I wrote this article first for The Voice, which is the magazine of Down Syndrome Australia, back in March. I then updated it into what you see here for our feature page on the YOOCANdoanything website. Today’s YouTube upload by Elijah on MOTIVATION reminded me that I should share this with you. I have split it into two parts as you may be time poor too! If you like it, please leave a comment and don’t forget to subscribe so you get a notification next time (for Part 2)!! Also, while I have your attention, please let us know if you would buy our upcoming book. Thank you for your support, Rob 🙂
Elijah is 10 years old. Crumpet is kind of also 10. I’m Dad and I’m 47, in case you were wondering. Most people know me as Crumpet from Elijah’s YouTube channel: Elijah and Crumpet. It was meant to be a secret, but in our first ever show, Elijah couldn’t resist being the one in charge and letting everyone know the truth. Now it’s a regular feature of our closing scenes – Elijah pulling off Crumpet and attacking Dad!
Let’s go back 10 years … we found out during the pregnancy that our baby had Down syndrome. We decided not to do a blood test and nuchal fold test that looked for markers of Down syndrome; we both felt that having a child with Down syndrome would be something that we could cope with. We already had a 5 year-old son, Thomas, and he was very excited about having a younger brother or sister.
We did go for an ultrasound scan at around week 28 and it suggested markers for Down syndrome or perhaps another chromosomal abnormality that may require palliative care for the baby. We decided to have an amniocentesis and it confirmed Down syndrome. We were happy with this outcome because it was not a life-threatening abnormality. We got as much information as we could and were really looking forward to welcoming this little baby into our lives.
In some ways it was life-changing, but then in other ways, we just got on with having child number two. We spoke with people who had experience of Down syndrome and used every available means to become as knowledgeable as possible. As Elijah grew we went through the therapy sessions and additional appointments, knowing that we had to give Elijah every opportunity to be successful.
Could we have imagined that by the age of 10 Elijah would be championing his disability by having his own YouTube channel, Instagram and Twitter accounts? Or appearing on Australian television? Or having an international following? Not a chance! What we did soon realize very early on was that inclusive education was important to us. It became our goal to have Elijah attend a regular school like his big brother Thomas (who is 5 years older). We attended a Social Role Valorisation (SRV) course which cemented our high ambitions for Elijah, including becoming a Scout, being a school and even University student, being a reader, a musician and a speaker of a foreign language, plus ultimately having a job. Mum has a teaching background in language and linguistics and primary education. She took Elijah to music groups and developed literacy materials which were freely available from all over the world. She learned Auslan and Makaton to teach and communicate with Elijah in sign. She also developed fine and gross motor plans and learned how to use a speech generating device to teach Elijah in case he wasn’t going to speak.
We had done baby signing with Thomas, so we started early on with Elijah. As it turned out, he was non-verbal right up until his first year at school in Prep. Elijah showed that he had a great memory, so we made the most of that with reading and sight words. Elijah used his speech generating device in kindergarten. His friends were blown away when Elijah gave a presentation we had pre-loaded into it, as they had never heard his voice. The computer’s ‘Australian boy’ voice became Elijah! What mattered most was that he was able to engage with others and really be a part of the group.
Music and dance have always been present in our home, so Elijah learned to play with instruments and sing. Thomas does hip hop and Mum can dance well too (not me!) so Elijah has picked up their moves and practices with or without an audience! Elijah has always attended regular schools where he has been in regular classes, with some additional hours of teacher aide assistance. He follows a modified curriculum and he is encouraged to take part in all school activities. He has won reading and class awards in assembly over the years and he is seen as a capable learner. He knows all the teachers’ names and he is very popular amongst his peers, who love the fact that he has his own YouTube channel!
So how did Elijah and Crumpet come about?
… to be continued with Part 2 coming soon! Please subscribe to be notified!