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When People Say My Son With Down Syndrome 'Can't' Do Something

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How often does someone tell you that your child can’t do something? How often are other people the biggest barrier your child faces when trying something new?

Our oldest son, Robert, is 5 years old. In his short time on this earth, he has shown us that he will not be limited by what others think he is capable of doing. He will overcome barriers and forge his own path.

Lately, we’ve seen Robert succeed and excel at a variety of things. For example, his speech is outstanding — so much so that Google understands him!

If that last bit makes you wonder “well, why wouldn’t Google understand him?” I urge you to check out the current campaign Google is running in partnership with the Canadian Down Syndrome Society.

He is friendly, social and very observant.

He also recently began playing the violin. We’ve heard people say that he won’t be able to. That he can’t. Not because he is too young. Not because he isn’t musical (he is). But simply because he has Down syndrome.

His greatest barrier, it seems, is other people’s preconceived notions of his abilities.

What surprised me most about this barrier was not that people have preconceived notions — after all, what am I advocating for if not to change that perception? It’s people’s doubts even though it’s proven music is one of the best therapies. And I don’t mean only music therapy (which is given by a highly trained professional), I am also referring to music lessons. Music lessons provide children with disabilities, children like Robert, the ability to increase their self-esteem. It has been proven that music lessons improve hand-eye coordination, memory, cognitive development and muscle development. It has proven effects, and yet that barrier exists within the arts community.

With the help of his grandparents, we signed him up for private violin lessons (with an incredible teacher) and enrolled him into a string school. Twice a week he goes to his instructor’s studio for short violin lessons. These lessons are intentionally kept to a shorter length to reflect the attention span of a 5-year-old.

At string school, he sits among his peers once a week to learn the ins and outs of music and violin from talented teachers. The classrooms are welcoming, the teachers are engaging and supportive, and Robert is thriving.

We will help him break down those barriers, one ability at a time.

Originally published: January 27, 2020
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