Here’s a “never plateau!” story

Jon & Mom Christmas 2013 mediumMy son Jonathan (32, Down syndrome plus other variables) has had a Facebook page for 2 years. He asked for it, I put it up for him. But he didn’t actually use it other than to request his dad and me to post pictures on his page. His favorite stuff like Disney, Disney, and Disney.

Lo and behold…suddenly a month ago, he posted on my page. A sweet thank you for something I’d given him. What??? I called him, astonished. “Jonathan, who showed you how to post on my page?” He answered, “Noooo! I did it myself.” This went on for a couple of weeks, and then suddenly, I started getting private Facebook messages from him. Again, I’m thinking, What???? So now we have a steady conversation stream going back and forth through messages. I’m blown away. He figured this out himself.

Though most of his messages so far are about requests for music, Disney music, music about Disney, stuff about Disney (you get the idea), my favorite message arrived today. Keeping in heart-clipart-clker-heart-clip-artmind that Jonathan considers the written inclusion of articles a complete waste of time, he is reminiscing about our trips to Disneyland: “disneyland/disneyland resort, disney california adventure park, you’r best mom, friend for ever.” I don’t need to tell you how that affected me.

So how do we move out of a stall, a plateau?

If we see our child/teen/adult “plateau,” stall in learning and developing, what does that mean? It means it’s time to discover another path, another way in, a new approach or stimulus to engaging what we know in our hearts is their capacity to ever grow. Sometimes what worked yesterday has run its course; it’s no longer working to engage, to teach. Nothing lasts forever.

That’s why I devoted two whole chapters in my book Down Syndrome Parenting 101 to non-compliance. Two. Count ’em, two. I gave many techniques for subterfuge in conquering the “no-I’m-not-going-to-do-anything-you-want-me-to-do” attitude. Why so many? Because we need as many tools as we can get. This is true not only for noncompliance, but for learning.

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 6.11.04 PMhelp is on the way!

I remember with hilarity the day the dad of one of my teen reading students came to pick up his son. This teen was as close as you can get to being behaviorally impossible without being irreversibly impossible forever and ever, amen. The dad and his wife had recently gotten my parenting book, and I’ll never forget the dad almost yelling in a kind of desperate relief, “Your book is the holy bible in our house!” I knew he meant the techniques for noncompliance. They were working. Nothing had worked for years, but now this was working. They were moving their son off his plateau, one step at a time.

Getting off the plateau:


Understand, know in your depths, that to plateau is not inevitable for our children. It is not a given, not something you need to accept. It does mean that your child is no longer going to respond to the approach you’ve been using. If the front door is locked, go in through the back door. If that’s locked, go in through the windows, the chimney…whatever works.

step 2

maria+montessoriNext, channel Maria Montessori for a moment. What did she do? She sat back and observed. She perceived. She used her intuition to observe and formulate her revolutionary education methods. Do you remember me telling you how, where, and with whom she formulated those methods? With our children with developmental delays. Two years with them at the beginning of her career. She taught them, observed them, and pondered what she saw from 8 in the morning until 7 at night for two years. (See my article on Maria; I LOVE that story!)

So do that. Observe and ponder. You know your child/teen/adult better than anyone. What do they need in order to continue moving forward? What floats their boat? What do they love the most? Use that as a tool, a way in. “Go in through the heart and teach to the brain” is the premise of my new book from Woodbine House, “Whole Child Reading.” So do that. Go in through the heart: if you go in through that sweet spot, that “awake” part of your child, you can open a new door.

Truly, this works. I have seen it over and over again with my students with Down syndrome, not to mention with my son Jonathan, now 32.

step 3

Intuit your plan, and then go for it. Have a plan B and a plan C. All are good. You need many paths, many tools, to keep that growth continuing. You know your child’s heart; you know that “awake” spot, that sweet spot. Go for it.


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  • Amos Garry

    These children need our patience and love. Treatment of Down’s syndrome and depression has a large relationship with personal and environmental factors such as negative attitudes inconvenience, transportation and public buildings used by disabled people, and limited social support.