How Children with Down Syndrome are Accommodated
By: Hayley Witham
Exceptional Children EDU 341
28th June 2018
A genetic disorder where the autosomal chromosome causes abnormalities in children due to an extra genetic material from chromosome 21. In the U.S., 1 in 700 people carry the abnormality
The extra genes and DNA cause changes in the fetus which are later realized through physical and mental disabilities when the baby is born
There is great variability between patients in terms of symptoms both intellectual and physical
Down syndrome is a common genetic disorder where the autosomal chromosome causes abnormality in humans due to an extra genetic material from chromosome 21 that is normally transferred to an embryo (Selikowitz, 2008). Mainly, these extra genes and DNA cause changes in the embryo and fetus eventually resulting to physical and mental disabilities (Selikowitz, 2008). Notably, each patient is normally unique and there can be great variability between people who carry the extra chromosome.
Signs and Symptoms
A child with the genetic condition will have; a smaller head, short neck, slanting eyes, hands are mainly wide but with shorter fingers and ears commonly lower than normal.
Children with the condition experience retarded growth and have decreased mental functions with an IQ ranging from 50 to 70 making learning and socialization often difficult
Low muscle tone, shortened limbs, joint instability
A child with Down syndrome normally has a hallmark appearance. Mainly, children with the genetic disorder will have a small head and a short neck and upward slanting eyes. Ears are commonly flat and positioned lower than normal. In some cases, the tongue is large for the mouth holding it. Hands may be wide but with shorter fingers. Also, majority of children experience retarded growth and decreased mental functions with an IQ ranging from 50 to 70.
May have temper tantrums at a developmental age
Potty training is essential as accidents will occur
Classroom and social attention problems
Before a behavior problem is determined, there are certain guidelines that should be followed to determine this. One must evaluate a child with Down syndrome who is thought to have a behavior problem to determine if there are any underlying medial issues. Some of these medical issues can include; vision or hearing deficits, anemia, gluten intolerance, depression or anxiety (Dsagsl.Org 2012).
Down syndrome and Learning
Children with the condition tend to learn and progress more slowly when compared to their peers of the same age group
Their social functioning, which influences learning, tend to be slower in such children
Also, they show reading difficulties and lower speech clarity along with struggling with comprehension which also affects the way they learn and act in the classroom and social situations
When it comes to learning, children with the genetic condition tend to learn and progress more slowly when compared to other children in their age bracket. More so, social functioning which influences learning tends to be slower in children with the condition. Children may experience hypertonia, and will have a difficult time sitting for long periods of time on the floor especially without any additional support. Additionally, they can have word reading difficulties but some tend to work well with visual learning. Furthermore, motor skills develop at a lower rate for children with the condition (Byrne, MacDonald & Buckley, 2010). Finally, their speech clarity and comprehension is mainly lower which also affects the way they learn.
How Children with Down Syndrome are Accommodated
The use of non-verbal skills are the easiest form of communication, as most children with the condition are quick to comprehend them as opposed to speech
During learning, it is imperative that visual tools and assistive technology are used as majority of the young learners have short-term verbal memories
Teachers need to limit the amount of material the child processes at one time due to cognitive learning delay. A daily picture schedule for the child is a great way to ease transitions and make sure the child has an idea of what is happening next.
Assistive technology is imperative for learning writing skills such as slanted desks and shortened pencils to accommodate the structure of their small hands and shorter fingers
When interacting with children suffering from these symptoms, there are a number of strategies that may be undertaken in order to accommodate them. First, one needs to continually use non-verbal skills such as babbling and gesturing in social situations. Some examples of accommodations can include, putting the child in front of the class, using shortened sentences and speaking directly to the student, and using larger font and simple pictures for assignments and other learning activities. Most of children with the condition are quick to comprehend such skills as opposed to regular speech. Second, during learning, it is imperative that one utilizes visual supports when teaching a concept (Dmitriev, 2000). This is due to the fact that most have short-term memory. Finally, one needs to take time to learn how the children express themselves and act on that when lesson planning and approaching the individual. In the observations done for fieldwork, the child had a specific schedule to follow and always knew what was happening next. Although the child was mostly left on her own to learn and do activities, assistive technology, teachers and aids were present if any help was needed throughout.
Chapman Heights Elementary was observed where the special education teacher enabled me to observe her classroom and identify children in her class with the Down Syndrome.
