Children of Dreams, Children of Hope. Answers for Children with Down Syndrome
A few years ago I read the book Children of Dreams, Children of Hope by Raymound Veras, M.D. It is the true story of how Dr. Veras developed a therapy to treat children with Down syndrome and heal them so they are functioning and performing mentally and physically in the same way that everyone else does. Wait you say Down syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality how can that be healed?
What is Down syndrome? In 1865 a doctor named Landon Down observed and made a list of symptoms that separated the people with the symptoms from other causes of what was called mental retardation at the time. Later it was determined that these symptoms are due to a chromosomal abnormality, the most common type being where there is a trisomy of chromosome 21. According to Dr. Veras, “These children have vision problems, hearing problems, speech problems, breathing problems, walking problems, and learning problems. And on top of those, they have problems on top of problems,” to the point where most people just assume that they are doomed to live their lives functioning with these problems.
Interesting not all people with the symptoms listed by Dr. Down have an abnormal chromosomal patterns, about 15% of people with the symptoms which are unique to Down syndrome, do not have abnormal chromosomal patterns. What is more, many people have abnormal chromosomal patterns, including trisomy 21 yet DO NOT have the symptoms that are considered unique to Down syndrome. There are completely normally functioning people who do not look Down syndrome or have any of the symptoms who have the trisomy of chromosome 21. Thus there must be more to the story.
So what is it that causes these symptoms if it is not the chromosomal abnormality? Dr. Veras says that Down syndrome is NOT a genetic problem caused by genes but that it is a congenital problem caused by prenatal brain injury, probably to the midbrain and the cortex. Dr. Veras believes that malnutrition is one of the most likely theories of the cause of Down syndrome. He also believes and acts on the theory that though it would be interesting to know the cause so it could be prevented it is much more important to know the cure. I agree that Dr. Veras work in helping this children is essential but because the emphasis of my work is preconception I love the idea of preventing genetic problems through the ideas of effecting the environment and nutrition of the parents. I concept known as epigenetics. See my blog Epigenetics: Rewriting Your Genetic Code.
Can parents really help their child born with the symptoms of Down syndrome to function normally? The answer is yes! Dr. Veras has successful treated hundreds of children with the symptoms of Down syndrome so that they now function normally in every environment. They learn to read, play sports, get a driver’s license, graduate from high school and college and have careers. Their appearance even changes so no one would guess they once were diagnosed with Down syndrome.
Dr. Veras used the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential’s Developmental Profile created by Glean Doman which plots the normal development of children and helps them to accomplish the next goal in that development. Children with Down syndrome, due to their brain injury, are less curious than other children, so they need increased stimulation to learn the same amount as other children. Dr. Veras says, “An excellent neurological environment is one that provides the child with magnificent opportunities to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell all the things that regular children see, hear, feel, taste, and smell.” Only these children must do these with increased frequency, intensity, and length of time so they learn the same as other children. They must be challenged both physically and mentally and expected to learn.
Dr. Veras encourages all children with these symptoms to be raised in a normal environment with the same expectations for behavior and discipline for misbehavior as any other child. He believes that if you do not expect a normal child to behave and learn then their behavior and learning will be hampered and the same is true for children with Down syndrome. If nothing is expected of them and they are not stimulated their development will be hampered.
The program of therapy for these children creates an accelerated normal environment in the home. Veras believes that the parents are the best people to carry out the intensive therapy needed and the home the best environment. These children should never be separated out from healthy well-functioning people but should be constantly exposed to normal life. Just as each child is slightly different, so is each program. A beginning program would include having the child crawl and creep on his hands and knees. There would be eye exercises and tactile and auditory exercise and the child would be taught to read. This may sound like a lot and physically difficult for a child with the disabilities of Down syndrome, but we must look at the results. The end goal is a normal, functioning child who no longer has the disabilities that make life difficult for them.
As I was reading this book and reading the testimonies of parents who have successfully helped their children I was greatly saddened by the fact that this book was published in 1975 and most people are not aware that there is help for their child born with Down syndrome. Dr. Veras is no longer living, although his program is being carried on by his son and used by the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential along with their other programs for helping children with brain injuries. There is hope for these children and for the dreams of their parents to be realized.
If you would like more information on how to help children with Down syndrome as well as many other brain injuries, you can find it on the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potentials web sight: http://www.iahp.org
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