Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Down Syndrome Parenting 101 by Natalie Hale

I tend to stalk all books involving any aspect of Down syndrome.  I pre-order, sign up for alerts and can't wait for the books to arrive on my doorstep.  When I read about Natalie Hale's latest book, "Down Syndrome Parent 101" (available here) I could not wait to get my hands on it.  I arrived just a few days before Christmas and has been my nightly source of calmness and inspiration.

Available at Woodbine. Click here.

She had me early on, but especially in Chapter Six-- Intuition.  She writes, "So what is intuition?  Yogis describe it as a perfect balance between divine wisdom and divine love.  A flawless connector between both of those essential qualities: wisdom and love, reason and feeling, the higher mind and the heart center.  It is like a fine, translucent wire connecting one to the other in a pure stream of energy.  That is intuition."

This insight and beautiful description of what intuition is, "a perfect balance between divine wisdom and divine love" caught my breath.  I inhaled these words and knew that this book was a special gift to enjoy.

Natalie begins the  book by describing "The Yellow Raincoat Theory", which is a reference to the classic slickers that kids in the Dick and Jane books used to wear.  

She says to picture your child with Down syndrome wearing one of those impenetrable yellow raincoats.  "In fact, the raincoat is Down syndrome.  It covers the child; it keeps everything hidden, unknown.   At first, you notice that all the raincoats look alike; after all, most were genetically manufactured in a single factory, located at Chromosome No. 21.  And the 'care instructions' attached to the garments all indicate: See medical protocol on reverse.  Oh, and good luck."

Natalie goes on to explain that it is our job as parents to unbutton the raincoat, roll up the sleeves and find our child who is hidden beneath the raincoat.  She says that, "The Yellow Raincoat Theory postulates that Down syndrome does not completely cover our children, and that it never can.  It is incapable of cloaking forever those brilliant flashes, those thrilling qualities hiding in our children; and so they remain untouched, unaffected and completely outside the grasp of Down syndrome."  

Her book is full of incredible insight and reminders that our children who have Down syndrome also have their own unique personality that is completely their own and that we must allow to shine.  

What most excites me about Natalie's beautiful book is her expertise and insight on helping our children with Down syndrome learn to read.  She describes when she met Greg Zarnecki, who helped her teach her son, Jonathan, to read and how he helped her understand something that she says transformed Jonathan's academic life, "If Jonathan enters kindergarten already reading, the school system's expectations of him will skyrocket."  "Down Syndrome Parenting 101" provides a wonderful list of resources as well as techniques to help teach our kids how to read.

When we attended the Down syndrome Christmas party last year, there was a 12-year-old young girl, Emily, sitting out in the entry way reading a Babysitter's Club book.  At first glance I didn't even notice that she had Down syndrome.  Once I did notice, I almost cried.   Up to that point I had never even considered that Joey might be able to read someday.  We saw her again this year and she was still reading away and told me all about her collection of books.  I also met the mother of a 7-year-old girl who has Down syndrome who is also a big reader.  These examples opened my eyes to the fact that although we may not do things on a typical timeline or sometimes at all, there is a very REAL chance that Joey will be able to read.  To me, this will open his world and provide him a wonderful escape as reading has done for me for so many years.

Natalie's book is broken down into very short and easy to understand and read segments including: Essentials of Your Parent-Friendly Manual, Beginning Years, Discipline Years, School Years, Wahoo! Years and The Last Word.

Interwoven are funny and poignant stories of real people who have Down syndrome and their amazing influence on friends and family.   This is a must-have resource for any parent who has a child with Down syndrome as well as anyone who works in any capacity with people who have Down syndrome.  Natalie Hale has written a well-researched and insightful guide to truly the 101 parenting basics in this amazing land of an extra chromosome.

Happy reading!


  1. Thanks for posting this - it sounds like an awesome book and as I was reading I clicked over to Amazon and ordered it. Can't wait to read it. And WOW - what a great point about how the school system would react if our child read when she entered Kinder! I'm very excited to read it, thanks for taking the time to review it on your blog. :)

  2. This sounds like a wonderful book. Thanks for the review!

  3. Just come across a reference to this book & Googled it & your blog came up. Im heading over amazon right now, seeing whether I can buy as Im from the UK!! :-)


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