One girl with the condition- 11 years old
Two boys who were 9 and 11
The teacher also was involved in a preliminary discussion where she provided insightful information regarding how they interact with the young learners and how they promote learners’ social and cognitive functions
Learning can be very challenging for these young students, patience is extremely important working with these individuals
A visit to the local Elementary school was conducted where children with various physical and intellectual disabilities were visited in a mild mod classroom. The special education teacher enabled one to identify children with Down syndrome and observations were conducted. More so, the teacher was involved in a discussion with the observer regarding how they interact with the children and how they promote the children’s social and cognitive functioning. Based on the discussion, G (the child with downs) had severe slower growth intellectually. As observed, she would often suck her thumb and have accidents in her pants a couple of times a day. At recess, G was playing with her classmates as a normal kid would. She loved the swings. The other two children with the condition enjoyed playing basketball together and often were off on their own. One did not visit the children’s families as it was established that the children spent more time at the school than at home. Based on the observations, the three children with down syndrome out of eight children in the classroom were calm and very engaged in computer activities.
Fieldwork Classroom Setup
One main teacher
Three teacher aids
Eight children total
3 of the 8 kids are non-vocal
3 children have down syndrome
One child is psych challenged and legally blind
Kids in the classroom range from 8-11 years old
Desks are in a “U” shape facing the white board
In the middle of the classroom, there is a free area for the children to get up and dance after certain learning activities
Teacher encourages singing and dancing
Two aids desks, one with chairs for students to sit in smaller groups in front of aid
When in a special education classroom, communication is key. When observing this class, the teacher and teacher aids had very effective communication with each other which helped further the learning process and catch potential problems with the children early-on. They all work together to make the classroom learning environment run smoothly and make transitions for the kids seamless.
How Down syndrome is Identified
Prenatal screens can be done to estimate the chance of Down syndrome. Ultra sounds and blood tests are done not to indicate the presence of the condition but the probability.
At birth, physical traits such as upward slanting eyes and low muscle tone indicate the condition but a chromosomal analysis must be undertaken to confirm it as some children may have such physical traits but with no Down syndrome.
Prenatal screens can be done while the fetus is in the womb to estimate the chance for Down syndrome. Blood tests and ultra sounds are undertaken to indicate the probability of the condition but do not necessarily indicate the actual condition itself. However, it is now possible for advanced screening to be done early on. Medical experts can detect chromosomal material of the fetus in the maternal blood. At birth, physical traits such as low muscle tone and upward slant of the eyes are some of the traits that indicate it is present (Dabrowska & Pisula, 2010). Notably, a chromosomal analysis of DNA has to be undertaken to confirm it as some children may have certain similar physical traits but have no Down syndrome.
First, a teacher needs to fully understand the needs, weaknesses and strengths of a learner with down syndrome. Each case is different. They should ensure physical well-being of such learners and intellectual disabilities.
Mainly, the teacher should utilize visual tools and equipment as well as non-verbal skills when interacting with such learners. Finally, supporting devices and tools can be offered to learners.
In the observations done, assistive technology was used such as a computer application called GoNoodle.
GoNoodle helps teachers and parents get children moving with short interactive activities that improve behavior and attention as well as academic performance. Desk-side movement through this application helps kids achieve more by keeping them engaged and motivated throughout the day. Hence why the children observed were so focused on their assistive computers.
When interacting with learners with Down syndrome, a teacher needs to first understand the needs, weaknesses, and strength of the learners. More so, they need to be aware of physical and health condition that may affect classroom and academic success. Due to such learner’s short memory, intellectual, and cognitive disabilities, the teacher needs to mainly use visual tools and assistive equipment. A teacher also needs to pay special attention to the individual learner and should mainly use non-verbal skills as they quickly understand them (Jarrold, Annabel & Emma, 2009). He or she should keep close ties and communication with the parents of the child so that any changes such as sleeplessness can be known. Sleeplessness can affect the child’s ability to problem solve when in a learning environment (down syndrome association, 2012).
Special Needs for Families
Families have to pay close attention to children with the condition. They need to keep close contact with healthcare experts and need to have access to latest information and research regarding the condition relating to management of such children.
Also, families need to learn about the children’s interests, weaknesses, and strengths so that interactions with them can be successful and positive for both parties.
For families with children with Down syndrome, they have a responsibility to pay close attention to the children and also need to stay in contact with healthcare experts who offer helpful information regarding how to manage children with the disorder. Further, such families need to acquire the latest and most relevant information regarding how to interact with such children and must always look for such information (Jarrold, Annabel & Emma, 2009). Finally, they have to learn about the child’s interests, needs, weaknesses, and strengths so that interactions can be undertaken in a manner that upholds them.
