I was tired today and I was having a hard time starting a new post, so I begged on Facebook for an idea...My friend G suggested this: "As a non-label (nothing is "normal") parent - how 'bout relating with downs children. One thing we should or shouldn't do ...."
This actually started a flood in my brain, so it will wind up in multiple parts, I think...
Part One: Something you should know about my child with Downs?
DO NOT underestimate her (or any of her chromosomally enhanced peers!). Even if Elise has VERY low verbal skills it does not mean she doesn't know an easy mark when she sees them. I wrote a little about this last year HERE. And I mentioned in passing, at the beginning of the school year, that Elise was hazing her new para-pro...seeing if she would stand strong or if she was a "waffler". Elise will respect you if you stand strong, if you waffle, even once, you will be pushed on that issue again, over and over.
Elise has a 2-3 year old vocabulary. The internal workings of her mind are significantly higher than that. But a lot of people assume that because she is so low in one area, she is in all. Some of her friends are on level in Speech, but struggle physically. Some folks with Downs function extremely highly, but their pronunciation clouds people's view of them.
Please treat her (and all of her peers) the same as anyone her age, until you are told of a deficit or you run up against one. DO NOT assume that she cannot understand. DO NOT assume that she cannot be reasoned with. DO NOT assume that she cannot be disciplined. DO NOT assume that she won't get her feelings hurt. DO NOT ignore her. DO NOT teach your children to ignore her or take advantage of her.
Please speak to her as neuro-typical child. PLEASE do not speak more loudly to her as if your loudness will make her speech stronger or your meaning more clear.
I can tell you story after story from friends, my mother (a school diagnostician), my sister-in-law (who did job placements for adults with disabilities), the kids I taught in my previous life/career as a teacher, and my own child...of children who decided that they were done taking tests/doing work and started answering questions wrong, ON PURPOSE, so they could quit. Stories of children and adults who could vomit at will to get out of work and tests. Stories of children and adults who would fake limps, heachaches, and various ailments to get out of activities that didn't like for a myriad of reasons...
These are "normal people" who know how to get what they want...and make you believe what they want you to. This is not a subclass of humans that are foreign to you. They are JUST LIKE YOU. Sometimes they are just on a different time-line. But that doesn't mean they don't think like you, feel like you, and want the same things as you do. So treat them the way you want to be treated. The Golden Rule still applies. Seriously.