Down syndrome is a congenital condition which manifests through a certain group of both physical and psychological traits. Basically, Down syndrome stems from an additional chromosome on the 21st pair. Due to this reason, this condition is also referred to as trisomy 21.
One of the common characteristics of this health problem may be hearing impairment. If this is the case, in order for the affected individual to receive proper education and learn how to manage all of the common life problems, learning a sign language is crucial.
Sign Language in Down Syndrome
Speech delay, among other health problems, commonly affects people with Down syndrome. So, in many cases of this condition, the affected individuals will get frustrated when they do not manage to lead a conversation with their caregiver. This can lead to quite difficult situations. Therefore, learning a sign language and teaching your child the same is bound to be beneficial.
Interestingly, many babies are capable of learning some signs of a sign language long before they master any verbal skills. Thus, learning a sign language can open the doors of communication between you and your baby on time, allowing you to plan the rest of his/her education timely.
Apart from using a sign language, specific vocalization, smiles or some gestures can also be used for communication, along with the picture boards and some other prompts of this type. The important factor is starting this form of communication timely, helping your child learn the sign language properly, regardless of the type of this language used.
During this process, it is very important to start simple and move up gradually. Namely, simple gestures or signs for basic words such as “eat”, “drink”, “sleep”, “milk”, “more” and some others should go first. Furthermore, focus on using the sign language as much as possible, motivating the child to do the same. This will help both of you master the language better and manage to obtain skills necessary for a successful communication earlier. During the signs you show, make sure you pronounce the word behind them too, this will help the child learn how to communicate and establish connections between the verbal and the visual manifestations of a language.
Bear in mind that your child will learn a sign better if you stand behind him/her and gently move his/her hands with yours, slowly forming it, allowing the child to perform the action on his/her own. Keep in mind that practice makes perfect and do your best to motivate the child to stay patient and interested by staying positive and full of appraisal.
Teaching Tips for Professors
When being a teacher of a child suffering from Down syndrome, you need to modify your approaches to the class and the child, along with all the factors of classroom management you are used to, making all these skills optimal for the affected student's learning experience. You need to be enthusiastic and encouraging at all times and focus on the current skills and needs of your student, bearing in mind that gradually is the way to go with the learning schedule.
Secondly, make sure that the students sits away from all possible distractions like windows, doors and noisy places, allowing him/her an environment suitable for proper concentration and attention.
During the classes, if the student is not capable of working in a class as a whole, focus on putting him/her into smaller groups, applying an adequate amount of 1-2-1 instructions. The tasks you give need to be plain and simple in terms of explanation and description, being modifiable enough to allow the child freedom to perform it in his/her own way. The student should be asked to repeat the task and instruction in his/her own words since this will allow you to see whether he/she understood the assignment or not.
Keep in mind that repetition and revision of tasks will be necessary. So, do everything to make sure that the student understood and performed the tasks correctly. Sometimes, the process of giving adequate feedback may take a bit longer, so be prepared for this and allow the necessary time for a response. As soon as an correct answer is given, respond with positive reinforcements. On the other hand, if the answer is incorrect, do not say so but, rather, ask the student to try again right away. Correcting mistakes immediately is better than doing the same later.
Visual assistance in task performing and giving instructions is recommended. Thus, use highlight markers, pictures and other different prompts in order to make the task absolutely clear and understandable.
Finally, if certain tasks cannot be achieved in one way, be flexible enough to try a new, more effective approach. For example, if the student cannot learn how to use a pen for writing, teach him/her the same skill by using a computer.
All in all, both sign language and many other learning skills can be used for improving the classroom activities of a student with Down syndrome.