Role of School and Agencies
They can work together in ensuring that children with the said genetic disorder are able to access the best treatment and appropriate accommodations as possible.
They can partner with children’s families in research that will establish better ways of managing children with Down syndrome
Finally, they can work together with the families to ensure improved educational goals and at home care.
School and agencies have a role to play when it comes to families with children who have the condition. One way of doing so entails working together in ensuring that children with the condition are able to access the best treatment. Two, they can work together in research in a bid to establish better ways of managing the children. Three, they can work together in promoting educational goals for children with Down syndrome.
Though there are ongoing efforts to help children with Down syndrome, there is a need for stakeholder to work collectively in enabling better health and educational goals.
More so, there is a need for more public awareness which will positively impact collective performance.
Though there are ongoing efforts to address issues related to management of children with Down syndrome, it is imperative to note that there is a need for more to be done. Various parties and stakeholders needs to work collectively in a manner that will promote both health and educational goals. More so, more social awareness need to be worked on which will promote collective performance between various parties.
For someone who knows nothing about the condition referred to as down syndrome, this website provided below is a reliable, and informational resource perfect for gaining more insight on what down syndrome is, what the symptoms look like, how it is diagnosed, and so much more. This website is from a research institute called The Division of Intramural Research which conducts genetic research to gain a better understanding of human genetic diseases. The research is used to better develop diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome.
An Overview of the Division of Intramural Research. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.genome.gov/10001634/an-overview-of-the-division-of-intramural-research/
The website for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) is a great resource for parents, teachers and professionals wanting to know more about Down Syndrome. It offers background and history as to how the disease got it’s name and offers an insight into the degree of intellectual disability in people with Down Syndrome and explains what it means for people who carry the gene. It also has great resources at the bottom of the page for more website filled with information on the condition.
Down Syndrome: Condition Information. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/down/conditioninfo
The National Down Syndrome Society is a great resource for anyone looking to get more involved with people who have the disorder. It provides a fact sheet with demographic information and facts about Down Syndrome, along with ways to work with down syndrome kids and adults. The website is a great way to get out there and help the down syndrome community. Included in these great ways to do your part, the website enables you to be an advocate for the disorder and people involved, as well as donate to the society and engage with those in the downs community.
Human Rights Organization for Individuals with Down syndrome. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ndss.org/
This next resource is a helpful PowerPoint titled “What Students with Down syndrome Want Teachers To Know” is one of my favorites for information linked to Down syndrome. While reading through the information I realized that it is not just for people looking to know more about Down syndrome, but teachers who work with children with the disorder, parents of, and health professionals as well. It offers a multitude of information relating to behavior problems, how to accommodate a classroom with these learners, and medical information which can be helpful to identify any underlying issues. At the bottom of the resource it offers even more informational resources for teachers and other paraprofessionals to explore further.
N., & N. (2014). What Students With Down Syndrome Want Teachers To Know[Information for para professionals]. Cincinnati, Kansas City.
This last resource is the Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County and their website/foundation is exceptional for parents, professionals and people who want to be involved with Down syndrome in their community. Their mission is to serve people with Down syndrome by developing educational, social and support programs working with individuals, families, professionals and communities. It is amazing that such a foundation exists that brings people together such as this. It’s a wonderful resource because it provides face to face services, online classes, digital learning materials, and printables for families and teachers working with the disorder. Not only does it help families, it gives resources to special education teachers which include classroom materials, iPad applications, and even local resources.
Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.dsfoc.org/
Byrne, A., MacDonald, J., & Buckley, S. (2010). Reading, language and memory skills: A comparative longitudinal study of children with Down syndrome and their mainstream peers. British Journal of Educational Psychology 72(4), 67-93.
Dabrowska, A., & Pisula, E. (2010). Parenting stress and coping styles in mothers and fathers of pre‐school children with autism and Down syndrome. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 49-71.
Dmitriev, V. (2000). Early Education for Children With Down Syndrome (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Pro Ed Inc.
Images. (n.d.). Retrieved June 28, 2018, from https://www.google.com/imghp?hl=en&tab=wi
GoNoodle. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.gonoodle.com/
Jarrold, C., Annabel, S. C., & Emma, S. (2009). The relationships among verbal short-term memory, phonological awareness, and new word learning: Evidence from typical development and Down syndrome. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 102(2), 196-218.
N., & N. (2014). What Students With Down Syndrome Want Teachers To Know[Information for para professionals]. Cincinnati, Kansas City.
Selikowitz, M. (2008). Down Syndrome (3rd ed.). London, UK: Oxford University Press.
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