Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Down Syndrome Awareness...in case you hadn't noticed

I received a comment yesterday from Leah, another Reece's Rainbow mom. I'll get back to her comment after I take a moment for a public service announcement:

Leah is having an iPad giveaway on one of her blogs right now in order to raise money for BOTH the children they are adopting! They are going to Eastern Europe to adopt an older boy with Down syndrome and an older girl with a craniofacial syndrome, I believe. All donations to the giveaway are tax-deductible, by the way, and go straight to Reece's Rainbow, which holds the money in trust until shortly before they travel. Come to think, it won't be held in trust for long because it won't be long until they travel.

Back to my regularly scheduled post...Leah pointed out that her husband has not always known exactly what Down syndrome was (until he met her and her then 7 year old daughter). I tend to forget that not everyone has the same exposure that most people I know have had. I don't know why I wouldn't remember, however, considering what happened one Sunday night a couple of years ago....

I received a phone call from a man who identified himself as Ella's Sunday school teacher. He said he was calling to see if I could help him help her more effectively in Sunday. I was thrilled! How wonderfully proactive! "Sure!" I told him. "How can I help?"

"Well..." He proceeded to tell me that Ella was very frustrating to him. Just that morning, in fact, he had handed her an open bottle of glue and told her to make a thin line of glue on top of the lines on her paper. (Inside I'm screaming, "You gave Ella a bottle of glue! You gave a class of 4 year olds a bottle of glue?") To his horror, all she had done was bang the orange tip of the glue on the paper and make a big mess so he went ahead and made the glue lines for her. He then instructed her to take pieces of yarn and lay them directly on the glue lines and she wouldn't do that properly, either.

(I was, for the most part, rendered speechless.)

He went on to ask when I thought Ella was going to start talking. My voice returned and I told him that I assumed she would do so eventually, as her sister Vera who had Down syndrome and was adopted from Russia had not spoken much at all when we adopted her but speak quite a bit now.

The conversation vacillated between his frustration and her lack of speech for 30 minutes, with me answering his every question with uncharacteristic patience. Finally, he landed on the speech issue one last time. I answered it differently this time, saying that it was very unusual for a person with Down syndrome to never speak at all and I was sure that Ella would learn to speak.

Pause. Pause.

"Ella has Down syndrome?"

I have to admit I fell out laughing and said, "Well, no wonder you were frustrated!" We had to end the conversation quickly thereafter because I just couldn't stop laughing and I honestly didn't want to make him feel worse than I assume he already did.

Just so no one thinks I am trying to bash churches, let me tell you what I saw when I came to pick her up from Sunday school the next week (John was normally the person who took her to the nursery and picked her up but he was gone that week.) I saw this man's wife with Ella on her lap, both playing the piano and singing up a storm. It was precious! They just didn't know. Once they knew, their whole attitude changed. Information is a powerful thing.

So thank you, Leah, for the reminder that we actually do need Down syndrome awareness month for some people. In fact, I think we may need them for some of Ella's current teachers, who recently remarked how special it was that her class had two sets of twins. I teach in that class one Sunday a month, and there are only two sibling sets in it: a set of boy/girl twins, and Ella and Dean. All I can say is that it must have been some pregnancy and birth, what with having Ella in Colombia in August and Dean in China in November. Pretty impressive, huh?

So close!


Anonymous said...

I had not heard this story before, and when I got to the end, I could not stop laughing. Ella and Dean being twins? Too funny.


Leah said...

Hey, thanks for posting about the give away! We're very excited to get Axel home, and leave in just 34 more days! Wow. So about that teacher....goodness, sometimes all you can do is laugh, because if you don't you're going to beat your head against the wall! LOL

Amy L said...

Now, that's a good story! And very funny too. I love the way his wife had Ella on her lap when you went to pick her up. How sweet is that?!:)

Charissa said...

Great story!

Shelley said...

Oh my goodness...poor guy!!!! I would have been laughing too!

As for the twins...I understand! I also have "twins". One was born in Bulgaria in January and the other in Serbia in July. It was a very long labor ;)

Sheila said...

I like to say that they are 8 years old - Caeli was born in May and Lera in September, just to watch the expression on their faces as they attempt to figure it out...my big girls both really do look like mama. :)