What does my Down syndrome son do with his time? I am so accustomed to his routine now that it just occurred to me that the way my son spends his time might seem remarkable to other people. Virtually every minute of every day when he is at home he is positioned in what has become his personal domain, and which used to be our family room. Most specifically he is at a self-styled artist work station consisting of a desk, computer, office chair and every pencil/pen/or crayon he can find, along with reams of paper and an industrial package of tape. In other words, he spends his time creating.
He’s always been like other children in producing child-like drawings but over the years, though still with child-like subject matter, his skill level has improved measurably.
He has also gone through many phases in his artwork. There was a time when everything was done in pencil and his hands were constantly covered in graphite. (Is that what’s in the lead of a pencil?) There was a phase where he would cut out pictures from coloring books and tape them onto his own paper and then color a scene around them.
You can learn a lot about what is going on in a person’s mind by taking note of their artwork because it tells you what they see. So when we noticed in one drawing that there seemed to be a lot of detail we wouldn’t have guessed he would have in his mind we started looking at his work a little more closely. We suddenly realized that the bear in the sketch looked very familiar and looking around the house we found a stuffed bear that he must surely have used as a model.
What a shock! We began to grasp that he had a terrific ability to recreate on paper whatever he could study carefully. Side-by-side he will look intently at a picture or object and then draw a quarter inch mark on his paper. Going back and forth he will do this over and over again until he has made an incredible duplicate keeping proportions and scale precisely.
In a later phase it turned out that Joey was making 3 dimensional figures out of pictures he liked by using small pieces of paper taped and colored and overlapped until really his paper sculptures were pretty spectacular.
The body of work he has produced is stunning. He will work in a genre for weeks or months and then one day we will notice he has moved on to something new. His obsession with Pokémon has shown up in many of the different phases. This bag contained literally hundreds of Pokémon cards that he had made until he couldn’t stuff any more in. Each one was carefully crafted after an actual Pokémon card and this bag went everywhere with him for a very long time. It broke our hearts when he had moved on and we had to throw most of them away – I kept a representative sample, but we just can’t keep everything!
The current trend is for Joey to tape 8 ½ by 11 pieces of paper together and then draw Pokémon in various stages of development. (Apparently some cards have a ¼ inch circle depicting the creature in its infancy and he uses that and the bigger picture on the card to make his drawings.) He pointed out to us that the arrows indicate the progression.
His inventiveness is so clever! The variety in his work is so fun! But one thing that runs in and through all the years and all the iterations of the things he draws and makes is something that comes from his own mind. When his drawings are not reproducing what is next to him, but are from his own imagination the faces on his creations are always so very cheerful!
(Won a ribbon at the 2007 county fair for this one!)
It makes me happy that this is how he sees the world. It’s not a very active avocation but it is one that helps us get to know him. What a delight it is for us to see this God-given talent express itself!
I want my boy to be happy . . . and apparently he is. In his own space, doing his own thing, he is meeting the measure of his gift and finding joy. There is nothing greater that we could wish for him!