By MALU TIONGSON-ORTIZ, Mother and homeschool teacher of a child with Down Syndrome, and author of ‘Embracing God’s Purpose for my Special Child’
February 10, 2011, 12:40pm
MANILA, Philippines — Clarissa is a young adult with Down syndrome. She is also deaf, mute, physically handicapped and bipolar.
When Clarissa was 18 years old, I started homeschooling her because I wanted her to do as well as she can academically, for her own enjoyment of life. I believe that parents are the best teachers of their children because we are able to instill our personal, spiritual values through our teaching.
Homeschooling Clarissa enabled me to discover her strengths and weaknesses as well. I became more involved in my child’s education as my daughter received one-on-one teaching unmatched in the private setting.
Extra grace required
But teaching a hearing-impaired child could be very frustrating. It needs E-G-R (Extra Grace Required)! Homeschooling a deaf and mute child, with Down syndrome at that, is very challenging.
When I began to homeschool her six years ago, I repeatedly taught her at home what she had been taught in school and in her speech therapy class. I continued to pray for my daughter’s ability to speak. And even as I write these lines, Clarissa hasn’t spoken except to say “Papa” — but that one word gives me every reason to persevere and trust that God will not fail me.
I thank the Lord for giving me the ability to draw and paint. As a Fine Arts graduate, I am able to teach my daughter with the talent that God has given me. For her to understand what I am teaching, I have to draw everything. I have no other way to teach her except through pictures and signs.
I have been delighted to discover Clarissa’s artistic ability. At the age of 15, she started copying my drawings of men and women, and drew stylized portraits of family members and friends. Clarissa uses vibrant colors and the color combination she chooses are amazing. Believe it or not, but you may say these portraits are reminiscent of the exaggerated portraits by Picasso!
Clarissa is also a lifetime scholar of Silab Artreach by Teacher Nick Calma who helps hone her God-given talent. Both teacher Nick and I make collaborative paintings of Clarissa’s works. Our walls at home have become a mini gallery of my daughter’s oil pastel and acrylic paintings. She is truly gifted!
God is good. Clarissa cannot hear or speak but He gave her eyes to see colors and hands to paint faces. I always have this verse in mind — “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
In celebration of the National Down syndrome consciousness month, I would like to share the story of Clarissa and the work that God is doing in her life. May every reader be touched by this testimony.