Friday, October 17, 2014

31 for 21: October 16 & 17

October 16: Dancing Fool!

Tonight was Simchat Torah, when we celebrate by dancing with the Torah. This is truly Sofia's favorite holiday. She loves to dance. She loves to move her body. She loves the noise and the people and the excitement.

At one point this evening, all 9 nine Torahs were being held in a circle, as everyone danced around. And in the very center of the circle was Miss Sofia.

She loves to dance. I don't know if it's because of the extra chromosome, or if she just does not feel embarrassed to be fully and truly free in her dancing. But she is a wonder to watch.

October 17: Self-Talk

Do you talk to yourself? Out loud? I do. Most of the people I know do, too (even if they don't want to admit it!).

People with Down syndrome talk to themselves, too. "Self-talk plays an essential role in the cognitive development of children. Self-talk helps children coordinate their actions and thoughts and seems to be an important tool for learning new skills and higher level thinking."

(From “Self-Talk” in Adults with Down Syndrome, By Dennis McGuire, Ph.D., Brian A. Chicoine, M.D., and Elaine Greenbaum, Ph.D, 2005.)

Sofia talks to herself. Often. And often I talk back to her, because I don't recognize that she's just talking to herself. So I engage in and encourage the conversation, pushing her to expand from self-talk to interactive communication.

Much of the time, Sofia talks about her movies. She's really into "Frozen" just now, and likes to talk about snow and "Let It Go" (she has plans to sing that on "stage" at shul some time soon...). But she's also into "Tangled" (about Rapunzel) and the Madagascar movies and the Cars movies and the Despicable Me movies and Aladdin and The Frog Princess and Mamma Mia. And food

Often, people with Down syndrome will engage in self-talk throughout their adult lives - JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. However, since they may not be able to identify it as "just talking to myself", often it is mistaken for a psychological problem.

"Since it is extremely difficult to evaluate the thought processes of adults with cognitive impairments and limited verbal skills, we urge a very cautious approach in interpreting and treating what seems to be a common and at times very helpful coping behavior for adults with DS."
(from the same article as quoted above).

 Right now, Sofia has me to "interpret" for her when she self-talks in public. But we worry - David especially - about what will happen as she goes off into the real world on her own more often. How will people perceive her when she self-talks? How will people treat her?

My own opinion is that all we can do is continue to educate and advocate. Any of you reading this now know something about self-talk. The next time you see an adult with a cognitive impairment engage in self-talk, you might be able to help advocate for them!

But if you see Sofia self-talking, feel free to ask her some questions! She's usually happy to try to explain what she's thinking about.