Essay on the Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is a chromosome abnormality, which is usually due to an extra copy of the 21st chromosome, although not invariably, resulting in mental retardation and other abnormalities. Recent research showed that whites with Down syndrome would live to be about 50 years old while blacks with Down syndrome will only live to be 25, and other races 11 years old (Greenspan & Wieder 88).

Help with Essay on the Down Syndrome
Help with Essay on the Down Syndrome

Although the research related to Down syndrome has started a long time ago, scientists first speculated that Down syndrome is caused by a problem of the genes in the 1930’s. Jerome Lejune a French physician used the powerful microscope to look at strands of DNA and he noticed that in every cell there were 23 pairs of chromosomes; in 1959 he looked at the DNA of a person with Down syndrome and noticed that they had an extra chromosome (Hassold & Patterson 88). In the 1950’s Henry Turkel, a physician from Michigan created an approach to treating children with Down syndrome (Hassold et al 80). His theory was that when the kids with Down syndrome were born they did not have mental retardation but it developed over time as an effect of a lack of oxygen in the body cells. His treatment plan (use of drugs and proper nutrition) would increase oxygen in the cells, preventing mental retardation (Hassold et al 98).

People with Down’s syndrome have many characteristics in common but also have individual features and personalities (Hassold et al 133). Height is small for age; limbs a little short and hands are broad. Feet tend to be flat and broad with a wide space between first and second toes. Teeth usually develop late and may be abnormal in size, shape and alignment. The ears tend to be small and are usually low set. The head is wide in relation to length. Reduced thyroid gland function is also quite common. Many other abnormalities may occur including cataracts and squints of eyes, hearing impairment, webbing of fingers or toes and malformations of the heart and bowel. People with Down’s syndrome are prone to chest infections which, before the introduction of antibiotics, usually caused an early death. It is possible to recognize people with Down syndrome because their eyes will be slightly slanted, they will have a flattened nose bridge, and their tongue will tend to overhang. The most noteworthy symptom of Down syndrome is that the kids will have some form of mental retardation. 40% of children born with Down syndrome have heart problems (Pueschel 128). Children with Down syndrome develop way slower physically. Many babies born with Down syndrome are born with poor muscle tone causing them to have weak muscles. Mental retardation, heart problems, slow growth rates, and weak muscles cause the children with Down syndrome to have trouble developing motor skills. Motor skills are required to learn self-help skills such ass feeding, bathing, etc. Adults with Down syndrome usually enjoy the same activities as adults with out Down syndrome do.

Every person with Down syndrome is different, and the potential of each one is different, also. Speech problems are common, especially difficulty in speaking clearly. Practical and social skills are usually better than reasoning skills and in adult life a wide range of independence can be achieved depending on the ability, skills and personality of the individual. Sheltered or open employment is also within the capabilities of most people.

The number of new items, or bits of information, that an individual can retain briefly in their short-term memory, determine channel capacity. Knowing the channel capacity of the Down syndrome child is the key to programming them for success and is also helpful in avoiding mistakes that can set them up for failure (Oelwein 39-49). The average number of channels the population has is seven, plus or minus two. Children with Down syndrome are likely to have fewer than their peers at any age. To test a child’s number of channels, ask for the child to repeat numbers or words after you, like 5, 2, 8, 9, 5, 1, 3, 7, 4; etc. The number of numbers they can remember is usually their channel capacity. This is good to know when helping the child to learn, so you know how much to expect from them and will not be discouraged.

There are four stages in the learning process for Down syndrome children. They are, in order, acquisition, practice to fluency, transfer, and generalization. During the acquisition stage, the child does not know the information or have the skill. Everything is new to them. To help them learn, you need to tell them what the word is, show them how to match it, and prompt him on selecting or naming it (Oelwein 59). You want for them to understand its meaning and what it is. In the practice of fluency stage, the child has succeeded with stage one. They have been introduced to the word; they have matched it, selected it, and named it, but he now needs to practice to become fluent (Oelwein 59). Matching games, selecting, and naming games, using the picture flash cards, and bingo are all learning activities, which can be done in this stage. In the transfer stage, the child transfers their ability to read the word to different presentations of the word (Oelwein 59). An example would be, if a child has been reading handwritten words on cards, then he needs to transfer his skill to reading words of different fonts and sizes. Generalization is the stage when the student learns to use their ability in all situations. He can read works in books, sentences, notes, directions, recipes, letters, name tags, signs, and greeting cards. Along with reading the words, they know what the words mean and are able to use their reading whenever needed or desired (Oelwein 60).

Auditory memory refers to the ability to hear and understand words and sounds long enough to process and respond to them (Oelwein 41-42). Children with Down syndrome have difficulty in this area due to their loss of hearing or frequent ear infections. Typical complaints from parents about their children are that they are stubborn and do not listen. This may not be the case. The child may simply need shorter instructions, given more slowly, and uncluttered with unnecessary information. An example would be to tell a child to put the dirty dishes in the sink and stack the newspapers. The child may only remember to put the dirty dishes or stack the newspapers. Parents should give only one instruction to the child at a time (Kumin 121). As the child’s memory grows, more instructions can be given to them at a time.

