Emotional Intelligence

A fellow Rockin mom shared a wonderful anecdote with me when Sienna was born. Unlike me, she had a very positive experience when she learned of her child’s diagnosis. The doctor who delivered the news had a teenage son with Down syndrome. He explained that intelligence comes in all shapes and sizes and from what he had experienced, people with Down syndrome have high emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is defined as the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills: emotional awareness; the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving; and the ability to manage emotions, which includes regulating your own emotions and cheering up or calming down other people.

I know people that are incredibly intelligent that are completely out of touch with their emotions and the feelings of people around them. 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. We have no idea what Sienna’s capabilities will be. My job as her parent is to help her soar with her strengths. If emotional intelligence turns out to be a strength, she will be able to work through whatever struggles she faces and to me that’s more important than being intellectually intelligent.

That’s not to say she won’t be intellectually intelligent also. People with Down syndrome complete high school, more are going on to a postsecondary education and a handful have even received graduate degrees. An increasing number of colleges and universities have programs that are specifically designed for differently-abled students.

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