Former Alaska Gov. and vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin opened up recently about her youngest, Trig, describing what it's like to mother a Down Syndrome child in a Newsweek article.
* Palin aligned herself with Republican campaigner Rick Santorum, who had a recent scare with his special-needs daughter, 3-year-old Isabella. Bella, who has Trisomy 18, was hospitalized in January with pneumonia connected with her condition, says the National Journal. Palin expressed the fears and hurdles that parents face from ongoing health issues in their handicapped kids.
* Down Syndrome is caused by a third chromosome in the 21st pair. Beyond intellectual delays, My Child Without Limits describes some of the concomitant health problems from Down Syndrome: congenital heart disease, hearing and vision issues, intestinal deformities, digestive problems, poor thyroid functioning, skeletal defects and early dementia.
* Palin discusses the struggles not only of parenting a disabled child in a large family but also being a working mom. She says it's possible to do it all, but just not "all at once." She also describes the importance of a support network and the need to connect with other parents of special needs kids. The University of Michigan Health System lists dozens of resources for parents. The National Down Syndrome Congress provides a new parent package and links to family support groups.
* Palin lists some of the activities that are more challenging for Down Syndrome kids and their families. Children might be easily confused or fearful in social gatherings. Strangers might give make unkind remarks or stare in public.
* Feeding and sleep are more difficult, Palin says. Down Syndrome children might be more restless at night. Motor activity involved with eating might be impaired. Palin says husband Todd makes special pureed baby food for Trig to aid with chewing, swallowing and digestion.
* The Palins say Trig is very active. The NDSC says that's essential. Special needs children are sometimes prone to obesity and sedentary lifestyles. They need to be kept physically active for health reasons. Additionally, getting special needs kids out and about teaches them confidence and healthy self-esteem. NDSC recommends self-advocacy programs which help special needs children learn to communicate their needs and impact positively in their own lives.
Marilisa Kinney Sachteleben writes about parenting from 23 years raising four children and 25 years teaching special needs, K-8, adult education and home-school.