“Sing ‘Hello’?” Fahid asks insistently while holding my hand as we enter one of the rooms in the center. He is referring to one of the three songs we sing with all of the children every Monday morning before we split into separate therapy sessions. Singing has quickly become one of his favorite activities at the center.
Fahid, a young boy with Down Syndrome, is one of the first boys the project reached nearly ten years ago when we were still doing home visits. At the time, he had not been able to crawl. But through numerous home visits and therapy, he not only began to crawl but also to walk and even jump. However, speech development remained a challenge. His ability to mimic sounds and voice inflections was remarkable but actual communication seemed to not be developing at the same rate as his growth in coordination.
For a while it seemed as though he was even going into regression. We suspected some of the changes we saw in him were due to changes within his family as siblings started to get married and bring their children to the family house. When Fahid would come to the center he would remain uncooperative in activities, sometimes throwing toys. There was a huge amount of frustration that was building up inside him that had no outlet for expression other than acting out. And yet even during those times, there were also times when he would just as easily sit in a chair and page quietly through pictures in a children’s book.
This year though, there has been a different kind of change. Slowly, Fahid has begun to reach out and try to communicate with us. It isn’t a sudden change but rather the result of hours of intentionality, week after week. Songs and movement were the first keys to unlock his speech. In no other activity has his joy been the most apparent as when he is able to repeat the words of a children’s song and act out the movements. Love and patience were also key as all of us working in the center intentionally tried to communicate with him and affirm all of his attempts to communicate back to us. It was as if he finally realized that we wanted to engage with him and that made all the difference in creating motivation to try and engage with us. His behavior also had a complete change with frustrations dissipating and sweet curiosity with laughter replacing his previous tantrums. Now, every week we report to one another the new words that he has learned how to say.
It is a Monday morning and kids with volunteers all gather into one room for our morning welcome routine.
“Fahid, it is your turn to sing!” Our volunteers encourage and then, with a little bit of prompting, Fahid begins to sing for us.