Mothers share experiences of raising kids with down syndrome

Han Gaskin and Raquel Stanford

By: Tassia Dickenson 

Though having children with down syndrome may seem like a daunting challenge, two Guyanese mothers have come forward to share their own experiences in raising such kids, in hopes to inspire and encourage other parents who are in similar situations.

Raquel Stanford, who is the mother of an eight-year-old girl named Olivia , shared that though her daughter lives with this disability, she still leads a pretty normal life.

In a video message released by the Ministry of Education, the young mother shared that she wants her daughter to function in a standard setting, as she believes that it would be beneficial to the child’s growth.

“In our mind, me and her dad, we keep thinking that a normal setting would work. It’s not that we’re living in denial, but we want to try something because we know her. We moved her to a normal setting…nursery [school]…she is doing much better cognitively,” Stanford explained of her child’s educational journey.

According to Stanford, there is much negativity surrounding persons with down syndrome. In fact, the mother admitted that if she had not given birth to a child with the disability, she too would have been wrongly influenced.

“There’s a lot of negativity about kids with down syndrome, they need to come away from that, they need to. If I didn’t have Olivia I might…have been influenced wrongly too…from listening to things that people say, but you have to live it. And you could be a part of it, a community, a family, all of that comes in together, it makes a big, big difference,” Stanford expressed.

Meanwhile, mother of four, Han Gaskin, whose youngest child, 10-year-old Daniel, is living with down syndrome. Gaskin noted that raising such a child comes with challenges as she encouraged other parents in similar situations to not be scared to ask for help.

“I think the best advice I can give is to ask for help, there’s a lot that is available, completely free of charge. If you approach government agencies, healthcare providers, even your clinic where you live, they should be able to direct you onward,” Gaskin shared.

Gaskin said though her child sees development all of the time, education is a constant process and it can’t be left at the school level.

“I think you really have to double up outside of the school as a family or as a community to keep the process moving because there is a lot of repetition that is required,” she shared.

In fact, Gaskin revealed that that she is part of a non-governmental organisation called ‘Extra One GY’ which was founded in 2022 to raise awareness of down syndrome.

Down syndrome is a condition in which a person has an extra chromosome. Chromosomes are small “packages” of genes in the body. They determine how a baby’s body forms and functions as it grows during pregnancy and after birth. Typically, a baby is born with 46 chromosomes. Babies with Down syndrome have an extra copy of one of these chromosomes, chromosome 21. A medical term for having an extra copy of a chromosome is ‘trisomy.’

Down syndrome is also referred to as Trisomy 21. This extra copy changes how the baby’s body and brain develop, which can cause both mental and physical challenges for the baby.

Symptoms associated with the syndrome include mental retardation, distinctive facial characteristics, and increased risk for heart defects and digestive problems, which can range from mild to severe.