Today was twin day at work/school. Judah and I obviously didn't have to try too hard.
Neither did some of my students. I have some students that are capable of turning the day upside down in an instant. This is where I think my parenting experience comes into play.
I consider myself to be a very loving yet firm father to all three of my children. I don't have parenting figured out, but I'm making my way and I love the adventure. I've learned some useful stuff so far too. Especially with little buddies. I have been able to apply much of what I've learned as a father to teaching and running a classroom.
I may piss some people off in saying this and that's okay. I feel like I have a valid opinion and opportunities/experience to back it up. Children with Down syndrome, when left alone or ignored, many times will act like wild animals. I mean that in the literal sense. Children with DS need constant and consistent structure and repetition. If they are allowed to do whatever they want it's almost like they default to basic animal like instincts that most of us would never do. Such as rummaging through a crapped diaper and smearing it all over kingdom come; yelling/shouting and spitting unintelligible words to communicate; and hitting and biting when upset.
Some of you might be thinking "yeah but isn't that how every kid reacts when allowed to get their way". My answer is yes, probably initially, but at some point typical kids will stop smearing poo on the walls because they think it's disgusting.
My point is this. When parenting a child with DS, set the same standards and expectations you do/would for your other children without DS. They are children, not animals. They are a child first. They should be expected to behave, listen when spoken to, and respect others. They should be disciplined when out of line and consistently reminded of and shown how to act. Yes, children with DS have significant needs and delays and yes you should be mindful of those at all times. Yes, they are cute and, yes it's very difficult to discipline them sometimes.
If you as the parent/caretaker motivate and encourage your child with DS and use proper reinforcement you will see exceptional results. They are capable and CAN act like human beings. If you don't... you are not only severely hindering your child from a successful life, you're also making it extra hard on yourself and anyone who is responsible for the well being of your child. The older they get, the more it levels out. Especially once they become self motivated.
So back to my class... I set high expectations from the get go. My students learn and are expected to produce some kind of result no matter how small. I have a couple of wild students in my class that, as I mentioned earlier, can be a real challenge. The first one being to walk silently in a single file line. I can proudly say that all of my students have demonstrated that they can do this. They don't always follow through with it, but they DO know what is expected of them. It's the little things, and as a teacher who sometimes will inherit problems parents don't want to deal with, it's those little things that keep me inspired.
The moral of this post is mostly for parents. Please, if you have a child with DS, set their expectations high and follow through with encouragement and discipline. The results are rewarding. Honestly, it just doesn't get much better than a well behaved buddy that brings joy and laughter to everyday life. My little guy can be quite ornery, but there is no doubt that he knows exactly what is expected of him and he is stopped in his tracks when he crosses the line. Proper expectations and discipline are good for everyone and even better for kids with DS. Set the standard high.