Monday, October 13, 2014

31 for 21: Busting Another Myth

31 for 21 continues with Myth busters Monday:

Myth: Intellectual disability means that the child can't learn and will have no skills.

Fact: Individuals with an intellectual disability do learn and can develop academic skills.

Just so we are all clear, intellectual disability is the current terminology that replaced mental retardation. Intellectual disability is associated with Down syndrome. That being said, I have come across people who have argued with me that Jaycee didn't have an intellectual disability because she performed a certain task.

There was a nurse one time who said, "She's not mentally retarded. She is using sign language. She has to be smart to do that."

To which, I smiled politely and did an inward sigh. Some people don't get it! I believe that those that are not around people with intellectual disabilities assume that these individuals are non-communicative, sitting in corner somewhere not caring about anything or anyone. They assume there's no opinions, personalities, or preferences. They focus on what they can't do.

Intellectual disability is simply below average intelligence and a difficulty with skills needed for daily life. There is a range from mild to profound. These individuals learn, just at a slower rate. I'm not saying that everyone who has an intellectual disability will do algebra, but they can learn. They may learn to do sign language. They may be able to count. They may be able to read. In short, they can. What each can do will vary, but they can do something.

Jaycee has never had an IQ test, so I don't know where she falls on the severity range. She can read simple words; she started doing sight words at age 4. By age 3, she knew all her colors, a few shapes, and hundreds of signs in sign language. Today, she can count a few objects but counting to 10 confuses her. She struggles with writing; she can't write her name. And, she has difficulty understanding necessary safety rules in public (i.e. don't run off in a store or in a parking lot). She has strengths and weaknesses like any other child. But, she can learn.

Another myth busted!

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