Saturday, September 15, 2012

What is Down Syndrome? for my 6 year old

As I have said before, Amelia and Charlotte are beginning to realize more and more that Elise is not like everybody else...  And on the evening of Sept. 10, her cancer-free anniversary, Amelia asked again, over cake.  And this time, I gave her a Longer, More Complicated Answer.  Because it is coming up more often, she is apparently craving more information...and it impressed my mother.  Now, I realize it's my mom, and my "brilliance" is always magnified more than it actually is...because it's my Mama...but the way I said it, made a visible impression, and she has gone back to it several times since...and so I decided to post it here, in case it really is brilliant.

"Why can't Elise talk or act like me?"

"Because Elise has Down Syndrome. It is something that confuses her body, so it takes her longer to learn things.  She can learn all the things you can, it just takes her longer."

"But what is Down Syndrome?"

"You have something called chromosomes that work together to make all your body parts and help your brain work.  Elise has an extra chromosome, and it confuses her whole body.  It's kind of like when EVERYBODY is talking really loud, all at the same time...and you slowly have to ask everybody to be quiet and and listen to each person, one at a time...which takes longer than if everybody took their turn talking...right?  Make sense?"

<<Amelia, nodding>>

"That's what her extra chromosome does to her body, it confuses her talking and her learning...and why she has a hard time zipping and buttoning, why she doesn't remember not to do dangerous things or act like an older girl, it's even why she is sick more often (it even confuses her inside body parts, so it can't fight being sick like you can)...It's because her extra chromosome is yelling at her and confusing her."

"Oh, okay."  <<returns to eating cake>>

So there you have it.  The bare bones version of Down Syndrome.

(And yes, I am absolutely aware that I used 'confuse' about 70 times too many, but, you have a limited vocabulary when explaining to a 6 year old.)


  1. sounds like a good explanation to me. Some adults need it broken down like that too. Good job, mama!

  2. Great job! I need to remember that explanation, I have a 9 year old and a 5 year old. The topic comes up offhand on.