally, our last major challenge has to do with feeding difficulties that have been with us since he was a newborn. I will save the majority of this information for another post, but Colin only eats 4 things, they are only soft solids, and has always refused anything with any bit of texture to it (pretty much ANY other food item you can list). There are also some behavioral aspects to this now because he is picky about utensils, brands, bowls, etc. We are beginning a new phase of feeding therapy shortly, but this challenge comes along with his lower muscle tone and difficulties in passing food through his body.
There are certainly other challenges that we face in raising Colin, but they are also challenges that we face in our typically developing daughter (bedtime routines, potty training, behavior, etc.). So in all honesty, Colin is so much more alike than he is different.
Despite the fact that Colin has Down Syndrome, he really IS just like any other little 3 year old boy...except he carries a little bit something extra with him! We may work really hard to make sure everyone knows how much more alike he is, but we will never deny that Down Syndrome is a part of him because it makes him who he is, and we are proud of it!