“Children with Down syndrome are all mentally retarded.”  Ugh. That is another one of those dark, outdated, Down syndrome myths. It is even printed in some of my medical textbooks! The truth is, children with Down syndrome can have normal IQ. All kids with Down syndrome are unique and we can not make sweeping generalizations (as all children are unique). While many children with Down syndrome will fall in the “below normal” range of IQ, most of these kids just barely miss the cut-off point. In other words, “severe mental retardation” is not the norm! Our children with Down syndrome can fall anywhere on the spectrum, and normal intelligence is possible.

An IQ score is, after all, just a number. It does not reflect the ability for a child to have a wonderful, fulfilling, and successful life. And it does not measure equally important attributes such as creativity, personality, perseverance, and life experiences.

This myth that all children with Down syndrome are mentally retarded comes from the time when most children with Down syndrome were placed into institutions where they did not receive the appropriate medical care, nurturing, education, or therapy. We now know that any child placed in these conditions will not thrive! Our kids were never given a chance.

With improved medical treatments, therapy techniques, and methods of teaching, IQ scores continue to rise. We should not place limits on our children, because we don’t know the potential of people with Down syndrome. The possibilities are endless.

The possibility of a normal IQ does not mean, however, that we can sit back and hope our kids do great. We still must work hard to ensure our kids reach their developmental potential. It is crucial that early education begin as soon as possible, because there is a window of opportunity when our kids have the greatest ability to learn; from birth to age five, when brain development is at its peak. It actually becomes more difficult to learn after the age of five. Ironic, isn’t it, that this is the age we start school?

I found this very overwhelming when Ella was born. Not only did I have to take care of a new baby, but I had to learn about Down syndrome and research how to teach my baby. And I had to figure it out before that window of opportunity for maximum brain development closed. I felt like I was racing against the clock to teach Ella as much as possible before she turned five.

I don’t like any of the myths about Down syndrome, but I find this one especially concerning. If parents believe their child is destined to be mentally retarded – that their child can not learn – what incentive do they have to begin teaching baby immediately? I fear many parents will accept this myth and therefore not begin the appropriate care that could actually increase their baby’s intelligence. How sad for both the family and baby if baby’s entire life is limited over a myth!

While I often consult with families about medical concerns, my favorite consults are the ones where I get to show a family what they can easily do each day to improve their child’s development. I love getting to know the parents and watching baby grow and thrive. It is extremely rewarding for me to take what I learned to make my own daughter successful and share it with others.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to learn how you can teach your baby with Down syndrome. The best gift you can give your baby is the gift of a successful future. I’d love to show you how to do everything possible to help your child learn. Click here for  a video testimonial regarding obtaining a consultation.

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Julia Kinder

I’ve had too much therapy!

February 8, 2013
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Before any rumors start, I’m talking about 8 years of attending multiple types of therapy sessions with my daughter, Ella. You know – PT, OT, ST, MT, DT. Did you think I was referring to my own personal therapy?

Ella wants to learn to snap her fingers, and we’ve been trying to teach her how for a few weeks now. I was getting a bit frustrated until it occurred to me what a great fine-motor exercise this was. Then I felt great about the time I had invested because it wasn’t just finger-snapping we were working on. We were improving Ella’s handwriting and ability to do things like sort the cashews out of the mixed nut container. I was excited to discover another fun way to strengthen her fingers.

Yeah- excited. Yeah- fun. Oh how my brain has changed since Ella arrived! Working on goals is ingrained into my head; I seek out ways to achieve them in the simplest of life’s daily events. And I enjoy it. What has happened to me? Maybe I need to get out more? Or perhaps I need my own type of therapy. There you go again thinking the worst. I meant wine-therapy!


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After I received the diagnosis that Ella has Down syndrome, I vowed I would give her every opportunity possible – maximize her potential. Not that it’s different from what any parent wants for their child. But when you have a child with Down syndrome, there seems to be more of an urgency to start teaching your baby, just in case that child does need extra time or help to learn a skill.  And I don’t just mean teaching baby to read or do math, but to teach developmental milestones and also skills for daily life.

It sounds contradictory for me to say I expect Ella can do anything she wants, with no limits, while on the other hand I admit I have spent time teaching her basic things like how to do laundry, ride an elevator, or order her meal at a restaurant. Perhaps I didn’t need to teach her – she may very well have picked it up on her own. But I guess I don’t want to take any chances when it comes to Ella’s independence. I haven’t made an effort to teach that type of skill to my twin boys. I guess I assume or take for granted their abilities. Again, it’s not that I think Ella is less capable. It’s very difficult to explain the conflicting thoughts I often have because of the “DS thing.”