The majority of children with Down syndrome are visual learners (Kumin 118). Things like pictures, symbols, illustrations, and reading are all powerful in the progress of learning for these children. Sight words are words that a reader recognizes instantly with fluency and proficiency (Selikowitz 98). The first sight words taught to a child should be meaningful and also words that they have an immediate use for. Examples are names of family members, pets, or objects in the home or classroom, such as chair, table, toy, etc. For starters, parents should make a poster board with an individual picture of each family member and write the name under each picture. Parents should begin by showing the child a picture of themselves, give them a moment, and then tell the child who is in the picture.

To practice fluency, comprehension, transfer, and generalization, there are many games and activities for the child to do with an adult or family member (Selikowitz 121-128) In the home, placing names on the bedroom doors at eye level is very helpful for them. When the child walks by, they can read the names of the people in each bedroom and learn to recognize the name when they see it. In the classroom, objects should be labelled to aid the child in learning the words, such as play centre, book shelf, coat rack, snack table, etc. The same should be done in the household, like table, bathroom, stairs, light, etc. In teaching the alphabet, rather than starting with ABC, teachers should start with the first letter of the child’s name and then continue with the first letter of each family member’s name (Oelwein 112).

Next comes the need of learning to write. Writing is particularly hard for Down syndrome children because of the decreased muscle tone and lack of strength in their hands and fingers (Oelwein 144). These children learn and progress at different ages, depending on their problems or abilities, so there is no certain time to begin teaching them how to write. Writing first begins when the child can pick up a crayon, marker, pencil, pen, or chalk and makes mark. Teachers and parents should encourage them and praise their effort. Parents may scribble with the child to keep them interested in doing it. If parents try to force children with Down syndrome to draw or write something, children will get turned off (Smith 77). If they become scared, they may never want to learn to write or draw. When children are comfortable, parents should have them trace, copy, or imitate drawing lines, circles, or other shapes.

When the child is ready to begin writing words, primary writing paper with sets of three large lines should be used. Some children may have problems holding the pencil. Mnemonics can help the children remember the proper way to hold it. Patricia Oelwein was watching a Down syndrome girl in a mainstream classroom having difficulty holding her pencil (Oelwein 148). The teacher would correct her, but minutes later she would forget how it was done. She came up with this method to teach this child the proper way to hold it and how to remember. She drew a dog in the space on her hand between her index finger and her thumb. She told the young girl that the dog had fleas and wanted to be scratched when she would write. After a few days of practice, the young girl in the classroom no longer had problems with remembering how to hold her pencil properly (Oelwein 157).

All people, with or without a disability, learn differently and at different paces. Children with Down syndrome just require a little extra time, along with certain activities and exercises to aid them in learning (Hassold and Patterson 39). These children should all learn to walk and talk; they should have friendships, and most can learn to lead lives of some independence. They may require more help along the way, but at various times, so do we all. Thus, one of the researchers described the case of Down syndrome which happened in one of the families (Pueschel 118). When a girl was born, the doctors noticed the main characteristics of Down syndrome. Her eyes were slightly slanted, and the back of her neck had excess fatty skin. The top of her ear lobes were slightly folded over. Not much time later, the results were in. Madison had Down syndrome. Doctors told that children like her do not live to be very old because of their heart problems. Also, her parents were told that she would not be able to learn like other babies or be able to walk for years. Today, Madison has survived major heart surgery along with many illnesses and ear infections. She is one of the smartest babies who is always aware of exactly what is going on. She has mastered the art of crawling and has her entire life ahead to learn and experience so much more.

The other miracle related to Down syndrome happened with Mitchell Levitz. When he was born, his mother was told that his learning would be slow and eventually come to a halt. Today he is twenty-two years old and a very bright young man. In his book that he wrote with his best friend Jason, he says, “I believe that I’ve overcome my disability. I believe that I did overcome, by being successful, having Down syndrome.” (Kingsley and Levitz 18)
In conclusion, Down syndrome is the most common genetic form of mental retardation. People with Down’s syndrome vary widely in intelligence and achievements. Improved attitudes and techniques of professionals and parents, especially in education, have dramatically improved the outcome. With a caring home and appropriate stimulation and discipline most children with Down’s syndrome respond extremely well. Most people with this condition now acquire basic skills in literacy and numeracy by adult life.

Currently there are studies being done that are determined to stop Down syndrome from happening. In the genetic research and biochemistry field the best research is being done through the Human Genome Project. This project is trying to identify the genes in a human body. The Human Genome project is determined to find what each one of the twenty-three chromosome pairs is responsible for. Around the world scientists are working together to decode the genes in chromosome pair 21, it will hopefully be done in this century. The research of the past and the present will likely lessen the chance of giving birth to a child with Down syndrome.

References
Greenspan, S. I., & Wieder, S. The Child With Special Needs. Massachusetts: Perseus Books, 1998.
Hassold, T. J., & Patterson, D. Down Syndrome: A Promising Future Together. New York: Wiley-Liss, Inc, 1999.
Kingsley, J. & Levitz, M. Count Us In. New York: Harcourt Brace and Company, 1994.
Kumin, L. Communication Skills in Children with Down Syndrome. Rockville: Woodbine House, 1994.
Oelwein, P. L. Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome. Bethesda: Woodbine House, 1995.
Pueschel, S. M. The Young Person with Down Syndrome. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co, 1988.
Selikowitz, M. Down Syndrome: The Facts. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Smith, D. W. The Child With Down’s Syndrome. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Company, 1973.

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