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.
Today’s post is a little tough to write, but I feel it’s important.
It’s NEVER acceptable to use the R word. Since Sienna has been born, I’ve heard it used by close family members, close friends, and even a teacher just last week. These terms are never acceptable. There is no proper context for them.
When they were originally introduced, the terms ‘mental retardation’ or ‘mentally retarded’ were medical terms with a specifically clinical connotation, however they have been used widely in today’s society to degrade and insult people with intellectual disabilities. When the r word is used as synonyms for dumb, stupid, or drunk by people without disabilities it reinforces painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities being less valued members of society.
The next time you hear that word, please correct the person using this outdated term. There’s ALWAYS a better word. Do it for Sienna.
When Sienna was first born, one of the questions I was asked the most was, “Is she going to be high functioning?”. Down syndrome has no spectrum. It affects different people in different ways. It’s an extra chromosome in every single cell of the body. We don’t know what strengths and weaknesses Sienna will have, because she’s just a sweet baby whose personality is just starting to emerge. We love her no matter what, just like any parent loves their child unconditionally.
I am posting a picture that’s closeup of her beautiful blue eyes. If you look close enough you can see her Brushfield’s spots(speckled iris). They are little white spots that are slightly elevated on the surface of the iris arranged in a ring concentric with the pupil. These spots occur in typical children, but are far more frequent in Down syndrome. They were described in 1924 by Thomas Brushfield and are due to aggregation of a normal iris element (connective tissue). I could stare into her eyes all day. They are one of my favorite things about my girl. Can you imagine how much happier the day of her birth would have been if my Doctor chose to point those out instead of all the negatives?
What will she be when she grows up?
Author, College graduate, Artist, Business owner, Zumba instructor, Preschool teacher, Actor, Musician, Barista, Professional Golfer, Model, Body builder, Councilwoman
These are just some of the professions currently held by successful adults with Down syndrome. Before I had Sienna, I had no idea that people with Ds were capable of such amazing things. One day, you or someone you know might have a child with Ds. I hope info like this makes us all realize that everyone is capable of greatness.