In this challenge to blog for 31 days straight to recognize Down syndrome, I would like to address a myth about people with Down syndrome. I remember when my son was tiny and his tongue seemed way too long and too large and it poked out of his mouth. The more he got the feeding thing down, the more it seemed to retract. Hmm.
Many years later, we were speaking with his pediatric dentist, who was very good at what he did. He was commenting on the things in N’s mouth that were similar to and different from those of his other patients with Down syndrome. Then, he mentioned the size of the mouth. He said it is often a challenge to work on patients who have Down syndrome because their mouths tend to be so tiny. He also informed me that this is why the tongue often protrudes.
Well. Did you think, as I did, that it was because the tongue was too large for the mouth? Au contraire! The oral cavity is too small for the tongue. How about that? It is also common for patients with Down syndrome to have more ear infections. Likewise, this can often be because the Eustachian tube is so tiny that any fluid that gets in has nowhere to go. The ear canals are small, too.
There is our little lesson. Today, there seems to be so much therapy early on that feeding, OT, and speech work can teach the (normal size) tongue to retract. Considering that the tongue may also be affected by low muscle tone, that is an admirable feat—to learn to stay put in a very small space!