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How My Son With Down Syndrome Helps Me See Simple Things in New Ways

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Bubbles are a big deal at our house. My son’s speech therapist showed us how much they could do to help.

He would do anything for these glorious rainbow soap spheres.

We’ve used them to help him say the “b” sound, reinforced by bubble blowing: say “bubble,” say “more,” and eventually, “more bubbles.” Then by telling us if he wanted them to go “up high” or “down low.” Practicing the lip control and airflow control to blow them himself. Standing, taking a couple of steps, walking across a room — you name it.

Shortly after his sister could walk, she knew she could make her brother happy by going to the cabinet and getting the bubbles.

The one thing we could never get him to do is pop them mid-air. While other kids frantically chased after them, popping in stride, he watched them with the most euphoric look on his face; every muscle in his body tightened with intense focus. The only way he would pop them is if they landed on the floor or ground, where I imagine he felt their journeys were complete.

The other day, I tried to see bubbles like he sees them. I tried to look at them with his astute eye and intense focus, letting the rest of the world fall away.

I saw the reflections of the windows drawing in the sunlight, interspersed with effervescent rainbows.

I saw the images of myself and my kids, amusingly distorted in the lighthearted way only a bubble can create.

I saw bubbles that merged together, joining forces as they traveled whimsically toward their next adventure.

I watched them in their unpredictable paths, changing with someone’s breath or laughter or a quick wave of the arm.

I believe he sees much more than that.

Why would anyone want to pop them?

Perhaps it’s his way — seeing and feeling things on a different wavelength.

Perhaps it’s why when we pray, he doesn’t want to stop.

Perhaps it’s why getting out icons of saints is the first thing he does each morning.

Perhaps it’s why he reads my emotions like a book, oftentimes before I do.

Perhaps it’s why when we think he’s paying the least attention, he shows us he hasn’t missed a beat.

It’s a gift.

And sometimes, on hard days, when there’s a royal meltdown when the bubble container closes, I wonder if it is a gift. I know many, including myself sometimes, would call his interaction with bubbles a stim.

And I wonder if as his body heals and he gains more knowledge and skills, he starts to treat bubbles the way others would — a game — rather than a mystery.

I will embrace whatever comes, as it does. But I am grateful for the chance to view the simple things in new, beautiful ways.

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Originally published: November 30, 2017
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