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This paper presents an in depth perception of the affairs surrounding the education of a child with Down Syndrome.
Initially, I would like to mention what is Down Syndrome. Down syndrome (DS), also called Trisomy 21, is a condition in which extra genetic material causes delays in the way a child develops, both mentally and physically. It affects about 1 in every 800 babies.
The physical features and medical problems associated with Down syndrome can vary widely from child to child. While some kids with DS need a lot of medical attention, others lead healthy lives.
Though Down syndrome can't be prevented, it can be detected before a child is born. The health problems that can go along with DS can be treated, and there are many resources within communities to help kids and their families who are living with the condition.
At this point, I should mention that Down Syndrome is named after John Langdon Down, the British doctor who first described the condition in 1887. It was not until 1959, however, that an extra chromosome was identified as the cause.
Normally, at the time of conception a baby inherits genetic information from its parents in the form of 46 chromosomes: 23 from the mother and 23 from the father. In most cases of Down syndrome, a child gets an extra chromosome 21 - for a total of 47 chromosomes instead of 46. It's this extra genetic material that causes the physical features and developmental delays associated with DS.
Although no one knows for sure why DS occurs and there is no way to prevent the chromosomal error that causes it, scientists do know that women age 35 and older have a significantly higher risk of having a child with the condition. At age 30, for example, a woman has about a 1 in 900 chances of conceiving a child with DS. Those odds increase to about 1 in 350 by age 35. By 40 the risk rises to about 1 in 100.
Children with Down syndrome tend to share certain physical features such as a flat facial profile, an upward slant to the eyes, small ears, and a protruding tongue.
Low muscle tone (called hypotonia) is also characteristic of children with DS, and babies in particular may seem especially "floppy." Though this can and often does improve over time, most children with DS typically reach developmental milestones - like sitting up, crawling, and walking - later than other kids.
At birth, children with DS are usually of average size, but they tend to grow at a slower rate and remain smaller than their peers. For infants, low muscle tone may contribute to sucking and feeding problems, as well as constipation and other digestive issues. Toddlers and older kids may have delays in speech and self-care skills like feeding, dressing, and toilet teaching.
Down syndrome affects children's ability to learn in different ways, but most have been mild to moderate intellectual impairment. Children with DS can and do learn, and are capable of developing skills throughout their lives. They simply reach goals at a different pace - which is why it's important not to compare a child with DS against typically developing siblings or even other children with the condition.
Children with DS have a wide range of abilities, and there's no way to tell at birth what they will be capable of as they grow up.
Children with Down syndrome do not have just a general delay in growth to need a curriculum. They have a specific learning profile with characteristic strengths and weaknesses.
Knowledge of factors that facilitate and impede learning allows teachers to design and implement such activities and work programs. The typical learning profile and learning styles of children with DS, with individual needs and varieties within this profile should therefore be taken into account.
The following factors are typical for many children with Down. Some are natural (physical) effects, others have been cognitive. Many have both.
Factors that facilitate learning. Powerful visual perception and visual learning skills include:
- Ability to learn and use meaningful gestures and visual support.
- Ability to learn and use the written word.
- They take behavioural patterns and attitudes from their peers and adults.
- Learn from practical curriculum material and tangible activities.
- Factors that impede learning.
Late-minute motor skills and mass.
- Audible and visual impairment.
- Faults in speech and language.
- Deficit in short-term auditory memory.
- Shorter concentration.
- Difficulties in the consolidation and preservation.
- Difficulties in generalization, thinking and dialectical.
- Difficulties in sequence.
- Strategies to avoid.
Aspects of short and long-term memory can present challenges for people with Down syndrome. Some of these impact language developments plus many other aspects of learning.
To what extent can we do something about these difficulties? Can practice improve memory abilities? Past research suggests it is possible. What further research is needed?
Working memory is the system in the brain that supports the daily processing of visual and verbal information as individuals go about their lives. It has been described as 'a mental workplace', as it is not only essential for language processing, it also supports activities which involve holding and manipulating information such as reading a text with comprehension, planning and writing text or messages, doing mental arithmetic, and holding temporary information like a telephone number while dialling it.
In addition to being a temporary storage and processing system essential to everyday functioning and to mental abilities, part of the working memory system which is specialised for holding verbal information - the phonological loop - is thought to be essential for learning a spoken language. The phonological loop holds the sound patterns for words.
In order to learn a first language a child has to be able to store accurate representations of the sound patterns of words in order to link them to meaning and in order to be able to copy or produce the word when talking. If the phonological loop does not function well, speech and language will be delayed. There is evidence that there is a basic impairment in phonological loop functioning in children with Down syndrome. This is probably a major reason for their speech and language delays and difficulties and it also affects their ability to process spoken language and carry out cognitive tasks.
Memory training studies indicate that it is possible to improve the short-term memory skills of children with Down syndrome. However, the biggest gains in short-term memory skills reported are linked to reading instruction and to being in a mainstream school. Reading activities may provide auditory training experiences which actually improve phonological coding (the accurate representation of the sound patterns of words) in the phonological loop. Memory training activities and support for weak auditory memory skills are discussed. However, a range of activities to improve speech sound and word discrimination are included, as they may improve basic phonological loop function and therefore result in the greatest gains for spoken language abilities and working memory.
Students with Down syndrome are capable learners who will progress with appropriate supports and opportunities. However, there are some factors which can influence a student's educational success.