Lately, I've been struggling with Down syndrome. At 2 1/2, Eon has rockin' gross motor skills and does pretty well with self-feeding and other fine motor tasks. Speech, however, is a whole 'nother ball of wax.
He used to have words. Up to fifteen, in fact. I don't know where they go, but they're gone. We no longer hear, "gallup, gallup, gallup" when he wants up or "goggie" when he sees the family pet. We don't hear "ook" when he wants to be read to. Those words are just gone and they've not been replaced. He continues to sign and adds to his signing vocabulary almost daily, but he doesn't attempt to speak. He seems lost when asked to imitate sounds or words, too. It breaks my heart. There are so many choices and ideas when it comes to speech. So many things to try and so little time. I don't know where to put our focus because no one has done any research into best speech practices for our kids. What if we waste our time pursuing something that won't help and ignore something that will? I'm looking into prompt therapy, sight reading, augmentative communication, or stopping signing altogether in hopes it will encourage spoken words.
What he does do when he's excited, frustrated, bored, hungry, feeling left out, or any other emotion is yell, "MOOOOOOOOW!" often repeatedly. Shushing him doesn't help. Whispering back doesn't make him stop. Telling him a firm, "NO" doesn't work, either. Honestly, it sounds a lot like a large, distressed cow. And it makes me cringe. He sounds very much like a person with special needs.
My reaction reveals a lot about me. It uncovers a boat load of pride and prejudice which have nothing to do with the classic novel. I'm embarrassed that my son makes noises that draw attention to him and the rest of us. I'm ashamed that I'm embarrassed. I'm frustrated because I don't know how to make him stop. I'm mortified that it reveals a prejudice about me. Why is it so important to me that he sound "normal"? Why do the looks of pity or irritation that we receive bother me so much? How can I expect other people to accept him, when I'm struggling to accept him, myself?
And then it occurs to me. I have had the occasion to parent a 2 year-old five other times. They have all been really good at being two. I have not enjoyed my outings with them. Their behavior was obnoxious and often mortifying. They were unpredictable and made me question my parenting skills. They caused people to stare with their tantrums. I received looks of pity and irritation. I was embarrassed.
Why should my experience with Eon be any different? Have I bought into the myth that people with Down syndrome are all "so happy"? Or did he just spoil me by being such a good baby? Why do I insist on making everything about Down syndrome?
Maybe, Eon's just 2...and he's really, really good at it.