What does my Down syndrome son know of achievement?  It’s a fair question since he doesn’t speak words that communicate his feelings and he turns away for the most part if anyone tries to shine a spotlight on him.  He hasn’t had many opportunities to have applause showered on him, but he knows what it feels like. And he knows it feels good – – otherwise why would he watch the video over and over of himself walking through high school commencement with all of us cheering?

It is true that his understanding of such events might be incomplete, like his friend at a Special Olympics swim meet who insisted she get the red ribbon instead of the blue even though she won the race.  Blue may have meant first place to the rest of us but apparently to her the best prize wasn’t the “place” written on it, but her preferred color of ribbon.  

blue ribbons

Blue Ribbons for awesome art.

Winning and losing don’t have much meaning to my son either.  A celebration honoring someone else takes nothing at all away from his feeling celebrated when his turn comes.  So though he would never feel that one person is “more” or another “less”, his heart does get a lift when persons react as though he’s done something special.  

There comes a light in his eyes when he feels praised or singled out in a group.  And he can relive it and feel good, but only if there’s video!  His feelings of success or achievement are just a flash on the movie screen of his life.  But the good news is that failures don’t last very long either.  

There’s a poem by a woman who has also raised a Down syndrome son and who is an award winning children’s author.  It explains a range of emotions she has witnessed.  It rings true and makes me smile when I read it.  I hope it will for you too.

LIKE ME by Emily Kingsley

I went to my dad and I said to him,

There’s a new kid who’s come to my school.

He’s different from me and he isn’t too cool.

No, he’s nothing at all like me, like me,

No, he’s nothing at all like me.

 

He runs in a funnyish jerkyish way,

And he never comes first in a race.

Sometimes he forgets which way is first base,

And he’s nothing at all like me, like me,

No, he’s nothing at all like me.

 

My Sweet boy and his award certificate.

My Sweet boy and his award certificate.

He studies all day in a separate class,

And they say that it’s called “Special Ed.”

And sometimes I don’t understand what he’s said,

And he’s nothing at all like me, like me,

No, he’s nothing at all like me.

 

His face looks kind of different from mine,

And his talking is sometimes so slow.

And it makes me feel funny and there’s one thing I know;

And he’s nothing at all like me, like me,

No, he’s nothing at all like me.

 

And my father said, “Son, I want you to think

When you meet someone different and new

That he may seem a little bit strange, it’s true,

But he’s not very different from you, from you,

No, he’s not very different from you.

 

Well I guess, I admitted, I’ve looked at his face;

When he’s left out of games, he feels bad.

And when other kids tease him, I can see he’s so sad.

I guess that’s not so different from me, from me,

No, that’s not very different from me.

 

And when we’re in Music, he sure loves to sing,

And he sings just like me, right out loud.

When he gets his report card, I can tell he feels proud,

And that’s not very different from me, from me,

No, that’s not very different from me.

 

And I know in the lunchroom he has lots of fun;

He loves hot dogs and ice cream and fries.

And he hates to eat spinach and that’s not a surprise,

‘Cause that’s not very different from me, from me,

No, that’s not very different from me.

 

And he’s always so friendly, he always says hi,

And he waves and he calls out my name.

And he’d like to be friends and get into a game,

Which is not very different from me, from me,

No, I guess that’s not different from me.

 

And his folks really love him. I saw them at school,

I remember on Open School Night –

They were smiling and proud and they hugged him real tight,

And that’s not very different from me, from me,

No, that’s not very different from me.

Down Syndrome Days might be different but still sweet

To read more of Jane’s articles, click the picture.

So I said to my dad, Hey, you know that new kid?

Well I’ve really been thinking a lot.

Some things are different . . . and some things are not . . .

But mostly he’s really like me, like me,

Yes, my new friend’s . . . a lot . . . like me.

 

About Jane Thurston

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