Like Autism, Down’s Syndrome is on a spectrum and not all individuals present the same. Those presenting with Down’s Syndrome can have severe cognitive disability as well as physical problems such as extremely low muscle tone and other disabilities, such as Cerebral Palsy, can also be present. Conversely, many individuals with Down’s are very high functioning and can live fulfilling and semi-independent lives if given the right support. Down’s Syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by an additional Chromosome 21 and those with it present with characteristic facial features. There is no cure for Down’s Syndrome.
Our little student, Linh, came to us a baby and started as an outpatient in our physical therapy programme. She could not walk, or support herself to sit well due to low muscle tone. In addition to this, her speech was not developing and she had behavioural issues and could be aggressive to those around her. After two years as an outpatient, Linh learned to walk and was developing well physically, but still had many issues that needed intervention. Just before she turned three, she joined our education programme as a full-time student. Staff began a behavior management programme for her and to teach her sign language. Linh showed that she had a good intellect and lapped up the sign language. Her mother wept when Linh’s teacher showed her how her young daughter could quickly sign the names of many animals and insects when requested. Of course, as with many children, finally having a means for self-expression reduced much of the frustration that Linh was experiencing and her challenging behaviours began to decline.
Linh is now six years old and is already one of our success stories. She has a wide vocabulary of sign language that she uses, but as her speech is now also developing, she is using it less as she adopts more verbal communication. She is learning early numeracy and literacy, can do so simple chores and has a vibrant imaginative life with her friends at the school. In break times, they will often play pretend games of house, hospital, restaurants and most recently, going to the pub! From a frustrated, angry child with no social skills, she is now highly social, interactive and communicative. She also takes it upon herself to correct the poor Vietnamese of any foreigners working at the school
Linh is a great example of just how well Early Intervention works. Having spent all of her cognitive years at the school, she now has a great foundation for future learning and continued high-level development.
A quarter of the students at the Kianh Foundation School have Down’s Syndrome. Although many of them were born to parents over the age of forty five, several of them weren’t, and Down’s is considered to be one of the many disabilities and congenital illnesses that can be caused by exposure to Agent Orange dioxcin in the system.