Services for individuals with Down syndrome have evolved significantly over the past fifty years. Dr. Kishore Vellody, MD, medical director of the Down Syndrome Center of Western Pennsylvania, tells Everyday Health that in the 1960s, parents of babies with Down syndrome were often encouraged to institutionalize their children. However, a shift occurred in the early ’70s, emphasizing the potential for these individuals to thrive with proper care and education.
Understanding Down Syndrome
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of an extra chromosome 21. It is associated with certain physical characteristics, developmental delays, and varying degrees of intellectual disability.
While there is no cure for Down syndrome, advancements in medical care, education, and social support have significantly improved the quality of life for individuals with the condition.
Treatments and Therapies
Early intervention services play a crucial role in supporting the development of children with Down syndrome. These services typically include:
- Occupational Therapy: Helps children develop the skills needed for daily activities, such as dressing, feeding, and fine motor tasks.
- Physical Therapy: Focuses on improving gross motor skills, strength, and coordination.
- Speech Therapy: Aims to enhance communication skills, including speech, language, and social communication.
Early intervention should ideally start as soon as possible after birth and continue until the child is eligible for kindergarten. These services are often provided through state-funded programs and are tailored to the individual needs of each child.
Federal laws, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), ensure that children with Down syndrome have access to free, appropriate public education. This includes:
- Individualized Education Plans (IEPs): Tailored educational plans designed to meet the specific learning needs of each child.
- Special Education Services: Additional support services, such as classroom accommodations and specialized instruction, to help children with Down syndrome succeed academically.
Challenges and Support for Different Age Groups
Early intervention is crucial for the overall development of children with Down syndrome. These interventions help address developmental delays and prepare children for school.
While services vary by state, children with Down syndrome are entitled to educational services until the end of high school or until the age of 21, depending on the state’s regulations.
As individuals with Down syndrome transition into adulthood, they may face challenges related to