Lian's Story (Down Syndrome)
Lian came home to be with our family in November of 2016. He has Down syndrome and in the 2+ years that his file was available, he had only one family look at his file and then put it right back before we said yes to him. He is such a huge joy and delight to our family. He has adjusted so well and loves to dance and sing. He loves puzzles, and his health, energy, and speech has drastically improved in the three years since he's been home. His older siblings adore him, and he basically makes everyone smile everywhere he goes. Last year, a book about families who have said "YES" to down syndrome adoption came out, and Lian got to model for the cover! He has been a Nothing Down advocate for 2019, and his story continues to inspire other potential adoptive parents to say yes to Down syndrome adoption.
What drew you to adoption?
I had always wanted to adopt, but it took a big longer for my husband to feel the call. Once we were united, we went into it thinking we'd adopt a little girl from China with a minor special need. Obviously, God had different plans for us and we wouldn't have it any other way! We are waiting to Travel Approval right now and for this Coronavirus to lift so that we can go back to China and get another little girl who is also rocking the extra chromosome to be Lian's little sister! We are very excited about the doors God has opened to not only encourage other adoptive families to not be afraid of this special need, but to help them adapt and learn through the process.
Why were you open to your child’s special need?
We weren't originally thinking about Down syndrome when we started our process. One day our agency said that they had a list of children (called the Waiting Child List) that they have a harder time finding homes for. I thought that I'd look, even though I was kind of scared of looking at children that they couldn't find people willing to say yes to. What were the needs there? Of course, on the list, you forget about the needs when you see the little faces staring back at you from the screen. The needs don't matter. These are just children who need a home. I saw Lian's little face and my heart leapt in my chest. I knew he was our son!
What has been the most difficult part of parenting a child with this special need?
There is a rather large learning curve that you have to navigate quickly. We've had to learn sign language, we've had to educate ourselves about loss, trauma, and of course, all of the medical needs. But all in all, even through the hard days, God has been faithful to give us peace and answers and wisdom. For me, the hardest thing, has been the questions and assumptions that people have. The comments that people make. I think that has been harder for me than the actual needs that Lian has. In a culture that thinks that children with Down syndrome shouldn't even be allowed to be born, there is a "frowning" upon parents who adopt them. Like, "why are you wasting your life on that child?" There's even an assumption that he's not worth investing in for schooling or things like that. Also, overcoming the
pre-conceived notions of the medical community and having to fight for his needs has been hard. It's mostly emotionally draining on the level of criticism from family, friends, the public and the medical community. But there are others that have been very supportive and love Lian, so that balances it all out. I just didn't expect how publicly negative some people were going to be about it. I've had several instances of perfect strangers, in public, in the store or something, coming up to me and saying insulting things. It's such a head scratcher how people can assume that because you've adopted a child, it's suddenly ok to say racial, or anti-special needs statements. That has been hard.
What do you wish you would have known in advance of your adoption about this special need?
Well, I'm just NOW reading a book about how people with Down syndrome process language and information differently. I wish I'd read this book 3 years ago to prepare! It's such good information and I see mistakes I have made, but nothing that can't be worked and improved upon!
Has this need required special medical care?
People with Down syndrome typically have several medical issues that need to be addressed, including heart problems, thyroid problems, eye issues, hearing, swallowing issues, low muscle tone, developmental delays, speech delays and they are more prone to getting leukemia. We knew all of this going into the adoption, and I wasn't overly concerned about it. It turns out that Lian has a milder heart issue that didn't need surgery, just monitoring, his hearing and sight was good, we manage his thyroid just fine, and just with being home and getting nutrition and exercise, sunshine and love he has exceeded expectations for growth and development.
What else would you like to share to help encourage parents to consider the adoption of children born with this special need?
That it's not a big scary thing. Children with Down syndrome are typically institutionalized for their entire lives in other countries and they deserve to thrive in love and with family. I've become an advocate for Down syndrome adoption and we are chasing the way that orphanages look at children with Down syndrome. They are starting to actually prepare their files now, which is a rather new thing. A child with Down syndrome adds so much light and love to a family. They have their own unique needs and challenges, but we absolutely adore Lian and he teaches us so much about love and life every day.