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Social Skills for Disabilities

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Social Skills for Disabilities
Since graduation passed for my son, I thought back to the day when my brother, who is now 45 years old, graduated from his class.  The day was one of great celebration because he was born when society didn't know the potential of those with Down syndrome.  Children were often put in institutions.  As I reflect back, I was a big sister who was a naive and oblivious to society's perspective of culture back then.  Years later, I had have many conversations with people who informed me of the devastation and shame that went with having a child with a disability.  Often, parents would be apologetic about a child and say the child wasn't right.  However, parents had a choice how to respond to having a child with a disability.  
When I was out in the teaching profession, I attended my brother's graduation.  By this time in my life, I understood the significance of such achievement and accomplishment for him.  The teachers and staff would always r…

Boy with Autism teaches me

This week has been a huge learning experience for me.  I am leading a class for vacation Bible school at our church, and I have 21 students.  I take these young children around to different stations such as crafts, Bible time, games, snacks, and music.  I have one student who has autism.  I have been learning about this young boy, but I do know from my education background that not all children with the same disability fit neatly into a box.  Each person with autism is an individual with specific abilities and strengths.  However, I wanted to share what I learned and what worked for me.

1. I learned Tim (I changed his name for privacy) is very observant and hangs back as the large group is doing a music activity.  I encourage him to join, and he stays nearby but distant.  He takes in everything that is going on.  When he didn't want to participate, I asked him to let me know if the children were doing what they were supposed to do and report back to me.  Tim let me know everything…

Graduation Day

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Above:  My brother's graduation over 25 years ago.
Graduation Day
My son graduated today with high honors for academics.  He is the first one of my two children to graduate and go off to college to study engineering in three months.  People ask how I am feeling.  I tell them I am so happy for my son that I'm not sad yet.  Perhaps, the day he leaves for college, I will feel differently.  However, I'm so thrilled to see him develop his gifts and talents and pursue his dreams.  He may have detours to his goals, but he is ready to conquer those academic pursuits.  How can I be sad about that?  I didn't raise him to selfishly keep him with me forever.  It has been an exciting journey watching him become his own person. 
This graduation reminded me of one over 25 years ago.  My younger brother received a diploma at his high school graduation.  The day he walked in with the other seniors who he had been friends with since kindergarten was so momentous.  He walked down the ais…

First Cow for Brother

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My brother was about six years old when Dad gifted him with a Brahma heifer to call his very own.  This cow was a bit spirited from surviving a tornado at a neighboring community.  My brother had a patient calmness about him and gradually tamed this new addition to the farm.  The cow became gentle enough to get a hug and eventually my brother put a cowboy hat on her head.  She didn't flinch as long as he was there hugging her.  

This first cow created a passion and love for animals and the farm for my brother.  He felt so vivacious about farm work and learned so much.  The fresh air and open spaces of the rural Midwest enticed my brother to yearn for adulthood on the farm.  He was determined at a young age to grow his own herd, and he began by keeping the heifers his first cow birthed.

At 45 years old, he has his own herd of cows, and every one of them is a descendant of the first cow he had at six years old.  He makes this his business by feeding them, checking for births in th…

Young Life with a Brother with Down Syndrome

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At a young age, I learned to be a responsible person.  The instinct to be a protective sister came naturally.  How could I not?  The love of a baby, in my case a younger brother, came so natural.  I couldn't imagine anyone not loving or adoring this small person.  At this time, I didn't know he had Down syndrome, but it didn't matter.  I think I was too young to understand what this even meant, and society wasn't open to those with disabilities during this time.  
My older brother and I sang, talked, played, and made goofy faces with our younger brother. We loved it when we could get a grin.  He was easy to entertain, and we found him a source of amusement.  How could anyone see this child as someone who doesn't belong in society?  I later learned society generally possessed that attitude.  When my Mom and Dad first held him, they saw a beautiful child whom they immediately loved.  An institution wasn't an option.  
Yes, it was difficult and a big concern of w…

Chronic Climber

After my brother was born, we soon learned he was a happy, vivacious child.  He was alert and quite the climber.  Before he could even walk, he climbed everything.  Mom would be out in the kitchen preparing food for Dad and the hired man when my brother would crawl out to the kitchen and pull himself up on the counter of the cupboards.  He was quite resourceful when he learned if he couldn't climb something, he pushed a chair up to where he wanted to be.

We had two chairs in front of the steep stairway with a beautiful wood banister.  My brother thought it was a game to go upstairs and be chased.  With the chairs in front of the banister, he was unable to take off and go up those stairs.  Guess what he did?  He climbed up on the chair in front of the stairway and swung his body over the banister and sped up the stairs.  He was already at the top and quickly crawling to the rooms before anyone noticed.  

Okay, okay.  You may be thinking of the obvious solution of perhaps having a sa…

Younger brother creates big change in family.

Some of you may have seen my post about the day my brother was born and how proud I was of having a baby brother. I immediately took the role of a "little mom" at five years old.  I coddled him and spoiled him with attention.  He had the brightest red hair and big blue eyes.  He was a small baby- less than 7 pounds.  As a child, my older brother and I didn't know that grief that my parents were experiencing.  They found out that this beautiful child of theirs had Down syndrome.  
This was during the 1970s when many children with severe disabilities went straight to institutions or were kept isolated at home because it wasn't typical to see people with disabilities acclimated into society like we see today. My parents didn't even know what Down syndrome meant, but the words, "Your child has mental retardation," caused much grief.  All the hopes and dreams we all have for a healthy, normal baby were shattered.  Society's skepticism and stereotypes of …