Attend an adoption info meeting! Register Now →
little girl with Down syndrome laughing with parents

Children diagnosed with disabilities or medical needs require unique care. This care must go beyond the support typically provided during daily routines.

Due to these special and sometimes complex needs, it is critical that all caregivers understand how to best support the development of these children while still offering essential relationships that are positive, attentive and caring. 

Below you can find important background information on some of the more common disabilities found among children who are adopted.

Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

Cleft lip and palate are birth defects that affect the upper lip and the roof of the mouth.  

A cleft lip may be a small split in the lip or a complete split in the lip that goes all the way to the base of the nose. The cleft can be on one or both sides of the lip.   

A cleft palate causes an opening in the roof of the mouth (palate). It can be on one or both sides of the roof of the mouth. It may go the full length of the palate.  

Cleft lip and palate can occur together or separately.  

Cerebral Palsy   

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a disorder that impairs body movement, muscle tone and coordination. It is caused by brain damage before or during birth, or in the first 3 to 5 years of life.   

Problems arise because of abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements, not the muscles themselves. CP can affect the body in different ways (right or left side, arms or legs or both), depending on the severity of the disease. The brain damage that leads to CP can also lead to other health issues, including mental delays, seizures, vision, hearing and speech problems, and learning disabilities. The condition does not worsen over time. There is no cure for CP, but treatment, therapy and special equipment can greatly improve a child’s capabilities. The earlier treatment begins, the better chance a child has of overcoming developmental disabilities and learning new ways to accomplish daily tasks.  

little girl with Down syndrome laughing with parents

Check out additional parenting resources!

View our expanded list of recommended parenting websites, books and other resources organized by topic.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder 

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a birth defect that causes a pattern of physical, developmental and functional problems.

To hear the story of two siblings with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome check out this video.

Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart disease (CHD) is a problem that is present at birth and can affect the structure of a baby’s heart and the way it works. In some cases, the heart can become enlarged to make up for its limited function.   

Congestive heart failure (CHF) may be a result of CHD because the heart must work harder than usual. CHF is a serious condition in which the overworked heart does not pump blood efficiently. As the heart works harder, metabolism and energy requirements increase. At the same time, blood flow decreases, resulting in small stomach size and slow gut motility. In addition, the heart’s inefficient pumping causes fluid to back up into the lungs, liver and other organs. Therefore, children with CHF often require fluid restriction and/or a diet low in salt. This makes it difficult to provide the child with adequate energy intake.  

Down Syndrome and General Low Tone 

Down syndrome (DS), also called Trisomy 21, is a condition in which extra genetic material causes delays in the way a child develops, both mentally and physically.

Medical problems may vary from child to child. While some children diagnosed with DS need a lot of medical attention, others lead lives where the disease has less of an impact on their daily functions. Low tone or hypotonia is when children’s muscles may be floppy.  

Low Birth Weight  

Low birth weight (LBW) is defined as a birth weight of less than 2.5 kg (2,500 grams) or 5.5 pounds. It is associated with chronic diseases or disabilities later in life and a higher risk of infant or childhood death.   

adoptive parents receiving parent counseling with their adopted child

Receive Post Adoption Coaching & Education

All parents encounter challenges as their children grow up. And sometimes, issues may arise that leave you uncertain as to how best to respond. But not every issue requires therapy or counseling. The PACE program is here to help during those times.

Stories Up Next

All Stories