Parents Helping Parents: New Parent Visiting Program

By: Cdss  09-12-2011
Keywords: school, Syndrome Society, Down Syndrome Society

What is the Parents Helping Parents: The Canadian Down Syndrome Society New Parent Visiting Program?

The Parents Helping Parents Program is a program in which parents of children with Down syndrome will visit and provide support to new parents of children with Down syndrome.

Parents of babies with Down syndrome may require support and often do not receive the important information they need to properly welcome their babies and give them the important and critical information they may need.

A visit from parents who have already experienced the birth of a baby with Down syndrome give the new parent the support, encouragement and help they truly need. In some cases, they are not prepared for this news and having a support network can help make this transition smoother.

The Parents Helping Parents program is carried out by parents of children with Down syndrome because of the unique experiences they share. Receiving information from someone who has shared similar experiences is often more reassuring and comforting than receiving the same information from an individual somewhat removed from the situation. It may also provide a local connection for services in the geographical area.

Talking to New Families of a baby with Down syndrome

“It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” – Charles Dudley Warner

  • Firstly, tell the new parent that your conversation and visit is held in the strictest of confidence and your only intention is to provide support with the birth of their baby.
  • Let the parents direct the conversation.
  • Don’t talk too much about your own story. Keep your answers to questions brief and to the point and then re-direct the conversation back to the parents. You don’t have to share everything you know about Down syndrome with the family right now – it will be too overwhelming.
  • Silence is good – don’t feel you have to fill up all the space with talking.
  • Don’t worry if you cry a bit – there’s nothing wrong with a sincere show of emotion. Listening to new parent stories may bring back memories for you.
  • Listen hard to hear the parents’ stories. Include both parents.
  • Validate their feelings. What they are feeling is ok – natural and normal.
  • Normalize their reactions, ‘Many parents worry about the future’.
  • Let them know they are not alone.
  • Remain neutral and non-judgmental.

The Adjustment Process

Parents may have many different feelings upon the arrival of their baby and different reactions when they find out that their child has Down syndrome. They may be happy and excited about the birth of their baby, while some may experience feelings of sadness or anxiety. Some parents may
go through the adjustment process, while others will not. Parents may feel confused, but it is important to remember that these feelings are okay and natural. It is completely natural to experience a range of emotions.

Early Intervention

Early intervention refers to programs available for children from birth to about age five. These programs help to ensure that children are meeting their developmental milestones and are ready to start school when they are old enough. Early intervention therapies typically include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy, depending on the individual child’s needs. Preschool can also be a part of early intervention.

Early intervention is important for children with Down syndrome, to help them grow as their typically developing peers. This practice helps not only children with Down syndrome, but their parents as well. It can provide parents with information, knowledge, encouragement and support with ways in which to help their children develop to their fullest potential. Early intervention may also provide parents with the opportunity to meet with other parents for support and new ideas.


Inclusion is an educational best practice in which all students, including those with disabilities, are educated together for the majority of the school day. With the right supports in place, all students can participate in age-appropriate education programs in their community school.

This is based on the belief that every person has the inherent right to fully participate in society. This implies that differences are accepted and that the people who would otherwise be excluded from gaining the same educational experiences as everyone else are able to go to school and gain the experiences that are fundamental to a student’s development. Inclusion doesn’t only benefit those with a disability; research has shown that it benefits typically developing students as well.

Taking Care of You and the Rest of Your Family

Stress is a natural part of life. With our busy lives and many commitments, stress is often a large part of our lives. It can range from being a factor that motivates people to achieve, to an obstacle that makes life difficult. Stress challenges our coping abilities and we can choose to cope or be victims of stress. When a family has a child with a disability, they may experience different kinds of stress that the average family may not.

Keywords: Children With Down Syndrome, Down Syndrome Society, school, Syndrome Society

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parents helping parents new parent visiting program

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This national curriculum, developed in 2008, was designed to assist local groups, affiliate members, professionals and community leaders interested in implementing a developmental program to help new parents of a child with Down syndrome.