Tag Archives: language

You Don’t Have to Be Perfect

You don’t have to be perfect.

This insightful and profound statement is coming from this soon-to-be eighteen-year-old lovely, trilingual, beautiful and wonderful young lady who just happens to have Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome)—Arianna Dinwoodie-Palmes.

Arianna lives in Barcelona, Spain. She reads and speaks fluent Catalan, Spanish and English. She attends a school where classes are taught in Catalan and Spanish. She learned English from her dad, who is from the United States. She takes a theater class once a week with “typical” kids, personally takes care of enrolling in the course every three months and pays for all her classes. She also does gymnastics with kids who have some learning challenges. She lives in an inclusive world. She navigates the very big, chaotic city of Barcelona on her own, taking public transportation to and from school while meeting with friends for movies, lunch and other social events. She loves Zumba, singing and doing research projects on the Internet and is very concerned about ecology and pollution. She is finishing high school this year and is looking forward to trade school next year, focusing on administration, sales and customer service. She is a happy, caring, typical teenager, who also happens to have Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome).

The video (see above) was Arianna’s idea and she wrote her own scripts. These are her unedited thoughts and words—in three languages! Arianna’s level of function makes her normal. Arianna’s insight, personality, smile and overall goodness make her exceptional—exceptionally wonderful!

You don’t have to be perfect.

Such a simple, obvious, but profound statement, particularly when viewed in light of the still staggering numbers of fetuses identified as having Down syndrome that are aborted. Recent research states that in the U.S. there is a termination rate of 67% of fetuses following a prenatal diagnosis of DS. None of us are, none us will ever be and none of us need to be perfect.

Somehow our enlightened, educated and politically-correct society has created and perpetuated the myth that some of us are not miracles of creation, that we do not have limitless potential and thus are condemned by myopic prejudice to be deprived of the right to live; or are often condemned by perceptions of limited potential and given limited “appropriate” opportunities that are commensurate with the perceptions.

Arianna is one of our NACD kids. She has been on one of our TDI Targeted Neurodevelopmental Intervention Programs since she was a year old. She and thousands of other NACD kids are reflections of what can be, given the opportunity. Defining opportunity as having dedicated proactive parents who, when given the tools and the vision, can truly provide their child with an opportunity. We all need to be perceived as having unlimited potential and giving the opportunity to achieve, but we also need to realize that, “You don’t need to be perfect.

After all, isn’t being less than perfect what defines us as being human?


Another Peek at Potential

Today I had an initial evaluation with a very cute, sweet 6 year old girl from Romania. This terrific child is being homeschooled by her mother and grandmother and is doing rather well, actually, exceptionally well.

This amazing child is a native speaker of both Romanian and English (I don’t know that she has ever been out of Romania and speaks with zero accent) and reads both languages at about a 4th or 5th grade level, is advanced in French, which she reads as well, is conversational in Spanish and German, and is presently learning Russian and Italian. Languages are her passion.

It never ceases to amaze me what we can do, where we can function, if we are passionate about what we are doing and learning. Intensity, Intensity, Intensity. You’ve got to love it! This little girl is doing what she is doing because she can, because her family has been able to help her pursue her passion.

Part of my discussion with her mother today was about mandatory school attendance, which will become an issue next year. How do we continue to provide her with the same kind of opportunities that she can receive at home? How can we help her pursue her passions?

These peeks at potential keep driving me to find new and better ways to help all of our children.

How do we stop school from not only interfering with her education, but stop it from killing her passions, her individuality, and her opportunity to become a truly wonderful, unique person?

Do you think that most schools really provide a vehicle for most of us to pursue our passions, to become exceptional and provide a foundation for us to spend our lives excelling and enjoying life engaged, contributing and doing things that we are passionate about?

What do you think?




At Least We Know How to Stand in Line

Hello from Paris! It’s 12:30 a.m. and I’m out enjoying the wild nightlife.

photo-13Not really. I’m sitting in a very hot, very humid, very closed Charles de Gaulle airport. It has been one of those very wonderful travel days. (Up at 3 a.m. to get to the airport in Bucharest, get on a flight to Paris, sit on the very hot, very humid plane for three hours before they decide it’s broken and they can’t fix it, wait around until after 8 p.m. to catch another flight. My connection left many hours ago. Eventually I will get on a plane to Salt Lake City, which I think is about another 12 hours or something. Oh, the joys of international travel. And let’s not talk about the endless lines, or if there is not a narrow corridor, generally masses of people converging on a target location.

Forgetting the mess of trying to get home, I have had a very good trip, seeing kids and families in London, Rome, and Bucharest. Got to discover “Old Bucharest” last night with one of our families and earlier in the week to visit their home outside of the city with another of our NACD families. I was really impressed by these folks. They are a lovely bright couple with a beautiful little boy named Tudor, who will be having his first birthday this weekend.

Happy Birthday, Tudor!

As always when I travel in Europe, I am impressed with how tuned in and informed many of the folks are to the rest of the world in comparison to many in the States; and I’m always so impressed by how bi- and multilingual so many of the people are. The wonderful young couple that I was privileged to get to know speak their native Romanian, French, English, and Greek. Perhaps more, but at least those, and they are economists not linguists. Most of the families I met with in Romania spoke very acceptable English.

Historically in the States we do a terrible job of not only teaching other languages, but also of perceiving that we really should do so. Growing up outside of Philadelphia, I had Italian friends whose parents or grandparents spoke Italian, but not one of them learned Italian. And that was often true of others who had family in their homes using their native languages. It would seem to be part of American/English language arrogance.

Languages as they are generally taught in our schools are really pretend, not designed with the intention of teaching you to actually be functional let alone fluent in the language. Typically schools start way too late and the curriculum constructed poorly. After my first year of Spanish in 9th grade, I had learned only one phrase, “Roberto es stupido.” It wasn’t just Roberto who was stupido; so was the teacher and the instruction. I had two years of Spanish in high school and another two years in college, but I think I learned more in a month in Spain than in four years at school. How many people do you know who took languages in school starting in junior or senior high who can actually speak the language? Fortunately many schools, particularly charter and private schools, are doing a much better job now of teaching other languages, starting in Kindergarten and, if possible, earlier and incorporating immersion as a significant focus, if not the focus, of the program.

Beyond the societal issues, research is showing that being bilingual helps build cognitive function and even can slow down Alzheimer’s. We as individuals in the US need to perceive the need to join and understand the rest of the world, to help our children understand that they live in a big world that they need to appreciate, understand, learn from, and join.

We in the US may not teach our children to pay attention to the rest of the world or to speak more than one language, read, or do math very well; but there is something our schools are good at, and evidently better at from my observations, than most of the European countries, and that is how to stand in line. Perhaps really teaching our children to speak another language or two from an early age might be a better focus. Reading would be nice too.

I hate standing in lines, any lines. Perhaps if more people were lousy at it we would find a way to minimize them—a better way. We need lots of better ways. Let’s keep creating them.