Katie, a young woman with Down syndrome, dances and words say she may be slow, but

Down Syndrome: She May Be Slow, But

A week or two ago, Katie and I talked about books. She received several books this last Christmas, a chapter book and a few graphic novels. Obviously, I was intrigued. I told her I wanted to borrow her books, and that in return, she could borrow some of mine.

Avalon: Circles in the Stream (the lost book)

True to my word, I offered her a Nancy Drew graphic novel and a graphic novel about magical girls. I recalled a middle-grade chapter book about girls with magic powers. I thought she’d love the drawings in it too.

However, when I reached my bookshelf, I realized the book wasn’t there. Several years ago, I assumed the book would be beyond her, so I had donated it.

Here I am today, feeling silly and wishing I hadn’t given it away so soon. Katie still finds chapter books challenging, but she reads them with our dad now during homeschool. He reads a page and then she reads one. That book would have been a perfect choice.

I gave her the books I had and nearly forgot about it until I read this post by Heather Phonaker.

At some point in the past two years, someone told me… that people with Down syndrome only advance mentally and emotionally so far. That somewhere in their teen or young adult years, they begin to stop being able to take in as much as they do as children. They get set in their ways and that is why their peers pass them by.

Heather, mom of Ellie

Katie is 20 years old now and she’s learning many new things. Her occupational therapist is teaching her cooking and cleaning skills. (They use video chat for now.) Her reading skills are improving.

The other night, she saw me playing with my Rubik’s cube. I got up to finish a chore and gave it to her, asking if she’d like to mix it up for me. I heard her laugh when she figured out how to move it. When she returned it to me, she had partially solved the blue side (just as she had seen me do).

Yes, things like driving and calculus will likely always be beyond Katie. However, she’s going to keep learning. Who knows what she’ll be capable of in five years?

I’ve been listening to the album “Not Too Late” by Norah Jones lately. While the song “Broken” isn’t one of my favorites, one line sticks out to me.

“He may move slow, but that don’t mean he’s going nowhere”

Norah Jones

The song is technically about a dirty man with paint on his hands. However, it can also be a reminder to families of people with developmental delays.

A few years ago, I assumed that the “Avalon” book was out of Katie’s reach. Now I’ve realized it would be a good fit. Slow learning is still learning.

Katie hit lots of milestones late in life. She still reached them. Today, she reads books, “likes” my Facebook posts, and plays Frisbee better than I do. (Of course, that last one is a low bar.) She’s my best friend.

I’d like to remind all the parents of the world that growth doesn’t stop at age 18. There’s lots of time for your kid to learn new things. Slow progress is still progress. Even if the journey is longer, you reach destinations just the same.

She may be slow, but she’s going somewhere.

8 thoughts on “Down Syndrome: She May Be Slow, But”

  1. Your quite right we all continue to learn so will Katie. It doesn’t matter at what speed, it matters that she does. I at the age of 61 still learn thing’s okay I’m slower than I was but I still do. Katie maybe slow but I’m sure what she learns sinks in. I don’t understand the people (experts) who actually stop people’s progress by a very short sighted view. We are all different and learn at different speeds it doesn’t matter if downs or otherwise. Katie sounds as if she loves learning new things and long may it continue.

    1. Yes, Katie has learned so much. She’s getting really good at reading harder books.

      It makes me sad to think that there are “experts” telling people that their kid isn’t going to learn much. If the parent listens to that, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So many people can learn so much.

      I’m glad you’re still learning at 61. Never stop!

  2. It’s not and it’s never too late, indeed. I loved this story. Brought such a smile to my way on this dreary Wednesday. Thank you!

    1. Thanks, Ab! It’s so nice to hear that people enjoy my writing. Katie makes my life happier (at least, most of the time) and I’m glad that stories about her can do that for other people too.

  3. I think this is such an important idea for interacting with anyone with disabilities. So often, I think our society creates self-fulfilling prophecies by saying a child may never learn to speak or write, so we stop trying. My mom and I have talked about this a lot. If she had been told that there were things I could never do because I was autistic when I was really young, would she have stopped trying? Would I have learned to drive a car if the assumption had been I was incapable? Sure, I struggled more than most kids and needed more help with driving, but I did it.

    Great post! Very thought provoking!

    1. Yes, “late” and “never” are two very different things. It isn’t good to rule something out in the future just because it isn’t possible just yet.

      I’m glad your mom didn’t stop trying to help you learn. All kids need their parents to believe in them and do their best to raise them.

      I’m glad you were able to learn to drive!

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