Ask Why Is This Happening

He’s a danger to the others,” they said. “He’s aggressive.” “He should be removed from the group.” “He has rages.”

Wooden building blocks on a grey background

The Encourager

The topic under discussion was the little boy with Down Syndrome.

“He’s a danger to the others,” they said. “He’s aggressive.” “He should be removed from the group.” “He has rages.”

This did not tie in with the experience of the boy. “What causes the aggressive behaviour?” I asked.

They seemed to feel the explanation was patently obvious. “He’s Down Syndrome,” they said.

To me, this was a far from satisfactory explanation, and I began to observe the three-year-old boy whenever possible.

Firstly, there it was. A definite rage with blocks flying in all directions. Fortunately, I’d seen what led up to it. He was trying to build with the blocks. The first one was carefully placed on the floor, the second on top of it. The third one went on, then the fourth. This was when the trouble started because the blocks were very smooth and he just didn’t have the dexterity to get those third and fourth blocks to stay in place. They slipped and fell every time. His rage was his frustration with the blocks, and with himself.

A toddler with Down Syndrome, sitting on the floor playing with blocksInspiration came – in the box of offcuts at the woodwork bench were several pieces which had smooth rounded sides, but were rough on the top and bottom. I collected a pile and took them to him. He started to build: one, two, three, four, five! The traction of the rough ends held the construction safe and steady. Never before had he built so high! The excitement of his achievement transformed him and the frustrated rages gradually became a thing of the past.

It is very easy to judge and condemn situations or behaviour we don’t approve of. A much more constructive reaction involves two questions. The first one is: “Why? Why is this happening? What’s causing it?” And the second one is even more important. It goes like this: “What can I do about it?”


By Claire Thompson

[Originally published in The Encourager June 2014, issue #142]

Reposted in conjunction with Neurodiversity Celebration Week 2024 & World Down Syndrome Day 2024

Neurodiversity Celebration Week logo
World Down Syndrome Day logo, with the hashtag: #EndTheStereotypes 21 March 2024


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