What is Down syndrome?
Down syndrome is a genetic condition that results when an individual is born with an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. It comes with characteristic physical traits such as distinct facial features and short stature and babies may need health interventions including surgeries to address heart, hearing or eyesight issues.
People with Down syndrome typically experience some degree of cognitive impairment. Nonetheless, no two individuals will have the same developmental pattern and IQs can vary widely. Emotional understanding is not affected and people with Down syndrome are often known for their loving and sensitive nature.
Thanks to advances in medical technology and a greater societal understanding of the condition, many children and adults lead rich, independent and fulfilling lives as part of their local community.
Growing up with learning difficulties no longer means children are deprived of a robust education or forced to attend special institutions. Many kids go to local schools and some even go on to graduate university! It all depends on the individual’s ability. Parents can begin teaching their children to read as early as age 2. Language delays may be present, particularly because hearing impairments are common, and children can benefit from an enhanced emphasis on phonics in early reading instruction.
Computer technology is a particularly useful tool because it allows for repetition and can provide the kind of automatized feedback and step-by-step learning that individuals with Down syndrome benefit from.
In addition to academic training, schools provide rich learning environments that prepare young-adults for future employment. They are also important for developing social skills as well as fostering creative talents via introducing sport, music and art activities.
It’s important for parents and educators to foster positive self-esteem in children with Down syndrome so they develop a healthy self-image and can gain the confidence they need to be successful. Educating them about their condition and providing examples of other people with learning difficulties who have achieved success can help.
For example, a Down syndrome model was recently signed to a major modelling contract and now appears in fashion shows. TV advertisements for certain clothing chains now feature children with the condition. A man in a Massachusetts town was in the newspaper after he celebrated 30 years of employment at McDonald’s.
Different kinds of employment
Many major brands go out of their way to hire people with Down syndrome including Lowes, Ikea, Walgreens and Stop and Shop. For more information on employment opportunities in your area, get in touch with your local community support groups and see which resources are available to you.
Training and skills development
With the right support, achieving success at school and finding employment as an adult is increasingly within reach for individuals with Down syndrome. This support often includes training that can be enhanced thanks to technology and computer programs. One skill that is useful for many in this day and age is learning how to type. That’s because it not only opens up job opportunities, but the process also reinforces phonics skills through multi-sensory learning.
The Touch-type Read and Spell programme is particularly beneficial for individuals with learning difficulties because it breaks the task down into small incremental steps which can be repeated as many times as is necessary.
Built-in feedback builds confidence and measured success over a period of time helps increase motivation to learn. The TTRS program can also be useful for individuals with dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia, ADHD, autism or apraxia of speech as well as those whose literacy has suffered because they have experienced gaps in their education.