Hayden Teaches Us To Read
It must have been when Hayden was between one and two years old when we became acutely aware that Hayden was very decidedly choosing whom he liked and didn’t like. He had probably been giving us signals all along, but we have cognitive delays and can be a bit slow in our learning so it took us awhile to catch on. One day we were assigned a new OT (occupational therapist) through our local early intervention agency and she came into our home with a Game Plan. She knew just what she was going to do with and for Hayden who had DOWN SYNDROME. SHRIEK!!!!! What was that I heard? Can you smell burning brake pads?? If I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes the second it happened I wouldn’t have believed it: Mr. Flirty-I-Love-Everyone-Who-Comes-To-My-House-To-Play-With-Me was mad as a hornet with this new OT and he was done with her before she completely unpacked her bag of tricks.
My husband was home at the time working out of his office, just feet from the playroom and he heard the shrieking sound of the brakes too; the grunts, the frustrated tone of voice, the cajoling begging tone of the OT. Nope, Mr. H wasn’t going to have any of it. He was used to OT’s who would engage him with smiles and playing, and singing AS they put him through his course of exercises (life IS a cabaret after all). This new lady was JUST here to work on what SHE wanted to do with no regard for how to motivate and connect with The Prince. She lasted three visits….maybe.
Fast forward a few weeks to a weekly sensory-based playgroup that was facilitated by a wonderful OT, but on this particular day she wasn’t there, so we had a substitute OT for the day. After the incident in our home with the Drill Sergeant OT (now, a former OT), my radar was up, and I was now fully aware that Hayden wasn’t going to perform for just anyone. He had standards. When we walked into the large playroom (I remember this like it was yesterday) the substitute OT was sitting on the floor playing with a couple of little ones and I had Hayden’s baby sister in a carrier in one arm while carrying Hayden in the other (yes, I carried BOTH babies for nearly four years……apparently I WAS standing in the line where God was handing out arms and shoulders the size of linebackers). I put him down on the floor so he could scoot/crawl/roll while I met the new OT (she was all smiles and I knew I could feel the love, but what would Hayden think?). I told her that she was welcome to try to play with Hayden, but that he didn’t respond too well to “agendas” and it might take him awhile to warm up to her. She smiled and said, “Well ya know what? I don’t like agendas at all, I just love kids!” By the time the sentence was out of her mouth, Hayden had crawled up into her arms and she was giving him a bear hug while he giggled and giggled. Does this playgroup have any kleenex??
That scene still chokes me up, on so many levels. First of all Hayden was telling me that his spirit could EASILY discern who the “good guys” were and if I would just “tune into HIS radio station” I could learn something (see, that career in radio was about to pay dividends in the relationship arena…..because we know it never paid in the financial arena!!). The other thing I learned was that only the “professionals” who possessed TRUE humility were going to be able to “teach” him anything. And of course the truly humble folks know that the kids are the ones who are teaching us first and foremost. We’re just here to guide, and direct, and help focus their energy.
Kathy the OT was the first in a long line of people whom Hayden would “choose”. Since then we’ve learned to watch him very carefully in ALL settings: with family, friends, church, wedding receptions, meeting new people, therapies, etc….If Hayden is comfortable, then we’re likely to be more open to the person/situation. Sometimes (okay, more often than I want to admit) we’ll be in a store and Hayden will reach out and touch someone. He doesn’t do it as much now, but it used to be that he would start singing with them. Maybe now that he’s 13, he figures he’s too cool to just break out in song with total strangers, but it used to be that a trip to Target or the grocery store meant that some unsuspecting soul was going to be serenaded whether they wanted to be or not. You can tell a lot about what’s going on with someones psyche/emotional state when a boy in a shopping cart reaches for their hand and starts to sing them “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”. More times than not, people have been very receptive, and the people he chooses are eight of ten times the elderly. Maybe he knows they haven’t sung Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in a long time, or maybe he can sense that they need a smile and some eye contact that day. Because that’s really what it’s all about for Hayden, making that heart connection. And that’s probably why people are so surprised when they discover that he has profound hearing loss. He was born deaf, has some hearing now (even better when he’s wearing his hearing aids), and is here to connect with people on a heart level.
I can hear you just fine H and your station is on all my pre-sets.
- Posted in: Down syndrome Special needs