Down Syndrome
"Tell me something, and I'll forget; show me something, and I'll remember; involve me in something, and I'll understand."
*names have been changed to protect the innocent

 

Camp 2003
 Trisomy 21, more commonly referred to as Down syndrome, is a genetic mutation on the twenty-first chromosome in human DNA. This syndrome, not very common, presents itself in babies. The mutation brings along various symptoms, including varying degrees of mental retardation and developmental delays, as well as some physical deformities. Although this syndrome causes developmental delays, people with Down syndrome can lead quite normal lives. With some guidance and assistance from community programs, people with Down syndrome have jobs, complete higher education, obtain drivers licenses, and have social lives.
   Down syndrome was originally discovered in 1866, by John Langdon Down, a superintendent of an asylum for children with mental retardation in England. He noticed that some of the children looked like “Mongoloids”. He based this name on his idea that these children looked like people from Mongolia. This term was used until the 1960s when Asian genetic researchers insisted that the term be dropped from scientific language, the new name assigned to this mutation was Down’s syndrome. In 1959, Jerome Lejeune and Patricia Jacobs, working independently, first determined the cause to be trisomy, or triplication, of the twenty-first chromosome. The syndrome has a wide variety of features and characteristics. There is a wide range of mental retardation and developmental delay among children. Some babies affected by this syndrome have heart defects, while others do not. Some children have associated illnesses such as epilepsy, hypothyroidism or celiac disease, while others do not. Some of the reasons why there are various differences are the effect of over expression of genes, the alleles do not do the same thing to every person that has the over expression. (Leshin 1998)
  There are many problems with labeling people with Down syndrome, as Down syndrome people and not people with Down syndrome. “Our perception of ourselves and those in the world around us is often influenced by the labels we attach to one another” (Haftner 1998). The label puts a social stigma on the individual, and puts limitations on that individual to what he/she can and can not do in society. By labeling a child with Down syndrome, automatically he/she is placed in a special needs classroom and is not given the same expectations as a child without Down syndrome. Without these equal expectations, a child with Down syndrome is given this stigma of being less of a person than another child without Down syndrome. “How others perceive us can often determine the value we place on ourselves” (Haftner). By giving these children the opportunity to be involved in the community, this gives them more self worth, and can help them overcome the stigma placed on them by society. 
There are many stories of children with Down syndrome who have overcome the stigma of Down syndrome and have accomplished many things. On June 10, 1999, Kelly N. Allen from Seaford, Delaware was awarded a Certificate in Business Support from Delaware Technical and Community College, Owens Campus, Georgetown, Delaware. To complete the program Kelly attended regular academic classes and received some accommodations such as extended testing time and the use of a tape recorder for recording lectures. (Allen 1999) By having these resources available on campus, Kelly was able to complete her certification within reasonable time along with the rest of her classmates.
 Brooke Hogan from Webster, New York is another success case of inclusion. All throughout her schooling she was included in general education classrooms; she received speech, language and resource room support, but was never placed in a special education classroom. She graduated in May, 2002, from a community college. She also obtained her drivers license after a couple of years and some very patient teachers who never doubted she could do it. Because of these teachers, Brooke was given many opportunities to accomplish her dreams and goals. “If there is one thing I know, it is to set a goal for yourself, make a plan and go for it with a positive attitude,” stated Brooke in the Down Syndrome News. 
 Jacob* a former camper of mine, who is featured in the Inclusion section of this portfolio, is another child with Down syndrome. He is an amazing child. In January 2003, he had his Bar Mitzvah, in West Bloomfield, Michigan. For Jewish children, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a rite of passage into adulthood. At this synagogue, the Bar Mitzvah child must read from the Torah (the Bible) and recite a Haftorah (another story relating to the Torah passage) portion along with leading the congregation in some prayers. The challenge for all children is that the majority of the service is in Hebrew, a language that is difficult to read and speak. Yet, Jacob was able to overcome these challenges and read beautifully, there was not a dry eye in the sanctuary.
Some may see Trisomy 21 as a disability, however the three cases presented here, have shown that children with Down syndrome are able to overcome obstacles and accomplish their goals. One can learn many things about life from a child with Down syndrome. Brooke gave a very important life lesson in her article in the Down Syndrome News, “…set a goal for yourself, make a plan and go for it with a positive attitude.” This type of advice cannot be taught in a textbook or a classroom, it is a life lesson that Brooke is very lucky to have learned so early in life.

Allen, Susan. "Young Woman Earns Certificate from Community College". Down Syndrome News, Vol. 23 No. 6, 76.
Haftner, Cindy. "Disabled or Just Abled Differently". Down Syndrome News, Vol. 22 No. 9, 123
Hogan, Brooke. "A Voice For Inclusion".
Down Syndrome News, Vol. 25 No. 4, 1.
Leshin, Dr. Len. "Trisomy 21: The Story of Down Syndrome". http://www.ds-health.com/trisomy.htm 1998.

 

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