Saturday, September 01, 2007


I had expected his eyes to be angry. They weren't. They were sad.

Given that I mostly work with other adults, I forget how small seven years old is. He sat in a large chair and when I introduced myself to him, he pulled his legs up and curled into the corner of the chair. Then he looked up at me and I saw those eyes.

Of course I never meet people who come for consultations without already having a picture of them in my head. I've read reports, talked to people who know them - love them - worry about them and of course this information effects me. I had been told that he was an angry little boy. He had been in foster homes for several years, bouncing from one to another, and had been recently adopted by a mom and dad who specifically wanted to adopt a child with Down Syndrome. They'd expected, they'd said frankly, "a happy Down Syndrome boy who loved everyone." But they'd gotten a different package. A kid who resisted hugs, who gave little and wanted less. A kid who's anger took hold of him in ways that were frightening. They had several consultations, evaluations, and had requested another. They were getting, they felt, no where.

I pictured an angry pair of eyes.

But they were so sad.

I started with him the way I always do. "Do you know why you are here today?" He seemed surprised by the question and he answered, "Because I have Down Syndrome."

He was so far from the mark that I couldn't keep astonishment from my voice, "Really?" I asked. Surely he'd know that he was here because he destroyed rooms with his anger.

"Yep." He had glanced at me and now he was looking down.

I fell silent. This was not a therapeutic trick. He'd thrown me and now I was trying to reset my own agenda. Figure out what question to ask next. The silence though seemed to interest him. He looked up at me and asked, "What's wrong? Why aren't you talking?"

I said, "You know, sometimes I get in trouble here at work."


"Because I don't want to do what they tell me to do."

This interested him, "Like what?"

"Like I'm supposed to talk with you about your temper and try to get inside your head." Might as well be honest, he was.

"You don't want to do that?" He smiled. The smile didn't reach his eyes, but he smiled.



"Because I feel like playing X's and O's. You want a game?"

He grinned, "But won't you get in trouble?"

"Are you going to tell?"


"Then who'll know?"

He giggled. I moved my chair around, pulled out a piece of paper and drew the game board. Then I pulled a tooney out of my pocket and he called heads, I won. I always play X so I placed an X in the center of the grid. We didn't talk. We just played 4 or 5 games. He's a kid so he doesn't realize that once you know the game, the best you can get is a draw. So I let him win a couple of times. Sue me.

"Did you talk to them?" He asked while pondering the board.


"The one's who brought me." Note to self. Didn't call them parents. Didn't call them Mom and Dad.


"They done yet?"

"Done what?"

"With me. They done?"

This was too big and I put the pen down and looked hard at him. "What are you talking about?"

"No one keeps me. Once they find out I have Down Sydrome, they don't keep me."

He's out of radar range. His Down Syndrome has nothing to do with the consultation. "What does Down Syndrome have to do with any of this?"

He started to cry. I don't like seeing kids cry. It makes me automatically want to cry too, to swoop them up and tell them it'll all be ok. I never do this. But it's an automatic response.

"My mom didn't want me because I had Down Syndrome, and all the people I lived with always talked about me having Down Syndrome. Then, they gave me back. These people, when are they going to give me back?"

"But they aren't going to give you back. They're here with you trying to figure out what will make you happy. They want you to stay. They never, ever, once said anything about giving you back."

"They always give me back." He said this more to himself than to me.

"Well, I figure you should just ask them. Instead of ripping their house apart trying to make them give you up, why don't you just ask them."

He nodded.

I didn't want to get in the way of a natural interaction by giving the parents a heads up, instead I just called the secretary and asked her to bring the parents back into the room.

The settled, looking tired and anxious. I said to him, "Go ahead."

He didn't look up and in a quiet voice said, "Are you going to give me back?"

Mom started crying and asked, "Is that what this is all about?"

He nodded his head.

"Why, never." His Dad answered, "You're stuck with us."

Mom noticed a pad of yellow stickies beside my note pad and grabbed it, wrote something on it, then came around and stuck it on the shoulder of his hoodie. He took it off and looked at it. Not being able to read yet he handed it to me.

It read, "Property of Mom and Dad."


Casdok said...

So touching made me cry!
Well done to that mum and well done to you!

lina said...

Wow, wasn't expecting to cry first thing in the morning!
thanks for the tear jerker - and kudos to mom and dad for not stopping until they got to some real answers to their questions.
thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

dave, wow.

Kei said...

Thank you.
Maybe now he can know that he's with people who can see past the Down syndrome and allow himself to be loved.

venus said...

Dear David
I consider myself very lucky person since I know you through your teaching. I took couple of seminars with you, which they changed me and opened my eyes to many hidden truth. I check you blog weekly. This world is a better place because of people like you, thank you
Ps. well done

Belinda said...

Oh my goodness gracious! That's all I can say. Well, only this to add--I'm glad that small, afraid little boy found such a wonderful big friend in this big world--one who played x's and o's instead of doing "therapy."

Anonymous said...

you've left me in tears Dave. What a wonderful story. Here in Britain on one of the kids channels they are running a wonderful cartoon advert about a boy who's best friend has downs syndrome. It ends with the best friend saying he doesn't understand what it means that his best friend has an extra chromosome but he wishes he had one too.
I wish that message had got out to that little boy before now.

All 4 My Gals said...

Awesome in so many respects.

stevethehydra said...

I thought this was a really great post right up until the last line.

Children are NOT the "property" of their parents. That idea fills me with absolute horror, even - especially - because i'm 100% certain that the parents didn't mean it in a "dehumanising" way.

The deliberate adoption of disabled kids by non-disabled parents, especially when they have motivations, like that of these parents, based on patronising and untrue stereotypes about peole with particular impairments, is also something that makes me feel... i'm not sure exactly what, but something unpleasant. It reminds me of the trend for rich Westerners to adopt kids from orphanages in the "Third World", which Emi Koyama has a lot to say about here:

(Emi Koyama is, IMO, possibly one of the most awesome people in the universe. I'm not sure i agree with her 100% on this issue, but i think her points are very valid...)

Unknown said...

I have to disagree with poster number fact, if you EVER run into a child with down's syndrome that needs a NOT think twice about wondering who would care for them.

call me.

proud mom to 7, including the last of the litter at home,
miss molly kate

Jeff said...


Thanks for sharing this very wonderful story. The hard part is knowing so many children in the system feel this way I am sure.

Someday I hope to live in a world where people are judged by the content of thier character and not the many things we use today.


Anonymous said...

AHH! Made me cry!! I'm full of course of pregnancy hormones...due in November, with a possible chance of Downs. I refused all testing and they all looked at me like I had something wrong with me! I refused the amnio and they really think I have lost it. This baby rolling around and kicking the crap out of me is already loved beyond belief!! In fact when I had the blood work and ultrasound done, I didn't cry over a chance of Downs, I cried because of having the tests!
(Should add also I have worked for K-W Hab for 10 years now and have had my life enriched and learned so much from the clients I work with)

Emily said...

Wow. What a beautiful story! Thank you; I needed to read this today. You write in such a heartening way - I always enjoy visiting your blog, and often find something I can take back to Bridges with me. Funny, I found your blog all on my own (heh), and it turns out you've done seminars and trainings with them and CPNRI - my best friend (who started out as staff, long story, kinda) took your Ethics of Touch course and loved it.

You're a huge inspiration to me - I hope it doesn't make you embarrassed for me to say that. I like to bring up the subject of the one post you made, about the gentlemen who wanted to go to a "gentleman's club" and it becoming a huge deal in the community, in the human rights inservices I help out with. It is a good conversation starter for new staff (and even some of the old hands).

Thanks for being you.