Wednesday, October 05, 2016

When Down Syndrome Caught Me

That was how she titled her submission.

Maddux was assigned a "Reflections" project the week before Fall Break. As usually happens, we didn't really catch wind about it until the day before we returned to school. And it is due tomorrow.

We discussed that, while I love that she wanted to do photography and I want to devote time to that, we didn't have time, so Maddux was going to have to come up with her theme and plan quickly. And it would have to include a photo shoot in our yard.

The first thing Maddux had to do was decide on her focus for the project. She was to create an original piece of art that represented 'my story'. So I asked Maddux what her story was.

When she answered, "Down syndrome", I was immediately stuck in that place between being wanting to hug her and tell her how insanely proud/impressed I was and wanting to hug her and tell her that Down syndrome doesn't have to be her story. The thing is, that is who Maddux is: she takes on other's everthing and makes it hers as well. She's kind of amazing.

But this project is supposed to be totally from and of her, so I asked a few follow up questions, to make sure she understood what she was choosing. She gave good explanations, so we moved on. Because it is days away from the deadline, I helped her come up with a quick timeline: brainstorm, gather materials, take photo, edit and print. Most of that took place over the last two days: tonight was edit and print night.
First off, she took some REALLY nice photos. I set her up on an auto mode and let her shoot, knowing she would be able to produce and image she could slightly edit the lighting of later, if she wanted. She 'ran' the shoot with Ruby on her own...Lehr and I were there to offer assistance if requested, but it was her photo shoot (all of about five minutes long). What she captured in those few minutes was great though; she knows how to bring it out of Ruby!
The photo Maddux chose to edit for her submission is beautiful; it was in my top three picks as well. While the style of editing she chose was not my preference, it gave a beautiful focus to the lighting she shot in. I saw some cool elements in there, but kept it to myself, not wanting to alter what Maddux might think about her picture, especially as she wrote about it for her submission.

That's where it got crazy good: the writing portion. In 10-100 words, Maddux had to give an explanation of her piece. The theme was "My Story". As Maddux read to me what she wrote, I couldn't believe the beauty. When she finished, I asked her to look at her picture and see if it matched up with what she wrote. She said, "Yes, because it's Ruby and she has Down syndrome." I nodded but told her to think more about what other things she wrote about:

When Ruby was born, we realized she had Down syndrome. I did not know what Down syndrome was, but Ruby opened my eyes to unique people. Ruby brightened my world; she will be my light forever.
As she read the last sentence, I told Maddux to look again and think about the lighting she created, how it contrasted between dark around Ruby and then her white shirt, catching the sun. (If you don't see it, Ruby stands out from the photo, brightening the space.) She abruptly laughed, the emotion of it all catching her off guard. Then her eyes got shiny and her face registered the connection. Maddux laughed and said, "Oh Mommy, I'm going to cry!" How cool it was for me to be able to witness her seeing that she had created something so symbolic even without realizing it. And words cannot adequately express all the feels I felt throughout...that girl is something special.

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