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DEAR ABBY: Six months ago, our 22-year-old daughter gave birth to her second son. Within hours of the baby's birth, our lives were changed forever. Our beautiful and apparently healthy grandchild has a condition known as Down's syndrome. Our grief was almost indescribable for those first weeks following his birth - and was often compounded by thoughtless but well-intentioned comments from friends and relatives.

We were told: "Cheer up, it could have been worse." "Sue the doctor!" "Look at the bright side; maybe the baby won't live."We were asked, "Which side of the family is to blame?" And the most ignorant question of all: "Are you going to keep him?"

Many friends tried to comfort us by saying, "God sends such babies only to special parents."

Abby, this baby is special, but not because he is handicapped. We would have loved him just as much had he been born without Down's syndrome. Time has eased our grief and enabled us to let go of the dreams and plans we had for this child. New dreams and different plans have taken their place.

The birth of a handicapped baby is traumatic to the family. Friends and relatives can be a source of comfort and strength. They should acknowledge the baby's birth with appropriate gifts, cards, letters, etc., as they would for any other newborn.

If one is in doubt as to what to say, it is best to remain silent. A gentle squeeze of the hand or a warm hug can speak volumes.

It is my sincere hope that this letter will be of some help to those who may find themselves in this frightening and unpredictable situation. - BEEN THERE IN BRIDGE CITY, TEXAS

DEAR BEEN THERE: Thank you for an enlightening letter.

DEAR ABBY: Congress passed a bill naming October as National Down's Syndrome Awareness Month. As the parent of a 2-year-old daughter with Down's syndrome, I'm excited about the opportunity that awaits us to better educate people about children and adults with this condition.

The most common clinical cause of mental retardation, Down's syndrome occurs in approximately one in 800 births. It is the "fault" of neither parent. It is caused by the presence of an extra chromosome ("normal" people have 46; Down people have 47) at the moment of conception.

There is so much confusion about this, Abby. Many people have asked me if I had taken drugs or alcohol during my pregnancy. Neither of them plays a part in Down's syndrome. Also, I am frequently asked if I am over 40 (I was only 26 when I became pregnant).

As we educate, perhaps we can dispel many myths and misconceptions of not only Down's, but many other disabilities as well. We want everyone to know that most of our children grow up to be happy, productive adults with very rewarding lives.

There is plenty of concern, understanding and education for families of developmentally disabled children and adults. I joined a local support group when our little one was only 4 weeks old. Some parents connect even earlier. If any of your readers would like information about support groups, early intervention and education, medical aspects and financial help with Down syndrome, they should contact the National Down's Syndrome Congress, 1800 Dempster St., Park Ridge, Ill. 60068-1146. The toll-free telephone is (800) 232-6372. - PEGGY KELLER, CO-CHAIRPERSON, DOWN SYNDROME PARENT GROUP OF BURLINGAME, CALIF.

C) 1989 Universal Press Syndicate