So I set out to learn everything I could about Down syndrome, development, therapy, and teaching kids. It was a lot of work. I researched, went to conferences, talked to other parents, read books, took classes. I spent hours, days, even weeks learning. It was very hard to piece together all the pieces of the puzzle to figure out what I needed to do every single day to maximize Ella’s potential. I needed practical, step-by-step tips on how to raise Ella – that type of information didn’t exist. I had to create my own road-map. The information I needed was not in one place, but scattered about. Worse, some of the information was wrong. Two things scared me. First, I was afraid of what I didn’t know. What if there was something Ella really needed to be doing, or not doing, but I wasn’t aware of it? If I had at least heard of it, I knew I could figure it out. But what if I had no clue? For example, I didn’t know for a very long time I could damage Ella’s finger joints simply by the way I dressed her. Ahhhh! When I did realize this, I panicked wondering if I had already caused damage.

The second thing that worried me was the amount of time (years) it was taking me to gather information and knowledge. What we teach our kids in the first year of life is correlated with I.Q. The first four years of life are THE BEST time for kids to learn. Ella couldn’t wait for me to figure out what she needed, she needed it NOW.  I felt I was always racing against the clock. Most of the brain is already developed by the age of five – when we send kids to school, ironically. If I wanted to maximize Ella’s brain development it had to be now. I stayed up late many nights to figure out what I needed to do.

And I did figure it out. Ella started reading at 18 months. She hit all developmental milestones on time or ahead of time. She started kindergarten a year early because she was doing so well. She’s now in a mainstream 3rd grade class and does not require an aid. All the years of hard work have paid off.

I decided to share my knowledge with other parents, making it very easy and low-stress for them to maximize their child’s developmental potential. I want every child with Down syndrome to do the best that they can, and to have amazing lives!

For years I have been showing other parents the tips, techniques, and tricks I used to ensure Ella’s success. The best time to start with any child is – as soon as possible! But it’s never to late to begin. Consultations include phone  conversations, emails, and texts. FAce-to-face visits are often possible. The length of time needed varies. Each consultation is tailored to the needs of the family.

I absolutely love helping other parents. I want new families to be able to focus on enjoying their new baby, without worrying about DS stuff. I make it easy to integrate all the therapy and teaching into your normal, daily routine. Many families struggle with mixed emotions and feeling as if their lives have been disrupted – I show them The UPside.

If I can help you, please email me for more information: julia@juliakinder.com.  You can also check out this short video with a testimonial from a new mom. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Julia Kinder

The gift that keeps on teaching

December 19, 2011
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Five great educational gifts to give this holiday season

Every year, parents line up to snag the newest, hottest toys to stick under the Christmas tree. But there’s more to giving a good gift than flashing lights and sound effects.

Studies have shown that 90 percent of a child’s brain development takes place before age 5. That’s a critical time for engaging, teaching and interacting with your child. Their potential for learning at that age is almost unlimited.

I recommend these developmentally appropriate toys to make play time not just fun, but educational as well:

This toy basic seems like a no-brainer, but there’s a slew of developmental benefits that will help parents get the most out of building with blocks. Top of the list is motor skills – stacking blocks is great for developing fine motor skills, like finger grasping. There’s also a problem-solving component for toddlers in stacking and balancing.

Interactive Games
Leaving your baby to play with a toy isn’t enough; it’s important for parents to actually engage with their child to promote learning. As part of my Right Now series, I’ve developed a line of bibs and interactive card games for young children. The key is integrating those types of interactions into your daily routine. The bibs and cards take advantage of  down times, like meals and car rides, to do just that. Visit my store to purchase your own set. I’ll also include a free decal and pen with every order!

Another staple, but one that, like blocks, has a variety of developmental pluses. Children can work on skills like matching, colors, numbers and more, as well as grasping and problem-solving. And there are some really creative options available, like puzzles that incorporate buttons, zippers and Velcro.

Musical instruments
Music can provide a huge boost to a child’s learning potential, especially among children with special needs. From managing and expressing emotions, to enhancing memory and improving communications skills, music is a key factor in any toddler’s development. Lots of toys incorporate sound and music at the press of a button, but don’t forget about actual instrument, likes maracas, a drum, keyboard and shakers.

Art supplies
Parents can use crayons, paint and markers to promote skills like matching, identifying colors, and story-telling. Art – from working with clay to coloring – gives children an opportunity to express themselves, and builds self-esteem. Sensory and cognitive benefits are also significant. Parents should think outside the crayon box when engaging with their child, using items around the house like paper plates, egg cartons, plastic wrap and newspapers to create art.

There you have it – the perfect educational gifts. Remember, the gift of education keeps on giving for a lifetime!

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