Friday, April 8, 2011
Play With Me
A few days ago Gabe came to me and asked, "Play puzzles?"
I took the puzzles down from the shelf, set them down on the rug and said, "I'll put them right here."
He sat next to them with a huge smile, patted the rug next to him and said, "Mama, you sit right here."
Gabe wants what every child wants, for Mama to play with him. If I put the puzzles down and go on with my work he just scatters the pieces and looks for mischief. But, if I sit down and play with him he matches the colors, names the shapes, finds the numbers, counts the pieces, and plays every game I throw at him.
Gabe can accomplish things with his puzzles when I'm by his side that he won't even begin when he's alone. He thrives on the encouragement and the cheers.
But it's not that way with everything. He'll shoot and dribble a basketball all on his own for hours (really) because he just loves it. He loves it when we cheer for him, but he doesn't need it because he loves to play basketball.
I was told once that a child with Down syndrome has to hear or see something a thousand times before he "gets it". I wonder who came up with that nonsense. I think, just like anyone else, a child with Down syndrome catches on to things quickly when they want to catch on and slowly when they don't. It's true, most things take longer and the learning process is slower. But, a thousand times?!
I could almost believe that if I had a narrow focus on Gabe's life. Maybe if I was a therapist who saw him once a week in a little room and analysed that tiny slice of his life I could think that. Or even if I just looked at the time we've spent working on colors I could think that.
I had just about decided Gabe was color blind when he finally started matching colors a year ago. Since then we've worked on naming nine colors on his fish puzzle almost daily. He knows black, white, and pink. He's probably had many thousands of color lessons but he's not getting it.
I think Gabe just doesn't really care. He's not interested in naming colors. It doesn't matter to him.
Three years ago I read a book to him in our church nursery that had a rabbit in it. I named the rabbit and made the sign for rabbit. When I read through the book a second time Gabe signed 'rabbit' when we got to the rabbit page. I was surprised (we were 999 short of the necessary repetitions).
A week later I read the book to Gabe again and on the rabbit page he got very excited and signed 'rabbit'. So much for the thousand theory.
So I'm not repeating the puzzle lessons because I want to drill color facts into Gabe. I know he'll get it when he's ready and wants to get it. I do the puzzles with Gabe because he likes to be with me and show me what he knows and have me clap for him and hug him when he matches the pieces.
One day he'll know the names of the colors, but every day he'll know I love him.