Increasing Intelligence : A Must Read Theory For Down Syndrome

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Have you ever wondered why our children with mainstream and academic achievements to near-normal level in primary schools, are not really able to meaningfully apply this knowledge in real life without mistakes?

Even a totally illiterate person with no academic exposure can apply some simple arithmetic by counting knuckle points of fingers. He/she can also use some simple natural laws of science, they why our kids with Down syndrome can’t do the same?

The understanding and awareness about intellectual disability grew mostly in last few decades. The functioning of the brain and human intelligence are vast areas and very difficult to comprehend. As parents of special needs children, it is extremely important for us to understand what this whole world means by the word ‘Intelligence’ and how it has affected us in more ways than one.

In literal sense ‘Intelligence’ is defined as, the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.

Now the question is that why should we, as parents bother? Well, the way intelligence is defined conventionally, our children bear the brunt of being called intellectually delayed but if you look a little closer, you’d realize that this so called practice of putting intelligence into one big compartment has done immense harm to our kids. Let me try to explain it better.
The traditional theory of intelligence has helped create a paradigm as to what ‘smart’ is. This in turn has influenced educational practices and has created more gaps for our children to fill. It assumes that human cognition is unitary and individuals have single quantifiable intelligence. This theory was challenged by multiple intelligence theory of Gardner, which has paved the way for better educability of our children.But before talking about Gardner’s theory ( which I would do in some other post) I would like you to read about intelligence from somebody who has worked very closely with children of special needs because he is a grandfather of ‘Palak’, a girl with Down’s syndrome. He has written about 5 books on the same subject. Few of them are considered guide books for parents in India. ‘Mr. B.K Pandya’ is an eighty year old retired chief engineer, who has tried to put theoretical concepts and classroom teachings to practical use in real life.He writes that human intelligence can be divided into 4 strata. They may or may not be distinctly separate. Sometimes they overlap or are even blended, but each is distinct in its function of meaningful thinking.
They are

1. General Intelligence
2. Specific intelligence
3. Logical intelligence
4. Abstract intelligence


According to him,The General intelligence develops with exposure of individual to the environmental, social, cultural and educational surroundings. The general intelligence can be developed in any child with Down syndrome, adolescent or adult in a loving and caring atmosphere. The general intelligence will also develop into enhanced communication and better social and self-help skills. It is generally observed that the general intelligence of a child with Down syndrome can be developed at par with normal children with early intervention.
The specific intelligence is the ability to understand and learn specific skills. Every individual is talented in a specific area and might be weak in another. An expert surgeon may not be able to solve a simple jigsaw puzzle or a good sportsman or musician may be weak in mathematics, it simply means that some people have specific intelligence in more than one area but even the most intelligent people will have some weak areas or the other.The specific intelligence is thus individual quotient. Special needs children have their quotient of specific intelligence at less than average to average level. But that doesn’t matter. Most people do not get the opportunity to apply their specific intelligence during their life. You may find the man with highest intelligence quotient in structural design as an accountant or a person with surgeon’s intelligence as a store clerk.

‘The Abstract Intelligence’ is not very common and because our children don’t really score very high on this stratum, he has not written much about it.Our children have the maximum setback on their intellectual functioning due to lack of the logical intelligence. Any ordinary human being can apply his logical intelligence without any formal education; training, social, cultural and environmental exposure.

The problem of intellectually delayed children expressed in terms of IQ relates mostly to measuring the general intelligence and logical intelligence. The test questions in verbal test or test methods and non-verbal tests are blended to balance both spectrums of intelligence
To summarize the analysis of human intelligence we now know that

1. Abstract intelligence is not present in most people but they can still carry their day to day task without any difficulty.

2. Specific intelligence is rarely used by putting the right man on the right job. Presence and absence of specific intelligence rarely make any difference in leading a normal life with success.

3. General intelligence can be developed in children with Down syndrome at almost normal levels at par with other children.

4. Lack of logical intelligence is the cause of special need children’s inability to interact appropriately in real life in spite of training and education.

He further writes, “Making use of the very good General intelligence and excellent memory in most of the special needs children, some logical intelligence can be induced. The photographic memory of many of our children is amazing. The awareness of surroundings and sequence of their organized systematic output at appropriate time and place put them at a very high level of their ability in this field. The induced logical intelligence with blended general intelligence can give them functional skills to lead a confident day to day life.
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To lead a self sufficient life, he also recommends some basic skills for our children. Parents can make sure that in the long term they are training their children in all these skills

1.Basic skills:

  • Toilet training
  • Self help or expression
  • Development of fine motor and gross motor skills:
  • Cognitive skills: to recognise and know family members, neighbours, friends, common objects, things around the house, animals, fruits, vegetables, colours etc.

2. Socialization skills:

Ability to meet and accept different people and places, acceptance of the change of teachers, classmates, classroom or playroom, appropriate behaviour and expression of joy, discomfort, displeasure and verbal or non verbal communication for any need.

3.Communication skills:

The receptive communication in mother tongue needs to be fully developed. Most children with DS can easily understand and communicate in two languages if the parents are bilingual.

4. Functional skills:

  • Simple addition-subtraction
  • Multiplication
  • Division
  • Understanding Money
  • Use of calculator

5. Fundamental Units introduction

  • Time
  • Days
  • Months
  • Clock
  • Weight
  • Linear (length) measurements
  • Rate and cost

6. Works

  • Basic cooking
  • Fixing buttons
  • The use of tools like screwdrivers, spanners, hammer etc
  • The thread-needle work

7. General functional skills

  • Crossing a road
  • Use of telephone (Receiving and making a call)
  • Information about post office
  • Basic banking skills
  • Understanding and learning home address, local area, city or town and state.
  • Information about various domestic services like Gas, electricity and phones

These skills are an overview of what should be our target for our children with Down Syndrome or other special needs in the long run. While we all want them to be good in academics, we should also try to develop these functional skills in addition to whatever is being taught in schools so that they will have all basic functional skills to live independently when the time comes.

I hope you all will give it some thought and we can discuss some more about this theory in our comments section.

Source Credit: Functional skills-B.K.Pandya
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