March 15, 2014

Myths about Kids with Down Syndrome

Myth #1:
Kids with Down Syndrome are not intelligent
There is probably no older or more enduring myth than the myth that if a person has an injury to the central nervous system that person is automatically stupid. It is possible to be profoundly injured and be highly intelligent. Speech is a big part of this myth. If a child cannot talk normally then it is assumed that the child is intellectually abnormal. If a child cannot talk at all it may be assumed that the child understands absolutely nothing even though that child may understand absolutely everything. The myth that kids with Down Syndrome are stupid is not only incorrect it is dangerously incorrect. It is this myth that has permitted kids and adults with Down Syndrome to be warehoused and forgotten or left to die on the assumption that they had little or no understanding any way.                    

Myth #2:
Once the brain is injured there is no way to fix it
Fact: The brain grows by use. We have to go back to the beginning of the last century to find scientists who believed that once the brain was injured it was beyond repair. The beginning of the last century was a kind of Dark Ages for the human brain. But luckily at about the same time a new light was breaking in - neurophysiologists began to discover that the brain had considerable powers of recuperation and recovery. Research as early as 1915 showed that the brain actually grows by use. Modern neurophysiologists have been demonstrating this quite elegantly in the laboratory for a hundred years now. Now we have a new word “neuroplasticity”. It means the brain grows by use.

Myth #3:
Kids with Down Syndrome are better off with other Down Syndrome kids
Really? It is hard to believe that anyone ever really believed this since there is absolutely no evidence to support it whatsoever. If a child with Down Syndrome is placed with another child who bites, it is likely he will learn to bite. If he is placed with children who scream, it is likely he will scream. If he is placed with children who hit others, it is likely he will hit others. The next child with Down Syndrome who learns how to walk, talk, read, write or share from watching other kids with Down Syndrome do so will likely be the first child in history to do so.  Children with Down Syndrome need well adults, not other children with Down Syndrome, to help them. Top choices: mother, father, grandmother and grandfather.

Myth #4: 
Mothers and fathers are too emotionally involved with their Down Syndrome child

Is there any power as great as the power of a mother or father to love their child and to protect their child? No disrespect to alligators but they are probably not “too emotionally involved” with their youngsters. Is that a good thing for the baby alligator or a bad thing? Are mothers and fathers emotionally involved with their children with Down Syndrome? Let us hope so. Is it possible to be too close, too concerned, too conscientious, or too determined when faced with a child who has a serious problem? Probably not.

Myth #5: 
Kids with Down Syndrome cause problems for their brothers and sisters
This is a myth in which there can be some truth. If we do nothing to save the child with Down Syndrome and he is left to languish while brother and sister march on with their lives then there is little doubt that his very existence will cause a gigantic problem for his well brother and his well sister. For they must ask themselves every morning when they wake up and every night when they go to sleep “Why do I have a life and my brother or sister does not?” Why indeed. But if we set about to save the child with Down Syndrome we enlist the help of brother and sister. Now they are a part of a real team working to give their brother or sister a fighting chance to have a real life. They get to jump in the swimming pool every day and pull their brother or sister out. They are the only kids on their block who have this stellar opportunity to grow up every day. Their brother’s victories are their victories, their sister’s frustrations are their frustrations. The family is a team saving the life of a family member. Win or lose they are fighting the good fight to find a solution. This, and only this, is their salvation.
From the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential

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