Cognition, part III

August 20, 2010

In the last two posts, I’ve briefly explored the ways people try to evaluate intelligence, and suggested that the term “intelligence” itself is rather vague.  But what does it all mean?  Because you can ponder the nature of intelligence all you want, but the fact remains that some people need a little extra help with things like reading, math, communication, etc.  I guess my take on it is that, instead of lumping all these people into a group and feeling sorry for them, we should look more specifically at what kind of help they need, without judging their overall “intelligence.”  Labels like “asperger’s syndrome,” “perceptual disability,” or “expressive communication delay,” can be useful when they help an individual and her community understand and come to terms with the nature of her challenges.

More importantly, though, what does all this mean for me?  Because this is, after all, all about me.  As far as I can tell, my child has little trouble learning, reading, or remembering, but she does have trouble expressing what she knows because of physical constraints.  In addition to this, her limited motor skills have probably led to gaps in what she knows.  After all, she can’t ask questions or physically explore her environment, two of the ways that children learn.  If she doesn’t understand how a swing works, because she has never been on one, or if she doesn’t know what a can of soda contains, because she’s never drunk from one, does that mean she should be labelled with an intellectual disability?  That doesn’t seem right, but these experiential deficits could count against her on an intelligence test.

I used to tell myself that Chloe’s intelligence level didn’t matter.  Aside from the fact that I couldn’t exactly figure out what anyone meant by “intelligence,” there was the question of what she would be able to do with her intelligence.  What good are reading and math skills when a person can’t hold a book, or control a computer mouse?  I know there are adaptive devices out there, believe me, I know, but we haven’t yet found anything that allows Chloe to do these things independantly.  And if she must always rely on someone else, if she must always keep her thoughts to herself, does it really matter how interesting and complex those thoughts are?  It matters to her, of course, but for anyone else, it’s a secret, an unsolved mystery.  The most I could do, I figured, was try to keep exposing her to stimulating and challenging ideas, hoping to help her have a satisfying mental life, at least on the inside.

These days, however, Chloe is not keeping her thoughts to herself so much.  The more she is able to communicate, with her “talker,” with hand signals, with facial expressions and even words, the more she wants to tell us.  She can get across opinions on clothes, books, and activities, and, like I said at the beginning of this series of posts, she is able to choose between two cards and ace spelling tests.  If her motor skills continue to improve like this, we’ll be able to see more and more of what she knows, and fill in more and more of what she doesn’t know.  And we might uncover some learning problems, or perceptual difficulties.  But more importantly, I think we’ll discover, over and over again, that Chloe is a bright and fascinating little girl.

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One Response to “Cognition, part III”

  1. Marsha Says:

    Absolutely!!!!!! I LOvE this and I think kids with motor impairments are so often seen as intellectually impaired when really no one has tried, really tried to get it out of them. And when they DO, the results are amazing at what our kids know!!!!!! 🙂


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