WOW – Let’s Flashback, this post originally went live 5 years ago, November 2014. So much still applies, I’m reposting it.
Via Puppets in the Early Years
When Marcus was much younger, just beginning school, he used to form his hands into puppets and they would chatter away. Not all of it was understandable, but words slipped through. One of his early teachers suggested we discourage this, but we resisted. I felt then that if that’s how he wanted to process and share his world, so be it. Any communication device was fine by me. She was not a “roses are red” sort of teacher, so she agreed to help him understand social norms but not discourage the “puppets” overall. (Check out the video below, “Roses are red, my friend, and green leaves are green…”)
The next year, with a new teacher, the puppets told us a lot about what was happening in the classroom, some of it not too flattering to the teacher (not evil, just not optimal). I’m glad Marcus had this outlet to tell us, really show us, issues that needed to be addressed. (Another time he acted out a hilarious scenario, if you’d rather have a laugh, check this out.) Since then, the puppets have changed, and Marcus communicates much more effectively to us directly. But in the privacy of his own room, I often hear him yammering away. And there are variations on the puppet theme, strips of paper, or Pez®, in most cases.
Self-Talk as an Adult
I have written previously about Down syndrome and self-talk, a very common habit for adults with Ds. We saw one Ds specialist who suggested that if your child talks to himself while in public, consider the simple prop of a Bluetooth ear gadget, it’s no one’s business but his who is on the other end of the line. (Wink, wink) Marcus generally keeps the self-talk to the privacy of home or car, but he’ll move his lips and face with the “talk” though he’s silent. I try to help him to stay present instead with a touch of my hand or a comment, again, it’s the social norms that guide us there.
There have been a few occasions lately where parents of a child with Ds have expressed concern in a public forum about their children enjoying the seclusion of their imagination, of talking to themselves, and/or of an “overactive” imagination. There was talk in one group of medication and concerns for mental illness. I dared not weigh in. I do not know that person’s child, I only know my own. And my own does spend hours in his room, talking away with a wild and diverse cast, diverse roles for stage and screen. My own also revels, enjoys, and frankly excels with his creativity, neither he nor I want to medicate that away.
I’m not concerned, in fact, I’m jealous.
I mean really, where does it all come from? His mind races with matching characters together, what happens next, and inventive dialogue; artists should be so lucky. I’ve had occasion lately to describe to a new acquaintance or two, Marcus’ creative nature and how he manipulates character and dialogue so intuitively. I think it is in part because he has no inhibition, no editor scratching his ideas or saying “That’s crazy. Don’t imagine that situation. ” For example, the other night I heard him talking about a new reindeer lineup: lazy, nervous, scared, happy, even confused. (Which on this occasion he said as confuuuuused, heavy “u” emphasis.) What farce will become of this? Admittedly, some of his ideas no one would understand without a tab of LSD first. But some…Oh to corral!
I’d like to think that his story-telling skills are a combination of environmental encouragement and maybe a little genetic nudge from his momma. I’ll tell you one thing I’ve realized, if there is imagination in every chromosome perhaps that explainshow the people with Down syndrome I know have so much.
I SERIOUSLY want to find out what happens with those other reindeer!
And, yes, I do believe it’s the self-editor that he has made peace with while the rest of us feed it, give in to it, or give up.
Marcus will win.
I read some of your stories in here….touched my heart to no end. I have a daughter, 20 now, who was born with down syndrome. I relate to a HUGE amount of what you have felt, and discovered, on your beautiful journey with your son. I laughed and cried listening to your thoughts as your son grew up. I, too, deal with many of those things yet my life with my daughter is different, of course. We live in a very small “village/town” where I raised my daughter. I put her in school with high expectations but withdrew her from her school world to teach her here at home because they simply did not have the time or belief in the children that took extra time to learn. She did so well at home yet she still longs to see her friends and has kept a couple, now very distant though. I never put her in the “special olympics” or “special kids groups”. I thought I’d raise her to believe in herself as you have with your son. The problem that I did not realize until too late is that she realized the differences and instead of embracing them, she hated them. We work on that a lot now. She has an older sister that she looks to model and falls short of that goal every time. Her dreams are just like our dreams…….just like “their” dreams but I found myself not knowing how to answer them. I still do not know how to answer them. I tell her nothing can stop her yet she is stopped by much. At any rate, she LOVES stories and writing stories and together we’ve even managed to type a few up, though very short. : ) She works hard on them and then presents them to me to help her pull all the details together to a sensible story in which she absolutely takes all credit for and reads to everybody that visits. Her dream: ANIMATION. She loves acting and stories and singing (though she cannot hold a tune at all but she doesn’t care) but her very favorite is animation and dreams of animating a story one day. She has never had a job yet but we will venture out when the weather gets better and help her find a job. She is a very special girl and has a tremendous love for God and people. Her comprehension is much lower than that of a 20 year old yet her love and desire to help others feel better far outweighs that. At any rate, I just felt the need to stop in and give a bit of our story…. of HER story. Her name is Freedom Joy, btw and she has her own facebook page.
Hello, thank you. Thanks for reading and the note – but most of all thanks for introducing us to your daughter. I hope she continues creating stories and sharing them. Feel free to stop back and share her Facebook page, I will be happy to check it out. Every journey is unique, and your daughter is still discovering hers. All our best – Ms