The Quote That Changed My View of 'Smart'

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of the word smart is “very good at learning.” My daughter, Gigi, may not be that. She faces challenges with learning. This is just a fact and something I’ll have to get used to.

When I found out during my pregnancy that my baby had Down syndrome, I was initially worried about the health issues that come along with it. Friends had other perspectives. They said, “The health stuff can usually be corrected with medication or a surgery. It’s the cognitive issues I’d be worried about.” Our pediatrician said the same thing to me. There’s no prenatal test that will tell you how much of an impact there will be on the cognition of your unborn child. So you can end up wondering and waiting and looking for a crystal ball.

When my daughter was born, I looked for signs. She has always been very attentive and focuses well. Is that a good sign? She started smiling at eight weeks. What does that mean? At a year and a half, she knows about 10 words in sign language. Does that count?

According to the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, the average IQ of a person with Down syndrome has increased in the last several years. Individuals with Down syndrome have become teachers, restaurant owners, models and graduates.

Early in my pregnancy, I came across a quote that I will never forget. It was written by Janine Steck Huffman in the book, “Gifts: Mothers Reflect on How Children with Down Syndrome Enrich Their Lives.” She said, “The value of a life, of a human, of a child, is measured not by how much he or she can accomplish, but how much he or she can teach others about what really matters.” “Smart” isn’t everything.

There are many people who are smart but lose their way. Just because Gigi will have a cognitive disability doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a lot to teach us.

Through her I’ve learned the meaning of one day at a time. I’ve learned what’s important to worry about and what isn’t worth my anxiety. She has already taught us so much about life and she’s only a year old.

Follow this journey on Three With a Twist.

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