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Why I Loved It When a Girl Yelled at My Son With Down Syndrome

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There are some people who are just extra special and have “the gift.” I’m not one of them, at least not how I’m describing it.

Today, we had an 8-year-old friend of our son’s over. In the last two years, Wil hasn’t been invited to a birthday party or a sleepover, yet I know many kids his age are frequently enjoying these activities.

I understand. I get it. I don’t say this to make anyone reading this feel guilty. It’s simply our current reality.

Just the other day, I watched Wil play ball with a group of typically developing boys. They fully included him and encouraged him and were very patient with his slower reaction times in catching and throwing the ball. Wil has great hand-eye coordination and athletic ability, considering his low muscle tone and cognitive delays, but even so, among most typical second graders, the gap in abilities is clear. When Wil grew tired of the game and walked off on his own volition, I could see the sense of relief in the boys’ faces. They could again play at their own faster-paced level. Though each of the boys varied in ability in their very own way, the difference was not so great as with their friend with Down syndrome.

You may say, well, that’s a good lesson in patience and acceptance for those boys, and yes, I would agree it is. But, really, they’re 8 year olds. They just want to play. Didn’t you? I know I did.

So today, when Wil’s 8-year-old friend, Lila, who asked for this play date with him, came over, I was just as thrilled as Wil. She was not cajoled by her mother out of the act of kindness or charity. She simply — out of her own will like most typical 8-year-old kids — asked for a play date with her friend she enjoys spending time with.

I was also a little nervous. When she came over before, Wil’s two older sisters were here. This little girl is smart and definitely not lacking in confidence. She can easily hold her own with tight twin girls who are two years her senior. When you are 8, that two-year difference is a big deal, but not for her. When Wil had his stubborn moments, he could have a break while she played with his sisters.

Not today.

Wil’s sisters were with their Grandma and Grandpa Taylor on a fun swimming and boating day with another 10-year-old friend an hour away.

The play date started off well with a new introduction to toys then lunch. That part is easy for just about anyone. But Wil doesn’t speak on the same level as Lila does, and his favorite television shows are “Dora the Explorer” and “Doc McStuffins.” Kid stuff. Fine by her, we’ll just move on to something that doesn’t need an age limit. Let’s play Wil’s drums!

Boom, bang, cling! (Oh, yeah, the cymbals, too). Out came the recorder and whatever else I had in that music box. It was the happiest I’ve been as a mother of three in the midst of ear-shattering noise.

Then it was off to the hose and the slide that goes into the little pool. Splashing, spraying, laughing and squealing. Backyard hose fun is always equal playing ground. That is, until Wil sat at the top of the ladder and wouldn’t budge.

I have seen similar instances of this at the park. Wil has very little control over his environment. Everything and everyone moves so much faster than he does. So what would you do if you felt you had little control of your surroundings? If you could sit at the top of the slide and make everyone wait when they’re usually moving at warp speed ahead of you, wouldn’t you delight in making them wait? Just a little bit? So at the top of the slide, Wil sat, unbudging.

At the park, I see two types of reactions. Kids either “mother” and sweet talk Wil or they just wait until I come over and take care of the situation. Oh, but not this girl. This girl has “the gift.”

“Go down the slide, Wil!” She said it loudly and with authority. He gave her a look, saw that she meant it and down he went. I love it! She called his bluff!

You see, there is this delicate balance between being mean, being an enabler and understanding when someone is simply being a stinker.

She saw stinker and she called it — frank and to the point. The next moment, they were back to laughing and spraying each other with the hose.

It seems so simple and so typical from the outside looking in. But I’m on the inside now, and Wil is just not treated in that typical way, because, well, in some ways, he’s not typical, and people just don’t know what to do with that. So when I see something like this, I see it for the gift it is.

I’ve heard it said that everyone should have a child with special needs. And now I know exactly what they were talking about. I likely would never have appreciated a simple ride down the slide so completely or would have been fulfilled by something as common as a play date. The simple is just not so simple anymore. And I’m thankful for that realization.

I wasn’t born with “the gift.” And I think that is exactly why I believe I have been gifted with Wil. I would have missed so very much without him.

Christie Taylor the mighty.1-001

Follow this journey on Autobiographical Reflections.

Originally published: September 1, 2015
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