Teaching Children with Down Syndrome

Teaching Children with Down Syndrome

Teaching children with Down syndrome involves special initiatives, accommodations, and curriculum modifications in the classroom. Read this article to know more about the teaching strategies applied in this case.
Down syndrome is a medical condition which is genetic by nature. A person affected by this disorder, suffers from a lifelong mental retardation, developmental delays, and numerous other problems. One in every 700-800 infants, who is affected with severe learning disabilities, has this condition as one of its most common genetic causes. A great deal of help can be rendered to such children, by developing an understanding attitude towards their needs, and early interventions in the matter.

Down Syndrome Symptoms
  • A distinct facial appearance is prominently a characteristic symptom of this medical condition.
  • Symptoms may vary from person to person, and not all patients would have the same features. However, those which are known to be common among most include a protruding tongue, small head, abnormally shaped ears, and flattened facial features.
  • It is also common for a child in this condition to have unusually slanting eyes, poor muscle tone, fingers shorter than normal, and excessive flexibility.
  • Having broad, relatively short hands, displaying a single crease in the palm, is also indicative of this syndrome.
Risks of having a baby with this condition increases with women who conceive at the age 35 (1 in 400) and with those at the age of 45 (1 in 35). If a woman has had a child with this condition, she has 1% risk of having another child with the same condition. As it is genetic, either or both the parents can pass the condition on to their offspring.

Teaching Strategies

Inclusion and relationship techniques
Most institutions apply these in teaching children with Down syndrome. Through inclusion classes, the students are made to feel like a part of the entire group. The primary objective is to develop their comfort for interacting with other classmates, irrespective of their age or level of mental retardation. Setting up a friendly environment, where they can come out of their hesitation in interacting with others, is what these techniques focus on.

Getting over Appearances
Looks play a vital role in the development of self-esteem. Generally, it is observed that a person who does not feel good about his/her appearance lacks self-confidence. This is however, at a higher level with people with Down syndrome. So, teachers help kids with this condition to develop a feel-good factor about themselves. They are taught to have a better attitude towards life, and nurture a belief that they are special and no less than other kids.

It is important for children with this condition to start reading from an early age, just as in case of normal kids. All types of reading activities provide a great deal of support for such children when they start to learn spoken language and memory skills. It has been observed that affected children begin to read in a way that is similar to how normal kids read. However, they find it difficult to make use of phonics. So, in order to tackle this, children with Down syndrome are taught to read through a whole-word learning strategy, before they are introduced to the use of phonics. Teachers and parents can do their own bit to help their affected child to be interested in books. This they can be done by reading different stories to them in an interactive manner, and by talking to them about what they just read.

Tackling Distractions
Kids with Down's condition have the tendency to get easily distracted by the slightest of movements, like that of a fly on the table, or by a mere sound from outdoors or indoors. Hence, teachers work to minimize such elements, which may disturb the kids. Having an orderly classroom, keeping kids from sitting near windows, reducing the level of noise, and keeping the classroom with the least of objects, are few of the things which teachers may take care of.

Speech Therapy
Speech/language intervention is required in order to counter severe speech and hearing problems faced by these kids. They must be taught to speak clearly, and must also be spoken to clearly. If there are words or phrases, which they may find difficult to convey, then teachers must rectify these errors and teach them patiently.

Teaching children with Down syndrome is a matter of sheer patience and great sincerity, whether done by the parents or teachers. Such children are also capable to learn to be productive in school and at work when they grow up. What they require is help from concerned people; people who can take up the responsibility to set up the right environment, and have access to proper teaching aids and tips to help them.