A Little Something Extra

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

31 for 21 Day 11: Is he "high functioning?"

A question often asked of parents of a child with Down syndrome is, "Is he high-functioning?"  While we parents understand the question, we're often tempted to ask you, "Is YOUR six-month-old high-functioning?"  I had people ask me how "severe" his Down syndrome was, even before he was born.

So, let's talk cognition.  Individuals with Down syndrome will usually fall in the mild to moderate level of cognitive delay.  Just like with typically-developing children, there is no way to know in utero what that child's IQ will be.  [Individuals with Down syndrome are usually very advanced in their social/emotional IQ, however.  So in some ways, they are often smarter than us.] :-)

Historically, our society has viewed individuals with Down syndrome as unintelligent.  I believe that one of the reasons for the misperception is speech.  They have historically had a tendency to have poor speech.  I believe that in our biased minds, we tend to view individuals with poor speech as not being as smart as someone else.

Research shows that the primary challenge facing individuals with Down syndrome is working memory.  DownsEd has done some research in this area.  Here's a link to a great article they wrote about it.  I find it interesting that they talk about the phonological loop being a primary culprit.  It makes sense.  Our kids tend to be visual learners, rather than auditory learners.  So, additional research is showing that by teaching children sight words at an early age (as early as 18 months!), you can help their speech development and working memory.  Rock on!  Are you ready to read, Micah?!  More on that in a future post.

Back to cognitive development.  Beyond the brain training activities that can help develop their working memory, there are actually clinical trials going on right now that are researching effects of a medication on cognitive development.  I hope this research progresses quickly!  Stay with me here.  This is not because I want Micah to be smarter so that I can say he's smarter.  I want Micah to have the best possible opportunities to be happy.  My guess is that he'll not be happiest living with Mom and Dad the rest of his life.  So I want to do whatever I can do to enable him to live independently and be happy.  Do you have to be smart to be happy?  No.  But if there's going to be an opportunity for him to improve his chances for getting a good job, and apartment, etc., then I'd like that opportunity to be presented to him sooner rather than later.  I'll try to blog about the research sometime soon.

So back to the original question... I don't know.  Personally, iiiiiii think he's pretty smart. :-)  He's been fairly slow in his motor skill development.  But I've heard that doesn't have a correlation to intellect.  We'll do what we can to foster his cognitive development.  But ultimately, God is in control of his life.  We have him only for a short time.  And what a blessing he is!


Amy said...

Love this post! I blogged about the whole "high functioning" question not long ago, as it is also a peeve of mine. Glad to know I'm not the only one! ;)

Kelli said...

it's one of those questions that gets under my skin....loved your post about it!

Jen Currier said...

Haha! Yep. I got the severity question as you read in my blog tonight. I love your explanations about it and I am also hopeful about the research that's being done- I've volunteered some time for DSRTF (Down syndrome Research and treatment Foundation) and it is thrilling to think that our kids may have even MORE opportunities down the line than are available to them today!

paige said...

i learn so stinking much from this blog!
His mama is sure high functioning!!
You amaze me...