Early Intervention & Education

It May Take Longer, But Milestones Will Be Met

Children with Down syndrome may be developmentally delayed. A child with Down syndrome is often slow to turn over, sit, stand, and respond. This may be related to the child’s poor muscle tone. Development of speech and language abilities may take longer than expected and may not occur as fully as parents would like. However, children with Down syndrome do develop the communication skills they need.

Parents of other children with Down syndrome are often valuable sources of information and support. Parents should keep in mind that children with Down syndrome have a wide range of abilities and talents, and each child develops at his or her own particular pace. It may take children with Down syndrome longer than other children to reach developmental milestones, but many of these milestones will eventually be met. Parents should make a concerted effort not to compare the developmental progress of a child with Down syndrome to the progress of other siblings or even to other children with Down syndrome.

The term “early intervention” refers to an array of specialized programs and related resources that are made available by health care professionals to the child with Down syndrome. These health care professionals may include special educators, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and social workers. It is recommended that stimulation and encouragement be provided to children with Down syndrome.

The evaluation of early intervention programs for children with Down syndrome is difficult, due to the wide variety of experimental designs used in interventions, the limited existing measures available that chart the progress of disabled infants, and the tremendous variability in the developmental progress among children with Down syndrome, a consequence in part of the many complicating medical factors. While many studies have been conducted to assess the effects of early intervention, the information is limited and contradictory regarding the long-term success of early intervention for children with Down syndrome.

However, federal laws (Public Law 94-12) are in place to ensure each state has as a goal that “all handicapped children have available to them a free public education and related services designed to meet their unique needs.” The decision of what type of school a child with Down syndrome should attend is an important one, made by the parents in consultation with health and education professionals. A parent must decide between enrolling the child in a school where most of the children do not have disabilities (inclusion) or sending the child to a school for children with special needs. Inclusion has become more common over the past decade.

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