Down Syndrome

Down Syndrome is a developmental disability that is diagnosed at birth or shortly after birth. Individuals with Down Syndrome have intellectual and physical delays in development. The cause of the developmental disabilities is due to the Champion having 47 instead of 46 chromosomes (three instead of two at Chromosome 21). There are specific physical characteristics such as low muscle tone, a single crease across the palm of the hand, slightly flattened facial profile, and an upward slant to the eyes that are distinct to the diagnosis of Down Syndrome.

Champions with Down Syndrome may have medical complications that require specialized medical treatment. According to the Down Syndrome Association (2012), approximately 40% of the children have congenital heart defects. Some of the heart conditions require surgery while others only require careful monitoring. Champion’s with Down syndrome may also have a higher incidence of infection, respiratory, vision and hearing problems as well as thyroid and other medical conditions.

It is important for early intervention services to be initiated as soon as possible. These services should include physical therapy for low muscle tone, speech therapy for delays in language development, and developmental therapy for delays in cognitive development. Many Champions attend their neighborhood schools with special education support through specialized classes. Champions with Down Syndrome may have difficulties in that areas of learning, communication, social, academic, vocational, and independent living skills.

The following characteristics may be observed:

  • Difficulties with problem solving skills
  • Academic skills well below the Champion’s grade level
  • Difficulties with social interactions
  • Slow rate of learning
  • Difficulty learning a skill in one environment and then performing the skill in another environment (generalization)
  • Short attention span
  • Interest in activities preferred by a younger Champion

The following instructional strategies may be helpful:

  • Use concrete materials that are interesting and age appropriate.
  • Provide information in small steps and repeat directions as necessary
  • Provide immediate feedback and reinforcement
  • Teach skills that the Champion will be able to use in a variety of settings
  • Break tasks into small segments and have Champion demonstrate mastery for each section before moving on to the next section of the task
Turnbull, A., Turnbull, R. &Wehmeyer, M. (2007). Exceptional lives: Special Education in today’s schools. Upper Saddle River, N. J: Pearson Education.

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