My Experience of Working with Children with Down Syndrome
Early childhood education resembles a nursery for children between the age of four till six, it is called either preschool or kindergarten. Kindergarten is crucial for children for various reasons, a few of the reasons are: helping them to learn the necessities before they enroll in primary school, for example, knowing and differentiating between colors, shapes, and numbers, also in teaching them how to socialize with their classmates through communication, and in evolving their motor skills. Kindergarten is not only limited on teaching children the right skills but to also engage them in different activities. However, these activities are for both having fun and learning something useful at the same time, but in a more entertaining way.
Moreover, early childhood educations’ mission is to assist in cognitive and social development. An individual has the ability to do various tasks and has the responsibility to complete them and is capable of doing these things alone, however, many people are identified as disabled because of their inability or difficulty in completing certain tasks. Disabled individuals are identified as disabled because of the functioning of the individual either having sensory, physical, intellectual or cognitive impairments and many other chronic diseases.
Down syndrome is known as trisomy 21 where an individual has 47 chromosomes in each cell instead of 46. Trisomy 21 is caused by an egg or sperm left with an extra copy of chromosome 21 before or at conception. A woman is more likely to give birth to a child with down syndrome if she is over 35 years old. The extra chromosome can affect the child’s intellectual and cognitive development. Individuals with down syndrome are known for having characteristics that include low muscle tone, short stature, flat nasal bridge, and a protruding tongue. Moreover, they can experience many delays, for instance, they have problems in reaching developmental milestones like their peers and delays in motor skills as well as in acquiring speech. (Crosta, 2017) It is very common to experience behavior problems with children. Every child has behavior problems due to growing up and the energy they obtain. However, behavior problems are more common in children with down syndrome, due to numerous reasons: trouble in communicating, controlling impulses, and managing frustration. Dealing with children with down syndrome has its special ways, for example, giving simple and clear directions, establishing a routine and sticking to it, and rewarding good behavior. It is of great importance to give simple and clear directions to children with down syndrome because of the difficulty they face with complex language. All directions need to have minimum speech and steps otherwise the child might not understand what he is supposed to do.
Also, the children need to have the same routine every day in order to feel safe and content and do their best. Being rewarded for good behavior encourages children to repeat any good behavior they did. (Stein, 2011) Every individual thrives in his own way no matter if he has a disability or not because in the end, everyone succeeds in a specific way. Therefore, almost all individuals with a disability have something they thrive in, but sometimes it takes time for it to be discovered. After it being discovered the parents and the school usually tend to enhance this talent through practice and the help of experts. Children with down syndrome can be gifted in creative art, poetry, or reading people’s emotions.
Inclusion is the act of including children with special abilities or disabilities with regular students in the same classroom. This method aims to harmonize and get rid of the tension and differences between students. General education students need to adjust to this situation just like special need students, resulting in many positive effects. This integration offers a proper education and prevents discrimination against special need students. When kids grow accustomed to these types of students in their everyday life, they show more understanding and compassion towards them. More positive effects include students exchanging several skills they lack. Furthermore, students obtain patience and tolerance to others and become better aware. Teachers are essential in this alteration, through their attitude towards students with disabilities and their methods of teaching. Therefore, teachers are the role models for the rest of the students. (Pawlowicz,2001). However, inclusion can usually be limited to specific individuals that can be included in a classroom like down syndrome, ADHD, and children with dyslexia while children with intellectual disability and few others cannot because of the severity of the case.
Down Syndrome Activities
Down syndrome students, like any other children tend to get excited about games and activities but children with down syndrome need special kinds of activities that they are capable of doing. For example, activities that include arts, music, and enhancing their motor skills. Arts help students with down syndrome to express themselves, be creative and expand their imagination. It can also make them feel relaxed and become confident after finishing a painting. While music is very important since it helps them in retaining their memory, also having musical toys that the child gives an interest in may show a hidden talent in music.
Children with down syndrome suffer from weak motor skills so it is of great importance in enhancing these skills through the use of clay and PLAY-DO’s, building up Legos, and playing with water and sand. Thoughts After being told about the children with down syndrome coming to the university, the first thing I felt was nervousness. I was nervous to meet them although I did the year before. All kinds of thoughts were swarming in my head from not knowing how to deal with them to being overwhelmed when they arrive, but I kept reassuring myself that everything was going to be fine. I was afraid and concerned if I showed any facial expressions that displayed me being sad for them or how nervous I was. I didn’t want them to feel different about themselves or to be sad, instead all I wanted was for them to be happy and enjoy themselves.
