Why I’m Buying Brain Hats for Both My Daughters- Including the One with Down Syndrome


I will admit that I was kind of meh on the whole pussy hat thing, but as soon as a post about the brain hat popped up on Facebook I was all over Etsy, looking for someone to make me three. One for me, one for my daughter, Annabelle, and one for my other daughter, Sophie.

Not long after, I heard that there was heated discussion on some other feeds about how these hats are “ableist,” that they celebrate and value intellectual capabilities in a way that’s insulting to people with intellectual disabilities.

That is completely ridiculous.

I will admit that I kind of gasped when I read it, because it hadn’t occurred to me AT ALL, not for one minute, that the brain hat  was in any way insulting (either by design or by accident) to Sophie, who has Down syndrome.

True, depending on the test results (I’ve got a pile of them) Sophie’s IQ ranges from the mid 50s to the mid 80s. The NIH (if it even still exists by then) will likely not be calling Sophie to head an important research project any time soon. (More likely to be a guinea pig in one.)

But I don’t know anyone who uses her brain more. I imagine that in a lot of ways, because of her chromosomal challenges, life for Sophie can be like running through a life-sized bowl of Jello. I’ll tell you what — she gets there, and often more quickly than others among us who don’t have a good excuse.

I mean, I suppose your brain hat can mean whatever you want it to, and maybe you will wear one because you have an IQ of 180 and you don’t want me to sit at your table at the local coffee shop (by the way, that has happened to me — there’s a MENSA meeting at the community table at one of my favorite coffee haunts every Wednesday afternoon and I’m constantly forgetting and getting booted from the table) but for me, this is about using what you’ve got.

And right about now, we better all be doing that.

Further, what better time than right now to celebrate the truly big brains among us, the keepers and finders of the concrete realities — the scientists, mathematicians and others who don’t have time for alternative facts because they’ve got real ones to back them up. I’m cool with both my daughters looking to these people as role models and heroes.

Finally, if we are going to waste our energy fighting over brain hats, we really are in trouble. Not very smart.

Amy Silverman

Amy Silverman is a writer, editor, teacher and — most important — mother. Her daughter Sophie has Down syndrome. Sophie is 13 and fully mainstreamed in the eighth grade in a public school in Tempe, Arizona, where she lives with Amy, her father Ray and big sister Annabelle, 15. Sophie is a cheerleader — both at school and with Special Olympics. She also studies ballet and drama and has appeared in performances with Center Dance Ensemble and Detour Company Theatre. 

For many years, Amy has explored what it means to have Down syndrome in the 21st Century on her blog, girlinapartyhat.com. Amy has also written about Sophie (and a lot of other things) for New Times, the alternative newsweekly in Phoenix, where she is managing editor. In addition, Amy’s a contributor to KJZZ, the National Public Radio affiliate in Phoenix, and her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life, in the New York Times, Washington Post, salon.com and many other places. She co-teaches the long running workshop Mothers Who Write and co-curates a live reading series, Bar Flies, both in Phoenix. Amy’s first book, “My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome,” was published in Spring 2016 by Woodbine House. To learn more, visit myheartcantevenbelieveit.com