Tag Archives: cognitive processing

Hmmm… think, think, think.

If you ask my youngest daughter a question, her answer will almost always be “NO”. It doesn’t matter what the topic is or even if you’ve asked a yes/no question. Do you want more? What’s your name? Do you want ice cream? Is Daddy right? (This is a very convenient way for me to recruit a supporter on whatever issue we happen to be discussing.)

Lately she’s upped the ante – now she prefers to shout “NO WAY!” It was cute… the first 300 times. Now, not so much. The problem isn’t stubborness (although she certainly is). The problem isn’t intelligence, as she is quite bright. The problem is slower cognitive processing.

If I were to ask you a question – it would take approximately 3 seconds for you to hear what I’ve said, process the meaning of it, formulate a response and signal the muscles in your body to respond appropriately. Some studies have shown that most people with Down Syndrome take about 45 seconds to do the same.

Now, on paper that doesn’t seem like much, but if you actually count it out – it is a socially unacceptable lag. In a world that moves so quickly, she is constantly bombarded with questions or requests. Not only does it take her longer to understand, but when she actually does respond often people can’t understand what she’s saying. So, the “NO WAY!” reflex was born.

A strategy we are using to try to counteract this habit is saying “Hmmmmmmm!” while tapping her finger on her mouth. It’s a thinking sound and hopefully communicates that she has heard what is asked, but needs some time to process it. We got the idea from our favourite bear with a potty nickname.

I don’t have this problem – in fact, I often speak without thinking. I’m pretty sure this habit of mine causes even more trouble than the “NO WAY!” reflex. I’ve decided that I need to use the “Hmmmmmm” method myself.

I often commit to doing things – without thinking. I express my frustration with my kids – without thinking. I vent whatever emotion I am feeling on my husband – without thinking. I make plans, I share information, I give permission, I jump into the gossip session… all without thinking.

One of my favorite ridiculously-obvious-statement-laced-with-deeper-meaning verses is this:

“But your yes is to be yes and your no, no.” (James 5:12)

In other words, say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t open your mouth if you haven’t got something worthwhile to say. Even if you have to take an extra 45 seconds to hum about it.

So here’s me, learning to think, think, think.


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