Horizons: Recognize Down Syndrome Awareness Month: Don’t underestimate | CraigDailyPress.com

Horizons: Recognize Down Syndrome Awareness Month: Don’t underestimate

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a chance to spread awareness, an opportunity to advocate and include and a time to celebrate abilities.

There are about 6,000 babies born with Down syndrome ever year in the United States. Parents of babies born with Down syndrome often share similar feelings, fears, experiences and hopes. Parents of babies born with Down syndrome want others to know that Down syndrome is only one part of who their child is — the diagnosis is not their child's identity. Their child is more like other children than not, and yet their child is not the same as all other children with Down syndrome. Children with Down syndrome are capable of achieving great things, living autonomously and carving out their own unique paths.

Thirty years ago, the life expectancy for people living with Down syndrome was 25. Today, it is 60. We can attribute that change to medical advances as well as cultural shifts in perspectives. Many babies born with Down syndrome need early medical treatment for heart defects, hip dysplasia, intestinal blockages, vision and hearing loss. Early Intervention speech and occupational therapies help children overcome developmental delays, allowing them to move, communicate, flourish and enrich others' lives. We see the results: today, there are more and more people with Down syndrome pursuing postsecondary education, maintaining competitive employment, and even starting their own businesses.

While we have spent a lot of attention on early childhood education, we still need to prioritize the transition into adulthood. There is a significant spectrum with Down syndrome, but there are also commonalities. At Horizons, we recognize these commonalities when they help us communicate and set individuals up for success. In adults with Down syndrome, we often see exceptional visual or photographic memory. Using visual cues or pictures to communicate schedules and calendars, for example, can help them cultivate greater independence.

Another commonality we appreciate is with expressive and receptive language. As humans, we know how important it is to express ourselves and be heard. Some adults with Down syndrome may express their thoughts and emotions nonverbally or dramatically, or they may have a difficult time translating their ideas into words.

While we don't want to speak for someone with Down syndrome, we do want to create avenues to let them communicate. The spoken word is just one means of communication. Similarly, many people with Down syndrome have excellent receptive skills, keen intuition and a strong sensitivity to others. Down syndrome provides us with the opportunity to reflect on how and why we communicate, relate to one another and understand things.

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Because of the physical and medical issues associated with Down syndrome (higher rates of cardiovascular and neuromuscular issues, hypothyroidism, sleep apnea, hypotonia or low muscle tone, and high flexibility), physical therapy throughout the lifespan is critical. Goals of physical therapy are to improve overall strength, joint stability, coordination, balance, sequencing and motor planning. Exercises should be tailored specifically to the individual so that they become engaging, healthy habits.

Children and adults with Down syndrome are becoming increasingly integrated into society and community organizations, such as schools, health care systems, work forces, and social and recreational activities. They participate in decisions that affect their lives, have meaningful relationships and contribute to their communities. They experience cognitive delays that are not indicative of their potential strengths and future successes. They have shared and unique attributes; they have needs and dreams. October is a time to honor what we can learn from each other.

Horizons Specialized Services works in partnership with families and communities to expand opportunities for individuals with, or at risk of, developmental disabilities. Our purpose is to enhance the lives of those we help by empowering them to achieve rewarding lives full of new possibilities.Horizons Specialized Services works in partnership with families and communities to expand opportunities for individuals with, or at risk of, developmental disabilities. Our purpose is to enhance the lives of those we help by empowering them to achieve rewarding lives full of new possibilities.Horizons Specialized Services works in partnership with families and communities to expand opportunities for individuals with, or at risk of, developmental disabilities. Our purpose is to enhance the lives of those we help by empowering them to achieve rewarding lives full of new possibilities.

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