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When a Doctor's Comment About My Son With Down Syndrome Made My Jaw Drop

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My husband and I took our son in to see a doctor, since he’d been having some gastrointestinal issues. Our regular pediatrician wasn’t in, so we were forced to see a fill-in. While we were there, she gave us the referral that we were looking for, but she also gave us quite a bit more.

As we talked about what it’s been like to have a child with Down syndrome, I could tell she was a little nervous. We are used to people being cautious with their words, hoping to not offend us. However, this doctor did just the opposite.

We were talking about possible options for our son’s treatment. My husband had concerns about any procedure that would put him under, since our son had been already under four times. The doctor then proceeded to tell us that every time a child goes under, their IQ goes down. “Not to worry though,” she continued, “Down syndrome people only have the IQ of a 10th grader. You just need to worry about getting him to finish high school, because that’s probably all he’ll be able to do.”

Although I was certain I “knew everything” as a teen in high school, I’m sure that’s not what she was referring to.

My jaw dropped. My heart broke. Why would you ever say something like that to a (fairly) new mom of a child with Down syndrome? I was so stunned. I was unable to respond and left very sad. As if being a special needs parent isn’t tough enough, now professionals are judging and already deciding what my boy was capable of?

I wish I were able to put my heart back together and pull my jaw up from the floor. I wish I were able to tell her what I thought about her outdated, preconceived idea of what a person with Down syndrome could accomplish.

I wish I had said, “My son is just that, my son. He isn’t a ‘Down syndrome person,’ he’s a person who happens to have Down syndrome. My son is going to be more than a number or statistic. If you can’t see the lives he’s touched, the minds he’s opened and the hearts he’s stolen, then I feel sorry for you. My son has already taught me more in his 15 months of life than anyone or anything ever before.”

I know this is just the first of many experiences like this I will face in this journey. I’m thankful for her ignorance because it’s made me think and prepare for the future. If and when I happen to run into someone with prejudgment of my son, they are the ones who better be ready!

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.  

Originally published: June 24, 2015
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