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.