A middle school boy with Down Syndrome was recently placed in a program where I consult after being dismissed from every other therapeutic school that would even consider accepting him. Currently he requires physical escorts and restraint for his own safety and the safety of others nearby. He arrived from his previous program with an incentive/reward activity that consisting of repeatedly twirling a necklace of Madi Gras beads around a one foot length of plastic pipe attached to a common board. I’ve been asked to create a program for him (I think we can do better than the Madi Gras beads and the plastic pipe).
Today at the staff meeting the director expressed sympathy for the staff who are quickly getting frustrated with all the physical holds (because the boy is tough to hold) and she promised a quick and effective program (delivered by me, no pressure) that would eliminate the need for physical restraint. One teacher assistant told the director that the restraints would not be as difficult if the student was taller (he’s about 4 feet 8 inches—the CPI holds are easier with taller people). We spent the next two hours designing the first part of his new program and I am very optimistic. But not everybody is so quick to understand what we want to do.
When the meeting broke up a teacher assistant approached me with an idea that she had developed after listening intently to the other assistants talk about the height complications of physically holding this boy. She wanted to know if I knew how tall children with Down Syndrome grew to be, and was stunted growth part of the condition. I told her I thought some growth under-development was to be expected but that it could vary across children (okay, I’m curious about what she has in mind).
“Maybe we could find out more about that or check with his parents to see how tall they are,” she said, proud of her clever idea. “If he keeps growing we might have an easier time restraining him.” She beamed with her brilliance and I paused a beat to be sure she was serious. Then I told her, “He might indeed continue to grow, but my thinking right now is that we can solve this problem at a quicker rate than he can grow. Undeterred, she continued, “His parents are coming in for a meeting on Monday and that would give us a chance to see how tall they are.” I smiled a little and said “Hmmm,” and she said, “Well, it was just an idea.” (No, it wasn’t, not really).
We’ll build a successful program for this boy, I’m absolutely sure of that, but the bigger challenge in this case is making the program work by utilizing people who think the best idea is to wait for him to grow. For that I want a Nobel Peace Prize.