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article imageOp-Ed: Downs Syndrome gamechanger as girl gets 6 GCSEs

By Paul Wallis     Aug 23, 2014 in Health
Sydney - Richard Dawkins antagonized a large group of people with a Tweet saying that a woman should abort a child with Downs Syndrome. An ongoing howl of protest arose, including a remarkable fact- A girl with the condition just got 6 GCSEs.
The girl’s achievement is no minor matter. Her enraged father has called Dawkins an “ignorant idiot” for his comments. As a matter of fact, medical science may be accused of the same thing, if this girl’s performance is any indication.
If Dawkins is guilty of anything other than ignoring sensitivities, it’s having too much faith in the logic of standard medical prognosis. The standard Downs Syndrome prognosis isn’t good. Mental disability is one of the prognoses. Physical performance and related complications are further issues. There’s quite a list of disabilities, most of which equate to handicap-level problems, including severe disability.
From Wikipedia:
Mental impairment 99%
Abnormal teeth 60%
Stunted growth 90%
Slanted eyes 60%
Umbilical hernia 90%
Shortened hands 60%[
Increased skin back of neck 80%
Short neck 60%
Low muscle tone 80%
Obstructive sleep apnea 60%
Narrow roof of mouth 76%
Bent fifth finger tip 57%
Flat head 75%
Large tongue 75%
Protruding tongue 47%
Abnormal outer ears 70%
Congenital heart disease 40%
The girl, Jessica Skelton, has thrown a very large spanner into the standard, thanks to her GCSEs.
The Mirror UK:
Jessica passed English literature, English Language, combined sciences, art, dance and performance and textiles all at E grade.
Tim, a head baker at Sainsbury's in Bournemouth, said: "She was disappointed because she had hoped for As and Bs but then she has such high expectations of herself - just like everyone else in life."
E grade is on a scale of A to G. It’s a mid range pass. The issue here, however, is the specific subjects:
English- Comprehension is a major issue for Downs Syndrome sufferers.
Combined Sciences- Ditto.
Art- Coordination is a standard problem of varying degrees.
Dance and performance- Ditto.
Textiles- Manual skills, not always a problem but known to occur.
In effect, this kid has killed six of the standard prognoses simultaneously. This condition is highly variable. One or two passes would be within standard prognostic norms for mild Downs Syndrome. Six, however, is statistically out of the ball park and well into the car park across teh road.
This kid has proven something.
The questions are now what, why and how?
One of the problems with Downs Syndrome is that the prognoses are typically so negative that expectations are always extremely low. Far too low, perhaps? The obvious fact is that Ms Skelton’s academic performance was quite clearly on a par with and in fact better, than more than a few “normal kids”.
(“Normal kids” – Hideous, stupid expression. What’s “normal” about any unique individual? Every child, and every human, is unique by definition. Individuals are their own norms. Science and society should remember that.)
Let’s not allow the furor over a remark to obscure the fact that the standard prognosis must now be questioned. Something went right, for a change, and a person diagnosed with Downs has achieved a major milestone.
Ms Skelton has changed the game for Downs. Her parents, her schools, and she herself have now outed a major anomaly in what is typically considered a “hopeless” condition. That’s far more important than a spat about a comment.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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