This is my favorite Star Trek scene, from The Wrath of Khan where Kirk says, "I don't believe in the no-win scenario." Well neither do I!
As I have mentioned before, my son has a diagnosis of Non-Verbal Learning Disorder. For some unknown reason (though Karen has a theory!) I always posted more about Down syndrome than NVLD (or NLD as some folks say) until recently. (Here is the link to my first post on NVLD)
As the parent of a child with Down syndrome who was diagnosed at birth I had some definite advantages when my son was diagnosed with NVLD in the 4th grade. I had many connections in the local disability community, had expunged any disability prejudice that clouded my thinking, and I knew a lot about development, advocacy and rights. There is lots and lots of data available about Down syndrome and nowadays most of it is positively stated. And there is a well-formed and experienced community of families of people with Down syndrome to guide newbies along.
Parents of children with NVLD diagnoses get NONE of these advantages out of the gate. It is really pretty pitiful.
So, I want to offer a disability primer to ease the learning curve a bit for you. Some of this is mindbending stuff because of the society we live in, but trust me, if you get your head around this stuff you and your child will both be better off!
First about disability in general:
As it says in the DD Act:
Disability is a natural part of the human experience that does not diminish the right of individuals with disabilities to enjoy the opportunity to live independently, enjoy self-determination, make choices, contribute to society, and experience full integration and inclusion in the economic, political, social, cultural and educational mainstream of American society.
For more about the natural-ness of disability read here.
Disability means that part of your body works differently. Not better or worse, just differently. Some folks see, hear, get around or learn differently. There is no heirarchy--my near and farsightedness (!), my son's diagnosis of NLD, my daughter's diagnosis of Down syndrome and my friend's Cerebral Palsy are equivalent.
The sooner you come to the decision that disability is FINE, the better off you will be and your child will benefit from your belief in them--doubt is poisonous and they will get plenty of that from others. Too much fighting the disability gives the strong message to the child that they are not ok... and if you exhibit pity or unacceptance for other disabilities your kid will make the jump that disability (and they themselves) are bad. It will help all of you to get past this!!!
Now, about experts: Down syndrome is a chromosomal issue and there are literally hundreds of possible symptoms. No one with Down syndrome exhibits all of them--or even most of them! Down syndrome plays out differently in every single individual. As my friend Laura told me when my daughter was born, "When you know one person with Down syndrome, what you know is one person with Down syndrome!"
Because I know tons of families, I know there is a range and expect individual strengths and needs that don't necessarily follow a 'Down syndrome profile.'
When it comes to NVLD the literature implies that folks all present the same way. This is dead wrong. I know several people with the diagnosis and they are all quite different from each other. They sometimes have some commonalities, but they are all unique individuals.
The literature about NVLD is also FAR more negative than anything you read about Down syndrome nowadays. I think this is because it is a newer diagnosis. The literature out of the 1970s about Down syndrome was terribly discouraging as well, but has grown as clinicians, educators, parents, folks with the diagnosis and others have gained experience.
Trust yourself and trust your child FIRST. Be defiant about it! This is a medical diagnosis, it is not a script.
You will build a life that suits your child, you will stand up to naysayers, you will challenge systems that don't work, you will problem-solve and you will create--and your children will learn that from you.
You can do this.
Repeat after me:
You can do this!