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  • Mark Jamroz

Going Last: Business Lessons from My Daughter with Down Syndrome.

Lesson #2: You see more when you slow down.


My daughter has Down syndrome and is autistic. If you ask her her name or how old she is, she would not respond to you. As far as I know, to her, hearing the spoken word might mean the same as if you listened to a hockey game broadcast in Russian. You might catch a few words, some familiar names, but most of it would be a garbled mess.


As a result, there is very little she can do for entertainment. She has no social group, no friends she hangs out with, no hobbies, pastimes, or social media presence. She likes to watch Toy Story and Shrek and she–oddly enough–likes opera, especially The 3 Tenors. Outside of that, her favorite form of entertainment is walking. So we go for a lot of walks. At least once and sometimes twice a day. We don’t mind it. We are blessed by being very near many fine parks and walking trails. Our rescue dog struck it rich when she joined our family. Not many dogs get that much outdoor exercise.


Walking with my daughter is another sport entirely. It’s not continuous. She stops a lot. When it’s hot (which is most of the time in Alabama) she’ll just sit down, wherever she is. That can mean we’ll walk 50 yards, then stop and sit. Walk another 50 and stop again. Each time we have to walk back to her, get her up, and cajole her to keep moving.


The First to Be Last


No matter what time of year, my daughter has a peculiar obsession. She does not like to walk in front of people.


So when we take a walk, she’s always looking out for those behind us. When she spots someone coming up behind us, she’ll walk back to them, stop, wait for them to pass, then walk behind them.



Naturally, we stop and wait, too. We walk back, join her, then continue. We’ll never set any speed records. When we take a walk it’s often literally, 1000 steps forward, 300 back. It takes us 50 minutes to complete a 15-minute walk, but, eventually, we finish.


I believe this behavior comes from her training in school. She lined up behind the other children and followed them through the hallway from class to class. That system worked for her. She always knew where to go.


Leading from Behind.


I have played hockey most of my life and as I have gotten older (and my opponents seem to be getting younger) I have found my diminishing speed is better suited for defense. When I first moved back to defense, I was astonished at how my view of the game changed. The entire game was in FRONT of me. I could see everything and anticipate how plays were developing. From this new vantage point, I realized I could even dictate the direction of play, literally quarterbacking a break-out. Many times I have seen a play go from our zone to a goal in 3 passes, starting with my breakout pass from our end.


We universally agree that the quarterback is the leader of a team, but on nearly every play he is most often the player that is furthest back in the field. Everyone else is ahead of him. He sees everything.


I’m not dismissing the importance of leaders being first, “leading the way” or setting examples to follow, but I ask you to consider what you can learn from the vantage point of being behind.


My daughter’s advice? Slow down. Take a look. Keep the game in front of you.


Have a good week and enjoy your holiday.


This article is second in a series of lessons I have learned from my daughter, a young lady with Down syndrome and autism. She doesn’t speak, but she does communicate. I will share some of the many things I have learned from her in this weekly series.


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