“I can’t read the words.”

Adults with Down Syndrome, Courage, Education, Frustration, Mother of an Adult with a Disability, Reading Add comments

If you follow our blogs, you know that my son Billy has overcome a number of  hurdles and has succeeded in many areas of his life. He graduated from high school, has been successful in several jobs,  is considered a valuable member of our community, and is certainly a cherished and important part of our family and circle of  friends.  He is a competent and happy man. However, there are times that  Billy expresses dissatisfaction with his disabilities in certain areas. He cited one of these areas this morning. As we were leaving church, he said to me, “I can’t read the words.”

Reading a magazine.

Reading a magazine.

After we got into the car, I asked him to tell me about this problem. For years we have marveled at the way he follows the hymns half a beat behind, presenting the effect of singing with the congregation. He is so talented in doing this that it appears he is following with the congregation. One Christmas a friend, who holds a position in our church, asked me if I thought Billy would be willing to read a piece in a program. I told her that he reads very little and she was totally surprised.

We have worked on reading for most of Billy’s life, in school and at home. He brings in the paper each morning and reads the weather report and some of the headlines. He reads his TV guide and parts of People magazine, where he is prompted by illustrations and familiar terms. The hymnal, however, is not illustrated and has few words relevant to Billy’s life. He jumps in when phrases are repeated in the chorus, as in the

hymn Till We Meet Again, which we sang this morning. I did not realize how frustrated he was with the other parts that he could not read.

We talked about this again after we got home and Billy said, ” I am so dumb.” I always tell him that he is smart in so many ways and that “dumb” is a hurtful word and one to be avoided. It breaks my heart to hear him say that about himself.

Although there are over 900 songs in the Methodist Hymnal, we will find a way to work on reading them. Perhaps we can isolate words that are most frequently used and establish a hymn sight word list. It will be a challenge for both of us.

Once again I am amazed at Billy’s courage. He loves to go to church. He frequently nods during the sermon and I realize he doesn’t comprehend the message. If I poke him he tells me, “The Bible says don’t poke in church,” and we both giggle. This is another measure of his courage. Even when he doesn’t understand, he hangs in and gives it his all.

There must be a better term than “dumb.”

6 Responses to ““I can’t read the words.””

  1. Elaine Ross Says:

    How precious is this !!!!!!!!!! It truly brought tears to my eyes. Billy is so much more than most of us will ever be. Billy is not “dumb” — we are the ones who lack. He is full in so many ways that I am not. There is not a word for Billy because he is one of a kind and they have not made a word special enough for him. His ability to love is an example for all of us to follow. Your desire to always find a way for him to succeed is so inspiring (this is not really a big enough word to describe how you have provided a path to let him lead the life he does). I love what he said about poking not being in the Bible. I can not EVER begin to tell you both how dear you are to me. Much love to you both. Elaine

  2. Jane Schulz Says:

    Elaine, now I am the one with tears in my eyes. Thank you for your loving support of us. YOU are one of a kind!

  3. Mary Hill Says:

    In many ways Billy is one of the smartest people I know because he knows how to love unconditionally and he is not afraid to tell you that he loves you. There are many people with very high IQ’s that cannot do that. He could never be dumb, he has taught us all so much.

  4. Jane Schulz Says:

    Mary, no wonder he loves you! You have been a dear friend for years and are very special to Billy and to me.

  5. Judy Reichert Whitfield Says:

    Dr. Schulz, when I saw the cover of the summer 2010 Western Carolina magazine, I told my daughter, there is Billy and Dr. Schulz. She said how do you remember their names after such a long time and you have trouble remembering other people names that you have been around lately. I told her that you and Billy had just make a lasting impression on me. I graduated from Western Carolina in 1973, so you know it has been quite a time since I saw either of you, but not since I have thought of you both. Billy is a person that we can all be so proud of. He has made so many achievements in life and brought so many people hapiness with his pleasing personality. He has a lot of you in him. Great to be able to catch up with this part of my past. Judy

  6. Jane Schulz Says:

    Thank you, Judy. It’s great to hear from you and to know that you remember us after such a long time.Tell your daughter that I understand her point of view – I tend to forget my own name. So glad you reminded me! Best wishes to you and your family.

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