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From The CriticsReviewer: Carolyn H Richardson, EdD (University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center)
Description: This is a collection of stories by mothers who have at least one child with Down syndrome.
Purpose: The editor states she wishes she could have had a book like this during the first year of her child's life. Her hope is that it will provide something new for parents beyond the scientific information so readily available on the Internet.
Audience: The intended audience includes parents of a child with Down syndrome as well as those who know they will be delivering a child with Down syndrome. However, this book could have a far broader audience. Anyone providing or studying to provide healthcare or educational services to these children should find a wealth of valuable information to assist them in working with the families.
Features: This wonderful array of stories by mothers points out both how their children and families are unique and how they are similar to all children and families. The book allows readers to understand that although Down syndrome is a unique experience for each family, it is indeed a human experience and that the child should always precede the diagnosis. The families differ in size and family makeup, in the ages of the children, race/ethnicity, and parent educational levels; reside throughout North America in urban and rural settings; and include natural/adoptive parents. There is even a story of a mother who lost her child to cancer, a rarer complication for children with Down syndrome. The theme remains the same — all parents process the diagnosis and have happiness as well as sadness, hopes and dreams, and challenges. All parents have the same experiences and this lesson, while not often expressed in the book, should not be lost for healthcare and educational providers. Although the book emphasizes the humanity of the families, readers will find some scientific information as the parents note the information they were provided as well as the various medical issues many of the children had to face. These situations all provide insights for both parents and professionals. Each story provides a picture as well as a brief description of the family. This allows readers to understand the variety of family makeup and residential settings. The cover picture is a wonderful reminder that parents of all children want to share their family experiences.
Assessment: I would highly recommend this book be used in healthcare and education training programs and settings. It will allow for great discussions of family challenges as well as comparisons of the similarities of all families. It would be a wonderful offer to all parents at the time of diagnosis, whether that occurs prenatal or after birth. A brief search for similar books led to several written for parents by professionals which offer insight into the scientific discoveries as well as information about the most common concurrent health issues of these children, but most of them were published in the 1990s or early 2000s. (Parents and students may find more current scientific data on the Internet.) One book, Babies with Down Syndrome: A New Parents' Guide, by Stray-Gundersen (Woodbine House, 1995), includes a foreword by an adult self advocate that can provide parents a perspective that is not usually found in the literature. The remainder of this book is based upon scientific information, but does provide parent statements at the end of each chapter. Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic, by Beck (Berkley Books, 1999), provides one parent's account of her experience with diagnosis and parenting a child with Down syndrome. However, of all of the potential comparable books, none provides the same format and variety of parental experiences as Gifts.