It is a day when the global Down’s Syndrome community gets together to raise public awareness, and to advocate with one voice, for the rights of people who have Down’s Syndrome (DS).
We also celebrate the many good things that people with DS bring to the world, to the local community, and to their families.
I read something yesterday, when I was doing some internet research for this post, something that stated that it was ‘morally reprehensible’ that parents like myself should talk in positive terms about Down’s Syndrome, as ‘retardation’ was ‘unnatural’ and ...
Well, I have no idea what else they went on to say, because I skipped on by without bothering to read any more of their venomous tripe.
I plan to continue being ‘morally reprehensible’ and will happily wave the Down’s syndrome banner in their face on March 21st, and every other day too.
It turns out that there is a reason why my blog seems like it’s all ‘rainbows and unicorns’ to other some people when, in fact, it is a true picture of my life as mum to a boy with DS.
It’s called the Down’s Syndrome Advantage.
I must point out that nothing I say below is intended to demean, or be at the expense of, any other group of people.
What is the Down’s Syndrome Advantage?
Well, it’s not a figment of the fond imaginations of parents, and it’s not a myth generated by the oft-repeated and arse-achingly trite platitude ‘but they’re all so happy, aren’t they?’
It’s a real-world phenomenon with empirical evidence to support it.
Some researchers have proposed that parenting a child with Down’s Syndrome is associated with certain ‘advantages’ in comparison to parenting children with other kinds of intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD).
In past studies it has been observed that mothers of individuals with DS report higher levels of psychosocial well-being in comparison to mothers of individuals with other kinds of IDD.
There is extensive evidence that the mothers of young children with DS:
- Experience lower levels of stress,
- Are less pessimistic about their child’s future, and
- Perceive their children to have less difficult temperaments
than mothers of young children with IDD due to other causes.
And it seems that the mothers of adolescents and young adults with DS continue to experience better psychological well-being the mothers of those with other IDDs. They report:
- Less pessimism about their child’s future,
- Fewer symptoms of depression,
- More closeness in the relationship with their child, and
- Were more likely to perceive that the feelings of closeness were reciprocated by their child.
than mothers of similarly-aged individuals with other IDDs.
And there is evidence that this trend continues among the mothers of adults with DS, who, researchers observed, report:
- More optimism and acceptance of their child’s disability,
- More appreciation for their child’s strengths,
- Less conflicted family environments, and
- Less stress and burden
than mothers of adults with other IDDs.
Of course, that’s not to suggest that everything is hunky-dory for all families of people with DS all of the time.
What the research shows is a general trend, or tendency.
Within that trend, within the DS community we are all individuals, and, as such we vary greatly in our circumstances, our experiences and our perceptions.
Nevertheless, the bulk of evidence suggests that, overall, the mothers of individuals with DS tend to have better, or more normative, patterns of psychological well-being than the mothers of individuals with other IDDs.
Why is this?
Are children with Down’s Syndrome really easier to raise than those with other developmental disabilities?
In part two, I’m going to look at some of the possible causes of the Down’s Syndrome Advantage.