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BR Parents - Thrive: Life with Down Syndrome: Shouting His Worth

Originally published in the April 2021 issue of Baton Rouge Parents magazine and on its website.

When he was born seven weeks before his due date, prematurity seemed to be the biggest obstacle facing Gideon Schroeder. His parents, Marianne and Greg, were completely surprised when Gideon was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.

“We had the option to do (prenatal) testing, and we discussed it, and we said, you know, ‘It is what it is,’” Greg says. Heart tests came out perfect, and the facial characteristics associated with Down Syndrome typically seen on ultrasound didn’t show up. 

“It was unexpected,” says Marianne, now a stay-at-home mom with a background in education. “It was tough at first. It changes your whole perspective on what you thought was going to happen.” The Schroeders didn’t have much experience with Down Syndrome, although Greg had a cousin who lived with the condition. 

Gideon spent his first three months in the hospital, unrelated to Down Syndrome or his premature birth. “He had a fluke piece of skin wrapped around his small intestine,” which was found via exploratory surgery when he was a month old, Marianne says.

The extra time in the hospital helped Marianne and Greg adjust. “That gave us both time to get educated and find out about Down Syndrome and what all differences we would have as parents,” Marianne says. “I’m going to tell you, we don’t have very many differences, because I’ve raised another one.” Marianne has children from a previous marriage, Gideon’s older brother, Nathan, and honorary older sister, Aimy.

Now two and a half, Gideon is thriving. “We were blessed,” Marianne says. “He doesn’t have the major medical conditions that are most characteristic of children with Down syndrome.”

Gideon means strength and warrior, a name that suits his outgoing personality. In addition to the Biblical reference, his name also refers to the character from TV show Criminal Minds. His double middle name, Travis Lee, honors family members.

A typical, active toddler, Gideon loves to climb. “He has perfected his climbing skills,” Marianne says. “He’ll climb anything you put him on.” He also loves swimming, music and Sesame Street.

“His therapists have commented on how he loves to learn,” Greg says. “Even the way he’s picked up going up and down the slide. At first it’s tough for him, but you can see the determination. He does that with everything.” Gideon is tackling the alphabet and counting now.

Gideon attends a parents’ day out program at The Way Church in Denham Springs, a school the family chose because of its willingness to learn about Down Syndrome and love Gideon for who he is. He will start a PreK3 program in Livingston Parish in August. 

“I love to brag on Gideon, but I don’t want to make it sound like it wasn’t expected of him,” Marianne says. “I expect my son to do well in school. He’s going to be something.”

Therapy was the biggest change brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, although teletherapy was manageable when it was necessary. Something the family missed was Gymboree being closed. “That’s where he was getting exercise and socialization,” Marianne says. “That makes me so sad. We’ve kind of built our own playground in the backyard during COVID though.”

On World Down Syndrome Day, March 21, Marianne says the family focuses on sharing their story with an emphasis on Gideon’s inherent worth. “He’s worthy of anything and everything that anybody in this world is worthy of,” she says. “He’s Mr. Personality and he loves life. He’s an awesome guy."