She’ll Never Be Smart: Cognitive Impairment And Down Syndrome

That’s just a fact and something I’ll have to get used to. I’m only familiar with smart; my husband is smart and my two other girls are smart. When I found out that my baby had Down syndrome, I was worried about the health issues that come along with it. Friends had other perspectives. They said, “The health stuff can usually be corrected with medication or a surgery. It’s the cognitive issues I’d be worried about.” Our pediatrician said the same thing to me. I guess they’re right. And there’s no prenatal test that will tell you how much of an impact there will be on the cognition of your unborn child. At 11 months, I still don’t think we know how much of a cognitive impairment Gigi will have. She very attentive and focuses well, is that a good sign? She started smiling at 8 weeks. But she doesn’t look toward dad when we say, “where’s dad?” Shouldn’t she be doing that by now?

Cognitive impairment ranges mostly from mild to moderate in individuals with Down syndrome. According to the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, in the last several years, the average IQ of a person with Down syndrome has increased. 39.4% are in the mild intellectual disability range of 50-70, and 1% in the borderline intellectual function range of 70-80 (average IQ in the general population is 70-130). Severe cognitive impairment is rare.

Other issues is this area, according to the National Institute of Health include:

  • short attention span
  • poor judgement
  • impulse behavior
  • delayed language and speech

On a positive note, today individuals with Down syndrome go to school and are often placed in classrooms with peers that do not have disabilities. Research has indicated that inclusion classrooms benefit both children with disabilities and typical students.

When I first found out Gigi had Down syndrome, I struggled with understanding what the meaning of her life would be. What could she bring to this world? What could she contribute if she doesn’t have a chance at being smart? I think all parents think, maybe my child will cure cancer or be an astronaut, but that just isn’t in the cards for Gigi. Then I learned that some people with Down syndrome have become teachers and restaurant owners.

Early in my pregnancy I came across a quote which I will never forget written by Janine Steck Huffman in the book Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives. She said, “The value of a life, of a human, of a child, is measured not by how much he or she can accomplish, but how much he or she can teach others about what really matters.”

Smart isn’t everything. There are many people who are smart who lose their way and don’t contribute anything in life. Just because Gigi will have a cognitive disability doesn’t mean she’ll be incompetent. It doesn’t mean she won’t teach us more than your average person will. Through her I’ve learned the meaning of one-day-at-a-time. I’ve learned what is important to worry about and what isn’t. She has already taught us so much about life and she’s not even a year old yet.


October is Down syndrome awareness month. This month I am participating in a blog challenge for Down syndrome awareness. Click the link below to see a list of more blogs posting for Down syndrome awareness during the month of October…

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6 thoughts on “She’ll Never Be Smart: Cognitive Impairment And Down Syndrome

  1. Very well said, Tina. An IQ is just a number. So is a figure on a bank statement. The true measure of a person is how they treat and affect others.

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  2. Beautifully said Tina. We all have learned so much from Gigi already. And YOU as her mother have taught us so much. Life is beautiful.

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  3. Love following your story, your lives, and most of all, your daughter! Look forward to the Gifts 10th Anniversary edition, and thanks for reading our story

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