Advice to the Worried Aunt: Down syndrome isn’t a factor

I was scrolling through the depths of the internet and came across a post that caught my eye. It was a Health Boards submission seeking help for a worried aunt. 

Here’s a look at the post titled “How should I behave toward Down nephew?”

This isn’t a criticism of the post. This isn’t a judgment of the aunt who was seeking this help. This is merely an attempt to help others who may be faced with the same question in their lives: “How do I behave around my family member with Down syndrome?”

I’m an uncle. I have been blessed with a niece and a nephew who are the shining lights in my world. My niece (Sadie) just turned three and is growing up right before my eyes. My nephew (Waylon) recently turned two and is doing the same. 

My niece loves toys. She likes to watch all of the same kids shows on repeat. You know the shows- the shows every parent can quote by heart. *Cough* Paw Patrol *Cough* 

My nephew also loves toys. He’s super into Blue’s Clues right now and probably loves Paw Patrol just as much as my niece. 

Both my niece and nephew can probably use my iPhone to do more things than I can, and they definitely know which apps will give them what they’re looking for. 

When I hang out with my niece, I talk to her about the shows I literally know nothing about. We talk about absolutely nothing as she teaches me who she is in the way she interacts with the world. She is always picking up something new that adds to who she is growing to be. 

When I’m with my nephew, I talk to him about the same shows. He uses my glasses as a boomerang, tossing them to the side every time I see him, only to have them magically return to his hands moment later. He does the same with most toys- because that’s what kids like- but I always give them back and we always repeat the cycle until he’s tired of it. He, like my niece, is constantly growing into an individual right before my eyes. (Even when those eyes are blurred because he tossed my glasses somewhere.)

Both kids are loved by my family. Both kids play with the other kids in the family. Both kids are entirely unique and incredibly perfect human beings. (I’m biased. Sue me.)

Which one has Down syndrome? 

You see, unless you knew before reading this, there is nothing about these kids that would indicate that one of them has Down syndrome. And- to get back to the post that started it all- that’s exactly how we behave. Down syndrome isn’t a factor.

Being a family member to a kid with Down syndrome is the same as being a family member to any other kid. There’s no special secret. There’s no specific treatment plan in place. 

You love the kid. You play with the kid. You find out what the kid likes to do and watch as those things help the kid develop into his or her own person. 

You buy the kid gifts from the same toy store as any other kid. You play the kid videos from the same channels as any other kid. And even when the kid seems to do things differently than the way you’re used to, you remember that all kids do that. 

This response isn’t meant for the person who posted the original question. Her question was posted years ago. So, I will choose to believe that she has already found all of this out for herself. I will choose to believe that she now sees that her nephew is just as “perfect” as her own kids. I will choose to believe that her nephew receives the same love and care as mine. 

That’s right. 

Waylon is the kid in my life who has Down syndrome. But that’s not who he is. Not really. Just like Sadie, just like the children of the worried aunt, Waylon is perfect. Because he’s no different. 

But this post IS written for anyone who may be asking themselves the same question this lady was struggling with. Because the sooner you realize the answer, the more time you get to focus on spoiling the kid in your life.