Down Syndrome Research and Practice 3(2)
Using a case study of integration into a mainstream primary school for his daughter with Down syndrome, the author seeks to explore the attitudinal development of her mainstream peers after a four-year period. As such, it is a first step, tentative piece of research, fraught with potential pitfalls. As Bines (1995) points out as a 'researcher [I am] inevitably part of the phenomenon being studied'. Through scripts written by children aged 7-8 years about Katie, their peer with Down syndrome, an analysis of the children's perceptions of and attitudes towards Katie was undertaken. The findings reveal significant insights on the part of the children, and an appreciation of the child for her abilities, not her disability. The outcomes of the research are interpreted in terms of family empowerment within a community, following a positive period of interaction for the child with Down syndrome in a neighbourhood mainstream school setting. A new paradigm, worthy of further exploration, is that of 'parent as researcher'.
Few studies have centred on the reactions of fathers to the births of children with special needs, the majority have reported mothers' responses and their perceptions of the fathers' reactions and needs. Literature on the subject is sparse. This paper reports two studies which focused on the parents of ten pre-school children with Down syndrome. These studies explored mothers' and fathers' responses to (i) the disclosure of diagnosis and (ii) the events during the six months following disclosure. Study 1 involves the mothers of these children and study 2 was carried out with the fathers of seven of these children. The studies were carried out by semi-structured personal interviews. Some of the key issues raised by the fathers were the ways in which the diagnosis was disclosed, the initial and ongoing access and availability of professionals, the focus of services on mothers and children, their inability to discuss their feelings with their partners and their role as supporter.
Don Van Dyke, Dianne McBrien, and Andrea Sherbondy
As human beings, individuals with Down syndrome have the right to emotionally satisfying and culturally appropriate sexual expression. As patients, they have the right to routine reproductive health care provided to the general population. Cognitive and language disabilities may predispose this population to unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, and sexual exploitation. Sex education tailored to cognitive level, learning style, and living arrangements is essential to the education of children and young adults with Down syndrome.
Angela Byrne, Sue Buckley, John MacDonald, and Gillian Bird
This paper presents the first phase of a longitudinal study following 24 children with Down syndrome who are receiving their education in mainstream primary schools. The literacy, numeracy, language and memory skills of the children with Down syndrome were compared to 2 groups of children selected from their classmates. The comparison groups were a group of typically developing children who were average readers in the classes and a group of children who were matched to the children with Down syndrome for reading age. The baseline data revealed that the children with Down syndrome had uneven cognitive profiles with relatively advanced reading skills compared to their other cognitive skills. The group of ordinary children who were matched to the children with Down syndrome on reading ability, attained significantly higher scores than the children with Down syndrome on all assessments other than reading. However, the reading matched group who were generally of below average reading ability for their age, were also significantly delayed relative to the average readers on measures of language, number and memory. As a group the average readers were average or above average on all measures. A cross-sectional analysis which divided the children with Down syndrome into 3 groups according to age and school year group indicates steady progress in all skills as the children move through primary school.
The influence of reading instruction on language and memory development in children with Down syndrome
Glynis Laws, Sue Buckley, John MacDonald, and Irene Broadley
This paper reports evidence for the importance of reading instruction for memory and language development in children with Down syndrome. Language and memory measures for 14 children were obtained over nearly four years as part of our research investigating the effect of teaching memory strategies. Half of the children were readers or became readers in the course of the study. At the start of the study, there were no significant differences between readers and non-readers in vocabulary and grammar understanding, or in auditory and visual memory performance. By the end of the study, a significant advantage for the readers was noted for all language and memory measures. Possible reasons for these findings are discussed, as well as the implications for educational intervention.