What is Down Syndrome?

    Although people with Down syndrome have a range of learning disabilities, physicians, educators, and parents now recognize that these people's achievements may be most influenced by what is expected of them. This so-called environmental expectation is perhaps the most important factor in determining the educational and vocational potential of people with Down syndrome. On the other hand, intelligence-quotient test scores, once considered an authoritative indicator of educational potential, are now seen to be of questionable value.

     

    Educational and vocational opportunities have also advanced. In the recent past, children with Down syndrome were relegated to institutions, receiving minimal social interaction or educational opportunities. Today, children with Down syndrome usually remain with their families and are enrolled in public schools. Often they attend regular classes and learn skills such as reading and writing alongside children without Down syndrome. Adults with Down syndrome are employed in a range of fields.

     

    Experts now recognize that Down syndrome is not always a lifelong disorder. Some individuals diagnosed with mild Down syndrome as children may gradually develop new skills through early intervention and educational services. As adults, they may function in everyday life at a level that no longer warrants a diagnosis of retardation.

     

    All but the most profoundly retarded people usually can best develop their full potential by living in the community. Most people with Down syndrome have the capacity to learn, advance intellectually, develop job and social skills, and become full participants in society. They may be indistinguishable from other people. In order to achieve their potential, mentally retarded children need special education and training, which ideally begins in infancy and continues until they establish an adult role.

     

    Education

     

    Early intervention programs can provide specialized teaching and other services for infants, toddlers, and preschool children. Such programs try to optimize development of the individual’s strengths. Whenever possible, children with Down syndrome attend the same school they would attend if they did not have mental retardation. But they receive instruction modified for their specific needs. Federal law in the United States requires that every school district provide services to mentally retarded children in regular schools.

     

     

    Employment

     

    Many people with Down syndrome are capable of working in a variety of full or part-time jobs. Studies have shown that most employers are satisfied with the performance, work attendance, and loyalty of people with mental retardation. Employees with retardation do not have more accidents on the job than other workers, nor do they raise employee health insurance or benefit costs. Because people with retardation may take longer to master job tasks, supervisors may spend additional time with them during the first few days or weeks of employment. Job coaching programs established in some communities provide a specialist who helps in the initial training of a mentally retarded individual. Employers who hire individuals with Down syndrome may be eligible for government tax credits and other incentives. People with more severe Down syndrome may work in other settings, including special facilities known as sheltered workshops.

     

    Despite their ability to work, most people with Down syndrome do not have jobs. Surveys indicate that only about 36 percent of mentally retarded adults have full-time or part-time jobs. Reasons for this low employment rate may include a lack of training in vocational and social skills, lack of encouragement from others, and a scarcity of community programs that aid people with Down syndrome in finding and maintaining employment. In addition, employers may hesitate to hire people with Down syndrome because of uncertainty over how to provide accommodations for their disability.

     

    How can we help them?

     

    People with Down syndrome are shunned by the society for no fault of theirs. But times have changed and they are becoming useful citizens who could perform as equal as their normal brothers and sisters. Our society has neglected many of the unfortunate members of our country. Being a Buddhist country we act in contrary to the teachings of the Buddha.

     

    People with Down syndrome can contribute to the society but they need little more help than they get now. They need to be understood, cared and given encouragement and they will match up to any healthy person. These people at present are being looked after by their own families. Fortunately most families do not abandon their off springs afflicted with Down syndrome.

     

    Our message

     

    Kosala Dullewa came this far because of the encouragement, help and assistance that he got from his family, friends and well wishers.

     

    There is a lesson that can be learnt from his efforts. Special children can do what others do if given the necessary fillip.  The days when special children were institutionalised are gone. The days when they were confined to their own families and home are a thing of the past. The days when they were hidden from the society are no more. They must and should be integrated in to the society. With little tolerance and understanding they will do well. If you too have a special child, take a leaf from Kosala’s life. It will help you and the child enormously. It will help the child to be accepted by the society, not shun him. You will be amazed at how well the child will perform given little encouragement. They will be an asset, not a burden on you.  

     

    It is an encouragement for us to see you today. We hope you enjoy this evening and we are certain, that for a moment you will forget that this performance is by a special child.

     

    Our effort today is to establish a centre where they could meet others in same situation. The place will be a meeting point to meet other families with members afflicted with Down syndrome and share their experiences. The Centre will not only cater for children with Down syndrome but even for any child with other disabilities as well. The primary goal of the centre is to help and encourage those afflicted people and also to un-earth their hidden talents like, singing, dancing, and artistic abilities instead of ostracising.

     

    All proceeds of this event are going for the establishment of the Centre for Special Children. Your presence alone is an encouragement and Kosala and we appreciate it very much.

     

    Please teach your children to accept the special child, be it your own or of another, as another brother, sister or a friend!