Sunday, October 07, 2007

Observation, Understanding and Empathy

I think one of the greatest misconceptions the general population has about people with Down syndrome is that they do not fully understand typical conversation's, that unless you stop and talk directly to them, and in more simplistic terms, they don't pick up what is going on [fast paced] around them.

I think this, because I know I have been; and still can be, guilty of it. Sometimes, I think that Emma Sage will not pick up on adult conversation [that is going on around her] and time and time again, she proves me wrong by bringing the topics up at later dates and conveys to me that she not only heard the conversation, she has thought about it and discusses it with me [or others].

Which brings me to the title of this post.....Observation, Understanding and Empathy.

Last night, I was talking to Rick, whilst Emma Sage was busy playing near by. She was not part of the conversation and was engrossed in the activity she was doing.

I was telling Rick that the friend of Otto's that I was picking up to bring to the Fall Harvest Festival [the boys were playing in an Xtreme Wiffleball tournament, that was a fund raiser for a local child that had cancer] had a very troubled past. When this little boy was a baby, his father murdered his Mother and older brother and left him to die. I won't go in more details here, but I had told Rick the whole story.

I didn't even think that Emma Sage would have picked up on the conversation, as she was busy playing and didn't respond or ask me any questions.....boy was I wrong.

Which troubles me greatly, as she was thinking about it......Because after we picked him up, she proceeds to say "Your Mommy died in Florida" Thank goodness the boys were busy chatting [Otto's cousin was also with us] and I covered it up quickly [and because her diction is not the strongest with outsiders able to quickly pick up on what she is saying in busy conversation] I said "Yes, we took your sister to Florida" to which Emma Sage replies, "But his Mommy died"

I am really starting to sweat this conversation out, as it also caught me off-guard as I really did not think she had heard or understood the topic.

My recovery at that point [and thankfully the boys were excited chatting about the upcoming tournament to be paying attention to a six year old sister] I said "Yes, your Kitty died"

At this point, it seemed like Emma Sage picked up my uneasiness and 'weird' come backs to her conversation and stopped the topic.

I thought that would be the end of it.

It was not.

The whole afternoon as she and I played at the Harvest Festival, she would bring it up. She heard EVERYTHING I had said, and she had lots of questions about it.

At one point she said to me "Why did his Mommy die?" so I told her that GOD needed her in heaven [something I have told her about my own Mother's passing]

Then she said to me "Mommy's should never be shot" with tears streaming down her face.

I almost fell over.....and of coarse I started to cry. I replied "Yes, honey, Mommies should never be shot. No body should ever be shot"

We talked a little more [while we sat by the river] and she seemed to be satisfied with our conversation as she never mentioned the topic for the rest of the day, or this evening.

So, never think that because someone has Down syndrome, they don't observe your conversations, that they don't understand a conversation and that they don't process the information and feel empathy for sad topics. I know it is something that I seem to have to relearn over and over again.....and hopefully I will learn my lesson.

And on one positive note....the boys WON the tournament and got a trophy....they were so excited!


Anonymous said...

What an amazing entry. Wow.

I have to ask though - what on earth is Wiffleball??!! :)


Tara Marie said...

Wiffle-ball is baseball, except they use a hard plastic bat and a hard plastic ball with holes in it.

This tournament was what is called Xtreme WiffleBall, where you can play with as little as three players because the bases are nets and you can throw the ball into the net at a base and throw the runner out.

I'll try and find a link to it for you.

It is a lot of fun [especially for boys and girls aged 10 to 15].

~Melissa~ said...

Amazing story - she really does pick up on a lot. Very insightful!!

Anonymous said...

Your post has me teary (for the sadness that Emma must have felt for the boy and the loss of his mom), but more importantly, more aware. You are such a good mother, and I think Emma is very open to all around her. Even at 2 1/2, my son picks up on our conversation -- the simple things right now -- by acting on a topic. (ie. he will go to the refridgerator if I say we are out of milk to my husband.)

melody is slurping life said...

Oh, bless her precious heart, a tender loving child. You're a wonderful mommy.

Tricia said...

Lesson learned over here too!

Dori (Aviva's mommy) said...

What a compassionate young lady. She has such a big heart.

When I was teaching (students with autism)..we ran a salad and potato bar for the teachers and we were talking who will have what job. One of my little boys (who was nonverbal) heard what he needed to do. Well, before we were finished talking he had his station set up with everything he needed and ready to go.