Thursday, 18 October 2012

No Dancing Today

Sobbing :(
You know those days when life just seems a little bit overwhelming? Situations arise which usually wouldn't phase you, but they do? Today was one of those days.

I was really excited this morning because I was taking Felix to his first dance class. I was pretty sure he would love it because he really enjoys song time, at playgroup and kindergym, and this was going to be non-stop music and dancing.

Before we went to the dance class, I had to quickly stop at a shop to pick something up. Felix was Mr. Confident! He walked around the shop in his little shoes, getting lots of smiles and comments from the other shoppers. He found a shelf with rolls of fabric on it. There was a gap under the shelf which was just the right size for him to crawl through, like a tunnel. The problem was that he crawled about two metres under it before I realised he could go that far, so I had to lay on the floor and grab his ankles to pull him out. He thought it was hilarious and crawled straight back under there again. The shop assistant, waiting for me to pay, couldn't stop laughing at me with my butt in the air, chasing Felix under the shelf.

Happy at home
When we got to Felix's dance class, I was feeling confident. I put him down on the ground, just inside the door and he walked behind me for a minute. There were only a couple of other kids there with their Mums to start with so there wasn't too much noise, but as people started to arrive I could see Felix becoming anxious. By the time everyone had arrived, Felix had attached himself to me like glue and didn't want to budge.

The class started with a couple of Felix's favourite songs. The first one had actions which require lots of jumping and wriggling around. As long as I kept Felix facing me and with him hanging on to me, he seemed happy and was smiling. Then we sang 'twinkle, twinkle' little star, which he loves. All of the children were sitting quietly for that one so, again, he was OK. As the morning progressed and the dancing became more active, Felix started to cling on to me tighter and tighter. By the time there was a break for a quick drink, he wouldn't even sit on my lap; he just had his arms around my neck and his face buried in my shoulder. I sat him on the floor while I walked a short distance away to get his drink. I turned around to see him, face down on the floor, sobbing his eyes out. He was really upset. He refused his drink and reattached himself to me as quickly as he could.

Worried face
From that point on, Felix was a permanent fixture around my neck. I don't think he's ever held on that tightly before. I kept moving to the music (feeling like a Mother monkey with her baby hanging from her), but didn't push him to participate. I hoped that if he could see me enjoying myself, and peek out every now and again to see everyone having fun, he would come around. He didn't. He started to shake and quietly cry by the time the class finished. I had to put him down so I could put on my shoes but he lay, face down again, on the floor and cried and cried. His little body was trembling and when he looked up at me, he looked so frightened.

Thus began my soul-searching. Should I have cuddled him more? Should I have cuddled him less? Do I keep taking him to dance classes in the hope he will get used to it? Do I stop going so he doesn't get too anxious? Is this common for a child with Down Syndrome, or is it just a regular 'kid thing' I have somehow managed to avoid with our seven other children? After quite a few tears when I got home, I decided to call Down Syndrome SA and have a chat with the Early Intervention Coordinator there. She was wonderful and was able to point out a couple of things. Firstly, that kids with Down Syndrome are often very sensitive to noise and can find it overwhelming, especially specific pitches. Secondly, it sounds like Felix may also just have a bad case of separation anxiety, which is quite normal for kids his age. She suggested a few things to me which I will try including, taking his favourite teddy to dance classes with us; leaving part way through the session if he gets too distressed and taking photos of the class on the ipad so we can look at them and talk about them before we go there. I was really thankful for her listening ear and am happy to take her advice on board.
Happy at Kindergym with no kids around

After feeling quite miserable for a while, I received a phone call from Jacob's Mum asking if they could come over for a play with Felix. I agreed, but as I hung up the phone I was wondering what on earth I was thinking. The last time Felix saw Jacob, he freaked out and got really upset and he had already gone to bed  unhappy. I had a feeling my day might be going to get worse. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised. Even though Felix's bottom lip dropped when Jacob touched him, I stayed upbeat and told him how funny it was that Jacob had touched his hand. Slowly, but surely, Felix looked a bit more relaxed and by the time Jacob went home he had been sitting, reasonably close to him, playing with his toys. It was a tiny little thing, but seemed so huge to me today!

I'm going to stay hopeful that, over time, Felix will be less stressed around other children. I'm looking forward to the day when he will happily interact with other kids and be able to show everyone his hilarious personality. He brings us so much happiness and I can't wait to see him come out of his shell and really enjoy being with his friends.

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