Inspired by the 31for21 Down Syndrome Blog Challenge and happiness-project.com, I began this blog in pursuit of my own happiness while raising my 3 children -- including identical twins with Down syndrome. On these pages, I endeavor to document the bits and pieces of my life that bring me the most happiness and keep me focused on all the positive stuff going on.
Advocacy, Angels and Random Happy Thoughts. These are the threads of happiness that are inextricably woven through the cloth of my life. Staying focused and writing about these things is what keeps me Walking on the Happy Side of Life. I'd love it if you would "Take A Walk on the Happy Side" with me.
My Boys are pretty much on par developmentally and academically with each other such that one does not overshadow the other… Ever! That’s always been the thought process. So, splitting them up because one would talk for the other was never a consideration. In fact, we even have award-winning research that indicated that our Big Little Men have 60% more utterances — they are expressive speech delayed — when they received speech sessions together than individually. That is, they talk more when they receive instruction together!
Why? They’re a little bit jealous of each other! That is, they are both vying for the teacher’s attention. And, they’re all about championing their brother so if the Big Little Man gets the correct answer or performs a task successfully, the Little Man cheers him on! Further, they’re also a bit competitive. Being nearly on par, this works very much to their advantage. I believe the thought process behind every successful response is, “If HE could do it, I can do it!” And so they push each other forward at every turn and in every positive way.
Further, last year’s teacher reported that, except that they look exactly alike, you wouldn’t even know they were brothers. That is, My Boys go their separate ways the minute they get into the classroom. Different interests, different friends — one’s a ladies man and one’s a guy’s guy — different tastes — one’s a burger guy, the other’s a pizza guy. Yes, they do check in with each other sporadically throughout the day, but that’s as far as their “overshadowing” goes. So, if they’re able to keep themselves separate without us physically separating them, why should we put asunder what God has joined together?
So at the end of last school year, as they do every year, our Committee on Special Education (CSE) suggested once again that we separate The Boys into two different classes. And, as we insist every year, we will not split The Boys up. Last year, the Chairperson added that she understood our point of view and would complete the paperwork assuming The Boys would stay together. However, because we were changing schools from the Kindergarten Center to our local elementary school, she let me know to expect a phone call from the Principals of both institutions in their attempt to sway us to splitting up our matched set.
For the record, given what I know about My Boys, there is absolutely NO swaying me on this topic! So I waited for those phone calls. And I waited. And waited. But, the phone did not ring. Finally, in a conversation with the school psychologist about another issue (related to the Old Soul ), she mentioned that our elementary school principal had received the CSE recommendations for The Boys and that paperwork said the CSE recommended splitting My Boys (“The Lies Our CSE Tells Us” is another post rolling about in my brain) but the parents (us!) wanted them kept together. In a brilliant, open-minded gesture he asked the psychologist, “Do we have any evidence that splitting versus keeping twins together is more or less effective? Enough to recommend against the parents’ wishes?” The psychologist responded, “Mr. C, we have kept twins together and they did fine. We have split twins up and they did fine. But we have never EVER had twins with Down syndrome so we have no basis whatsoever to recommend anything, either way!” Our dear principal said, “Excellent! Then we’ll keep them together and honor the parents’ wishes!”
And that was that! No phone calls!
The moral of my story? Do your homework. I know my children and understand the ramifications of my options. Besides understanding the social and academic level of My Boys as well as the motivational impact of keeping My Boys together, I also understood the challenges of splitting them. Each year, I struggle for the first several months of the school year to educate My Boys’ teaching team in just exactly how best to educate them. In addition, any issues that arise with either of My Boys during the year are handled with the entire teaching team and that knowledge can be automatically applied to the Other Boy. See, generally what shows up in one eventually shows up in the other. With two teaching teams, that information is not necessarily shared let alone understood. And, together their homework assignments and birthday invitations come through one teaching team and one class. Both Boys have the same homework and are invited to the same parties. SO MUCH EASIER FOR ME! Having to deal with all of these issues with two different teaching teams is a nightmare (as communicated by twin mammas who’ve gone before me). Furthermore, the Down syndrome community often suggests pairing your child with DS with another individual who has DS as together, they often achieve greater independence — perhaps interdependence — playing off of and maximizing each other’s different skills and strengths while minimizing challenges. God was kind enough to give me a pair who share the [mostly] unconditional love of brothers. This depth of devotion doesn’t always develop, or stay, with the challenges of friendship. Why would I break up my matched pair only to have to go out and try to find two more suitable companions for each of My Boys… No, I don’t think so.
My Boys will always have each other to cheer on, to compete with and to share their challenges, their triumphs and their lives… and, until such time as I feel it’s not in the best interest of My Boys, they’ll share their teachers as well!