Before Kimani was born, I had never even wondered about what people with Down syndrome could or couldn’t do. I just assumed (my bad) that people with Ds were like toddlers that grow bigger but never grow up. My guess is that if you do not have a person with Down syndrome in your life, you might also think that way, or perhaps have not really thought about it at all.
In the spirit of awareness, I am here to tell you that I had it all wrong. And because I had it all wrong my expectations have been shattered.
Everybody knows that people with Down syndrome are delayed, but did you know that delayed does not mean dumb? There is one main thing that hampers their cognitive development... a weakness in auditory processing and storing of information. I won’t bore you with the details but I will tell you that, on the other hand, people with ds have an amazing ability to remember what they see, and when learning concepts are coupled with visual prompts, the results are good. Sometimes even better than with typical people. For example, Masha knows who every piece of clothing ever worn in our house belongs to. Try quizzing my husband or my sons on that topic and you will see what a “memory game” butt-kicking looks like. Don’t ever confuse delayed with incapable. Expect that people with Ds can do it, whatever it is.
There is a stereotype about people with Down syndrome being stubborn and physically unmotivated. Rather than accepting this stubborn trait as borne from obstinacy, look closely and note that it is really tenacity. People with Ds are highly motivated and the key is to find what drives each individual and promote that in a positive way. Masha does not have a lazy bone in her body and she is totally motivated by being helpful. Expect people with Ds to do a good job, to try hard, and to prevail.
Some people believe that individuals with Down syndrome don’t understand what is being said to them, or around them. Wrong again. People with Down syndrome are like social savants. They may not understand all the nuances of every word they hear, but they make up for it by reading expressions, tone, and body language better than you and I. They are listening and they know what you mean. Expect your words will do as you intend them... be it to interest, encourage, or to harm.
There is a misconception that people with Down syndrome are unhealthy and suffering. It is true that a good percentage of babies with Down syndrome are born with some sort of correctable medical defect such as a hole in the heart or an intestinal problem but once corrected these kids are good as new. Two of my three girls with Ds have had heart surgery. All of my girls are healthy and thriving. Expect to catch the flu no more or less often from a person with Ds than any other person.
What else can you expect from a person with Down syndrome? Tolerance, empathy, forgiveness, uninhibited dancing, laughter, and jokes, vanity, pride, courage, and competence. If you invest some time in a person with Down syndrome you can expect to be surprised.
Blog Hop #4 - 10/26-10/28; links close on 10/28 at midnight
Organize Gut Health Changes to Heal Your Body - Today’s post is a little bit of a detour from most but it’s a topic that is a pretty important part of my life. I wanted to share it with you today to ans...