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Pannist says music keeps his Down syndrome son grounded
Ace pannist Dane Gulston has risen to the challenge of coping with his son Daniel Gulston, nine, who has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. On March 13, at All Stars Panyard, Duke Street, Port-of-Spain, Gulston shared the triumphs and trials of coping with a disabled child.
Music, which runs in Gulston’s veins, has been therapy for Daniel, who is often spotted playing pan alongside his father at events. From his Piccadilly Greens home, Daniel often accompanies him to the panyard which is located a stone’s throw away. The senior Gulston is an adviser to the ensemble/senior member of All Stars, which placed second in the 2013 Panorama competition at Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain.
Gulston said, “Daniel’s favourite song is Imagine by John Lennon. He likes to play it. He likes Bunji and Machel. He loves the panyard experience. He loves music. He likes soca, chutney, calypso and pan. He likes Allrounder’s Garlic Sauce. He likes percussive instruments. He enjoys his drums at home. Music is one of the things that helps to keep him ‘normal.’”
Asked if he felt parents should encourage their children with Down syndrome to get involved with music, Gulston added, “Definitely. I would say music and sports. Daniel likes soccer and basketball. He would sit and watch a whole game. They should expose their children to the panyards. It’s a different experience. It is good therapy.”
Describing Daniel as “extremely special,” Gulston boasted he absorbs information quickly. “He picks up the music easily. He is helpful. He is thoughtful. He would carry a grocery bag out of the car. He answers the phone. He is a joy. But he is touchy. He can get emotional. And like most children, he likes to get his own way. He likes fried chicken.” He lauded Daniel for making significant progress in buttoning his shirt.
“He is a stickler for neatness, likes to dress himself and he likes his hair combed.” On the flip side, Daniel’s speech impediment remains a major setback. “His speech is slurred. He has trouble putting sentences together. So communication is a problem. My wife (Dianne) and I understand him well. But speech is a major challenge.”
Dianne Gulston “overwhelming experience”
Reflecting on his birth (January 7, 2004) at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital, Dianne Gulston said she had a normal full-term pregnancy. The Gulstons’ world was shattered when they learned he was born with three holes in his heart. At one year old, Daniel was taken to Lutheran Methodist Hospital, New York, USA, for a heart operation.
Via telephone, she said, “I was overwhelmed to learn about his condition. Dane helped me cope better. He understood the situation better than I. When Daniel was born, it was challenging. But I began to understand him a lot more.”
On the fateful day, Gulston said, “When I got to the hospital and they told me about his condition, I asked, ‘How severe?’ I wondered if he was autistic. There are different levels. Everything was not right. He had spaces between his toes. The lines in his palm were different. His eyes had that wild look. He was not focusing.”
Relying on his paternal instinct, Gulston embraced Daniel as a gift from God. "I decided he was here already. He’s here to stay. We would do the best we could to help him.” He decided he would treat Daniel like his other children—Devon, 27, Dwayne, 25, and Dennison, 13, who is a student of Woodbrook Government Secondary School.
For more info on Down syndrome contact Natalie Morales at [email protected]/ 744-4639
Government needs to do more
Asked if he felt the Government was doing enough, Gulston said, “No. For instance, when it comes to education and children with disabilities, we don’t have enough facilities for their advancement. We need to give them a better chance at being well-adjusted persons.” Daniel attends Immortelle Children’s Centre, St Ann’s.
Asked what advice she would give to parents, Dianne Gulston said, “Love them. Be patient. Let them interact with children and adults. Don’t ostracise them. Keep working with them because they are bright children.”