The Parable of the Clock

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At one of my very first local Down syndrome support group meetings after my son was born, I sat quietly eating my Chinese food while I listened to the veteran moms of older children talk about their experiences.

One woman described how her adult son just could NOT learn to tell time from a clock face. She described a long and painful process over several years, multiple different and valiant approaches, taking one step forward and two steps back, drilling, rewarding, and repeating. To no avail. And at the end of her monologue about the failed clock expedition, she said this: “He could never learn to tell the time on a regular clock. So do you know what we did?” And almost like a magician revealing an impressive trick, she leaned back in her chair, eyes sparkling with cleverness and said, “We bought him a digital watch!”

“We bought him a digital watch.” Six words that ended a long-standing struggle for both mother and child. No more was the child made to feel incompetent with continued failed attempts, and no more was the mom made to feel frustrated by a lack of progress for her child.

The fact is, sometimes, despite our best efforts, a skill or concept may just never click for our child. And that’s okay. No one is saying to give up on your child, or to have low expectations. But the same as I will never be a gifted athlete no matter how hard I try, there will just be some things that aren’t in your child’s scope. In those instances, don’t forget that if your child can’t master long division, there is always a calculator. If tying shoes proves too challenging, pick up a pair of magnetic shoe laces. A well-placed piece of adaptive equipment or a clever work around can make many impossible tasks possible again. So if your child can’t read a clock, don’t despair, get a digital watch! ©

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