Behind all the nervousness and uneasiness, deep down I was a little bit excited to see and work with them. However, when we scheduled our visit to their center I felt completely the opposite from the first time. I was actually really excited to visit them and to see the kids once again, especially a boy named Mohamad. All the anxiety and worry I felt the first time where now erased because I knew how easy and nice it felt to be around them, they showed a lot of affection making the person feel all the love they have instead of the person himself giving them the love they lack from others.
At the day of the event, different age number of children with down syndrome came to the university and to our surprise three children with autism came with them. The kids met us with big smiles on their faces and most of them rushed towards us to give us a hug. They showed us the love they had for us from the start. Everything was organized before they arrived, so all they had to do was to sit on their assigned tables. Every table had a specific age group with a different activity from the others, it differed from making bracelets with beads to filling the MUBS and NWN logos with colored paper. The activities were suitable for the children and it was evident how they were enjoying their time. Each group had a teacher or two with them. While on the other side of the room was individuals with down syndrome that are older in age, who were showing the things they do and sell at the association.
While working with the kids I noticed how they required a lot of attention and constant encouragement to complete their work. Some actually faked being sad if they didn’t get the attention they wanted. I was shocked to see how these children had the ability to perform difficult tasks like putting the beads through the string to form a bracelet, which needed a lot of focusing and patience. Even though they have difficulty in their motor skills, but all the activities they performed acquired it and they did their best to complete them. Being around them, I noticed how it would have been better if the groups were smaller the tables were a little bit further from each other so we could have easily gone around to every single child. I was sitting on a table in a group that had children around the age of eight and ten, a boy called Mohamad asked for my name and kept calling my name whenever he wanted something. He was the only kid who remembered my name and didn’t ask for it again after a while. Almost all the children had huge smiles plastered on their faces the whole time, it showed how they enjoyed our presence and how much they liked having people around them.
They showed love and attention to everyone around them, it was like showing us all the love they don’t get from society. After a couple of weeks, we went to I’DAD to see the children once again. We were met with happy faces and hugs from the children while Christmas songs were played, we then went into a room where the kids were put into groups according to their age. An activity was put on each table for the children to do, some had glue and tore paper and a drawing to fill and others were doing bracelets. We helped the kids with the activities and encouraged and complimented their work. After the children finished their work we took them into the adjoining room for the rest of the activities, the activities were distributed in every corner for the children to start to play. They were varied from putting cardboard shaped ornaments on a drawn tree, hopping inside a line of squares, to throwing a cube with numbers on it and then stating the number it showed then putting inside a bag cubes with the number they got. Then they got back to their places and the staff gave us a certificate and a souvenir that the children made. After everything was distributed, the children sat in a circle and listened to a story. After that, the children ate and took their gifts.
Finally, one of the staff members took us to explore the whole building, in order to know about the rest of the disabilities and the entertainment and educational rooms they have in the center. Everything was well organized and the children were attentive to the instructions they were given. The activities that were done for the children were both educational and entertaining at the same time. They worked on the child’s motor, cognitive, and speech and language skills. The children also had the ability to understand the message of the story they were told and to answer the questions they were asked. It was evident that the kids were being taught in a professional way with professional educators since they showed advanced behaviors and knowledge. Seeing the kids, the first and second time changed a lot of things towards them, it made me become certain about them being special individuals, they showed how much they differ from regular children. The difference between the two was not at all negative instead, it was a hundred percent positive because they showed me how their love is pure and their actions are respectful. On the contrary of most of the children’s actions nowadays. And the important thing that I noticed about them is that they see themselves as regular individuals with zero differences than the others.
Many things changed after I met these children, it started from the thoughts I had before meeting them and what I learned about them. At first, I was scared and anxious about meeting them however everything went smoothly, the smiles and the love in their eyes immediately sent relief into my body. Dealing with them was the most difficult part after meeting them, I didn’t know what to expect but after the first few encounters and the help of their teachers, everything seemed pretty easy. But of course, it only seemed easy because we were playing and having fun with them. When I returned the love they gave me and gave them the encouragement they needed it seemed to have helped with the communication between us.
Meeting these children was life-changing, it changed the way you see them and become more understanding of their disability. Several objectives were fulfilled after our experience with the kids both personal and educational. Personally, I wanted to see and observe them differently and most importantly stop seeing them from the eyes of society. Moreover, I didn’t want to feel them any different from other children but to feel the same way when I’m around children with no disability. Also, me being the reason they become happy was a crucial objective for me to reach. I was proud of myself for fulfilling this objective because it showed a lot of the individuals’ character.
However, the educational objectives were to know how is the right way to deal with children with disabilities and to decipher some of their behaviors. As well as having the ability to know how to communicate with each other in a correct way.
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