Thursday, September 23, 2010

Preparing the School for Your Child with Down Syndrome

Teachers can be great allies in keeping your child with Down syndrome safe and successful in school, but you'll need to make sure they have all the knowledge they need to help. Use these suggestions to create a information packet to bring educators up to speed.

Five Things Teachers Need to Know

1. Please think carefully before hugging my child. Not every adult she meets will be safe and friendly, and she needs to learn boundaries and age-appropriate ways to interact.

2. It's okay to let my child's classmates know about Down syndrome as long as it is done in a positive way; I'd be happy to help prepare a program.

3. Teaching strategies that have proven successful for children with Down syndrome will help my child learn better and make him easier for you to deal with.

4. My child is an individual, not a diagnosis -- please be alert and receptive to the things that make her unique and special.

5. Please keep the lines of communication open between our home and the school. My child needs all the adults in her life working together.

Educational Implications

The following is excerpted from Down Syndrome, a publication of the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.

Shortly after a diagnoses of Down syndrome is confirmed, parents should be encouraged to enroll their child in an infant development/early intervention program. These programs offer parents special instruction in teaching their child language, cognitive, self-help, and social skills, and specific exercises for gross and fine motor development. Research has shown that stimulation during early developmental stages improves the child's chances of developing to his or her fullest potential. Continuing education, positive public attitudes, and a stimulating home environment have also been found to promote the child's overall development.

Just as in the typical population, there is a wide variation in mental abilities, behavior, and developmental progress in individuals with Down syndrome. Their level of impairment may range from mild to severe, with the majority functioning in the mild to moderate range. Due to these individual differences, it is impossible to predict future achievements of children with Down syndrome.

Because of the range of ability in children with Down syndrome it is important for families and all members of the school's education team to place few limitations on potential capabilities. It may be effective to emphasize concrete concepts rather than abstract ideas. Teaching tasks in a step-by-step manner with frequent reinforcement and consistent feedback has been proven successful. Improved public acceptance of persons with disabilities along with increased opportunities for adults with disabilities to live and work independently in the community, have expanded goals for individuals with Down syndrome. Independent Living Centers, group shared and supervised apartments and support services in the community have proven to be important resources for persons with disabilities.