With Help From Children's, Hope Has No Limit

By John Kelly
Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The doctors at Children's Hospital treat children, but they also teach parents about their child's diagnosis. My assistant, Julia Feldmeier , tells the story of how one doctor empowered a Dickerson family.

A drienne Sturges poses a question: "When your children are born, do you say, 'Let's hope they're a C student,' or 'Let's hope they're an A student'?"

Well, duh.

"Then let us hope for the A," she says.

For Adrienne, whose 4-year-old daughter, Clare, has Down syndrome, this is not an issue of grades -- it's an issue of expectations and goals, of knowing how high to set the bar. Down syndrome, which affects more than 350,000 Americans, is a chromosomal abnormality in which children are born with an extra 21st chromosome that causes delays in cognitive development.

So when Clare showed signs of readiness for potty training at just 2 1/2 years old -- earlier than anticipated -- Adrienne and her husband, Kevin, briefly worried that it was too soon, that Clare would be too frustrated.

But Clare ditched the diapers, and her parents remembered the important distinction between teaching to their daughter's cues and teaching to their daughter's diagnosis.

For this they thank Dr. Kenneth Rosenbaum, a geneticist at Children's Hospital -- the man who, on the day Clare was born, told Adrienne and Kevin that their daughter had Down syndrome. He delivered this diagnosis matter-of-factly, without sugarcoating -- a candor that made the couple appreciate what he told them four weeks later, when they asked what kind of life they could realistically expect for Clare:

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