One of the challenges of Down syndrome?
My daughter doesn't understand social boundaries. She doesn't pick up on body or verbal cues that tell us when a behavior is welcome or not. Her IEP has a Behavior Plan that will address this, but that IEP will not help me this summer. As a mom, I am not quite sure how to handle things - such as what happened yesterday.
At the neighborhood pool, The Love Magnet found another little girl wearing the same swimsuit that she was. The two little girls were excited to see that they looked like twins. However, the novelty of discovery soon wore off for the other little girl.....but not for my daughter.
"You have my swimsuit!", my daughter repeated over and over, sometimes stumbling over the syllables. She threw an arm around the little girl and yelled across the pool "MOM! She have my swimsuit! My new best friend!" This was announced over and over. The other girl tried to swim away but couldn't release the grip of The Love Magnet. Every time my daughter would yell her happiness to anyone who would listen, her new friend would say with exasperation "You already said that!"
I have to honestly admit, as a Mom, that the whole scene was hard for me to watch. I didn't want to intervene, after all, my daughter needs to have the social experience. I am thrilled when she makes new friends. But as I watched this happen, the other girl's facial expressions melted from excitement to annoyance. After a bit it was clear that she knew something was different about my daughter. She would have left if it weren't for The Love Magnet's head-lock. I waded into the kiddie pool to ask my daughter to come out and warm up a bit (I know, it was a made up excuse. I wasn't sure how to extricate her gracefully).
It was a gut-decision. What else should I have done? I really didn't know how to handle it. My daughter was mad at me and didn't want to leave the pool. I wanted to explain to her in private what she should have done....and then realized too late that she would have no clue what I was talking about. How do you explain something like this, body cues and social boundaries, to a 5 year old, let alone a 5 year old with Down syndrome?
Don't get me wrong. My daughter having Down syndrome is actually something I would not change. I know this is part of God's plan for our family and His plan is much better than my plan. But there are times when I do not feel equal to the task and yesterday was one of those times. I don't want a self help book. I want a Divine parenting manual.
Do I do anything? Should I have left them to figure it out themselves? Do I ask the world to accept my daughter as she is or do I try to teach her to fit in their world? There has to be a middle-ground answer. I know I can not prevent future situations like these. Like any parent, I do not want to see my daughter hurt. My daughter was about to be snubbed. She would know she was being rejected but not know why.
I was afraid. And I am so ashamed to admit it. (Darn it, now I am all teary. I can't even confess on a blog without waterworks. *sigh*)
I'm going to have to add this to my prayers. I need wisdom.