5 Minutes for Special Needs Books

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Today’s selection, Down Syndrome and Vitamin Therapy (Kemanso Publishing Ltd., 2003) by Kent MacLeod is a tough one to talk about—not because it’s hard to find, or difficult to read, but because it goes to the heart of one of the controversies in the Down syndrome community: Should we provide our children with supplements to enhance their growth and development, or are we causing more harm than good by introducing additional substances into their systems? Worse yet, are we somehow trying to change them?

Down syndrome occurs when there is an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. That the surplus genetic material has an affect is clear; what that affect is, though, varies in degree from one child to another, in part due to the addition of the other 46 chromosomes in each individual’s genetic blueprint.

Since as early as the 1940s, doctors and scientists have hoped that there might be a biochemical way to improve things like cognition, especially memory function, with daily (sometimes 2 or 3 times a day) supplements. The problem, of course, is knowing which supplements to give, and at what dosages.

Down Syndrome and Vitamin Therapy is an in-depth look at one side of the controversy—it is decidedly pro-supplement and in fact, its author works for Nutri-Chem, a company that makes MSB+. In his book, MacLeod provides a detailed, easy-to-read breakdown of the reasons parents and caregivers should choose his company’s product.

For the other side of the story, you might go to Dr. Len Leshin’s website, or to the archives at the Riverbend DS Group, or the forum at Downsyn.com specifically devoted to nutritional therapy. (At this time, nether the National Down Syndrome Congress or the National Down Syndrome Society recommends anything other than the normal vitamin schedule for babies and children with Down syndrome. And of course, any decisions you make should be discussed with your baby’s regular care provider.)

If this all seems confusing, it’s because it is!

I wonder, too, if it’s a mistake to think that one answer will be right for all families, or all kids. Some children might benefit from these sorts of therapies; some might not. Just as all people are complicated, holistic organisms, so are all babies and kids with Down syndrome.

What I wish is this: that we can support and encourage each other in our choices. And that more research be done, not just on ways of detecting trisomies in utero, but on the best ways to facilitate the healthy development of our kids throughout their lifetimes.

If you’re interested in taking a look at this book for yourself, I have one copy to share. Leave your name in the comments and I’ll choose a winner at random.

As always, happy reading!

Jennifer Graf Groneberg is the author of Road Map to Holland: How I Found My Way Through My Son’s First Two Years With Down Syndrome, which recently won an Excellence in National Media Award from the National Down Syndrome Congress (NDSC). You can read more about her and her family at her blog, Pinwheels.

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