Down Syndrome Awareness: Christmas Miracles

Stream contributing senior editor Tom Sileo shares an update on his 2-year-old daughter Natalie, who has Down syndrome.

Natalie Sileo, 2, smiles in front of the family Christmas tree.

By Tom Sileo Published on December 15, 2022

Hearing your child say “Santa,” “ho ho ho” or “Jesus” during the Christmas season is always special. For my family, there is extra emotion and joy in knowing how hard our 2-year-old daughter with Down syndrome has worked to speak those magical words.

Natalie had an amazing year. She has made remarkable progress not only with her speech, but with movement and dexterity. My wife and I are eternally grateful to all the gifted and dedicated therapists here in Florida who’ve helped our daughter make such incredible progress.

While seeing Natalie’s face among thousands of beautiful children with Down syndrome on a massive screen in Times Square was an unforgettable moment, it’s the smaller things that stand out most. A few months ago, Natalie started waving and saying “hi, Mama” and “bye bye, Dada” throughout the course of each day. She also started saying “thank you” with a huge smile every time we hand her something. It’s hard to adequately express how much this warms our hearts.

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Speaking clearly is often difficult for children with Down syndrome. According to the National Library of Medicine, “speech production of individuals with Down syndrome may be related to differences in oral structure and function.” Hearing can also be a major challenge, as “approximately two-thirds of children with Down syndrome experience conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, or both.”

In addition to making great strides in speech, Natalie passed her latest hearing test earlier this week. Every single day, we feel extremely fortunate that Natalie has been blessed with good health. We know several families of children with Down syndrome who have had a much more challenging journeys. They are always in our prayers.

One relatively minor issue Natalie has been having is with her vision, which led to a brand new pair of glasses that has only made her even cuter.

“Our daughter is living proof not only of the Lord’s challenges, but also His blessings,” I wrote on The Stream a few weeks after Natalie was born. “I’m still not sure why we were chosen to raise a child with Down syndrome, but thanks to God and the extraordinary people all around us, we will soon find out.”

So far, what I’ve found out is that like all people born with Down syndrome and other special needs, our little girl is a precious gift from God. Natalie brings nothing but happiness and goodness to a world that needs more of both. To see the small daily miracles of her ongoing progress is a privilege that I wish more people could witness.

“A hug?” Natalie will often ask while raising her arms and motioning toward her mom, big sister, grandparents or — if I’m lucky — her dad. When you give her a hug, she will say “awww” while patting you on the back.

After a truly blessed year, another hug from Natalie is the one and only Christmas gift I need.

 

Tom Sileo is a contributing senior editor of The Stream. He is the author of the just-released Be Bold and co-author of Three Wise MenBrothers Forever8 Seconds of Courage and Fire in My Eyes. Follow Tom on Twitter @TSileo and The Stream at @Streamdotorg.

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