Self-awareness. Self-appreciation. Self-esteem.
These can be difficult pursuits for people without Down syndrome and sometimes for people with Down syndrome. Some of our most challenging patients have been individuals who were very unhappy about having Down syndrome. We generally try to redirect the thinking towards positive aspects of the person’s personality and look at skills rather than lack of skills. It can sometimes be taxing.
However, some individuals have a real sense of themselves. I would like to share a story from a recent office visit.
A young man asked me why his legs were short. I had him stand and assured him that his legs were appropriate. Upon further questioning, it was clear the real question was that he wanted to know why he was shorter than his brother.
I explained to him that people with Down syndrome tend to be shorter. On the other hand, he has many fine characteristics, some of which his brother does not have.
He was very comfortable with that explanation.
His next comment made it clear that he not only had self-awareness, self-appreciation, and self-esteem but he understood we all have strengths as well as other characteristics. He said, “I have Down syndrome but my brother has Dork syndrome,” and he laughed in a way brothers laugh with each other.
Dr. McGuire has done a wonderful job of explaining more about helping a person with Down syndrome with self-esteem in our book Mental Wellness in Adults with Down Syndrome.