“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 That is another one of those dark, outdated, Down syndrome myths.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.Tweet