Have you ever wanted to change something about yourself? Wished you were a better version of yourself? Even a different person entirely?
Gabriel is a bright and charming 18-year-old. He LOVES music – from a very young age he would stand in the middle of the living room pretending to be the lead singer and guitarist of a band. He is equally enthralled with superheroes and often introduces himself as Barry Allen (known to DC Comics fans as The Flash). He’s bilingual and loves his teacher and his friends. But it takes a lot to become Gabriel’s friend; he has been discharged from many therapy programs for refusing to participate.
Sure enough, when our Speech-Language therapist Lauren met Gabriel for the first time via tele-health this year, he was covering his mouth in refusal. It wasn’t until inspiration struck and Lauren left the screen – returning dressed as The Flash – that Gabriel’s hands came down. And in what seemed like extreme slow motion, he raised up his hands to put on a pair of Flash sunglasses (which he just happened to have right in front of him!). The two started running around their respective rooms in character and there you have it: Lauren became fast friends with “Barry.”
From then on, Gabriel was his authentic, wonderful self. He shared all about his school (which he misses very much after it closed due to COVID-19), hobbies, and aspirations – like wanting to meet girls. Since building social communication skills is a goal of speech therapy for youth with Down syndrome like Gabriel, Lauren devised a virtual Halloween event for teens with disabilities. They prepared by practicing how to introduce and talk about yourself. How to be proud of who you are.
At the party, even behind a mask, Gabriel couldn’t bring himself to use his own name and instead called himself The Fox.
But amidst the games and chatter and fun, a transformation was afoot. Sure, superheroes are fantastic. But you are awesome, too. You have your own real-life powers. And you are loved as you are. By the end of the party, a revelation had taken place. Given one more chance, he said:
“Hi, I’m Gabriel.”
Gabriel’s mother reports that since coming to Tichenor, it’s been “como noche y día” – like night and day – with Gabriel.
We do love superheroes here at Tichenor Clinic for Children, but we’ll take Gabriel over Barry any day.
This holiday season, help us celebrate Gabriel’s courage and that of all our children and youth who are endeavoring daily to become their best selves.
Our warmest wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season,