When I write about homeschooling and mention that all my children have pursued their own interests, I do mean ALL of them, even my youngest, who has Down syndrome.
I remember the social worker who told me, shortly after his birth, that he would watch his older siblings do things, but because of his innate lack of curiosity he wouldn’t do much himself. In fact, she actually said he would “watch the world go by.” As an involved parent with several years of childrearing under her belt, I found that very depressing.
Fortunately, it turned out to be wrong. In fact, by the time he was two or three, the family joke was that we were going to take him back to her office and let him loose so he could take the place apart as he did our house. Maybe then she would stop depressing other parents with her outlook.
The fact is that our son has plenty of curiosity. He expressed it physically far earlier than verbally. He was still pretty young when he began climbing into the refrigerator and the oven. He often narrowly avoided catastrophe when attempting to surf down the stairs or taste electrical cords. I once caught him trying to nuke his brother’s watch in the microwave. He was nothing if not intrepid.
These days he’s a young man. We’re no longer “doing school” as we did for so many years, but he manages to keep busy and most importantly, he pursues his interests. His days often begin with singing; this morning he burst into song along with Joseph in one of his favorite movies, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” He sings with all the fervor (if not the enunciation) of a Broadway star. It’s a pleasure to hear him.
He also has his own ideas about getting exercise. While I coax him on occasional walks, and his dad takes him bowling every week, he loves to take time out from his day to dance along with the “High School Musical” gang. I think he must know all the dance numbers by heart now, and he works up a sweat trying to imitate the dancers perfectly. Most of the time he does this with his door shut, but occasionally he requires an audience and whoever happens to be at home obliges. It’s always a good time.
He also likes to work out, and will occasionally take over the hallway to see if he can top his record of push-ups or sit-ups. He has a favorite barbell he uses to work on his biceps, which he flexes for anyone who asks (or even if they don’t).
He has other interests, including his latest, using Skype with his big brother and infant nephew. Last week he tried Skyping with his best friend, who also has Down syndrome. Those guys had a great time.
He’s so busy pursuing his interests that he often doesn’t want to stop in order to go with me to the grocery (where he mans the cart and does the scanning) or on other errands. He usually lets me know I’m interrupting his day before giving in and coming with me. But as soon as we get home, he goes back to what he was doing before I dragged him away from it.
Other people don’t understand this. They ask me why he isn’t in a sheltered workshop or bagging groceries somewhere. Seriously, I don’t think he has the time!