Sunday, March 16, 2014

What are your plans for World Down syndrome Day?

World Down syndrome Day is right around the corner.. this Friday! This day snuck up on me, and I did not have time to prepare like I would have wanted to. However, I didn't want it to pass by without doing something to spread awareness. I decided that since I work in an elementary school, I wanted to have the teachers and students take part in celebrating this amazing day with me. I am so fortunate to work for such an accepting school filled with staff always willing to lend a helping hand. I created a flyer and a few documents of suggested activities that I will email out to the teachers this week. While it is fantastic that the staff is willing to celebrate and spread awareness with me, I didn't want to stop there. Acceptance starts with the kids. I truly believe that if this next generation grows up with the knowledge of Down syndrome we will have succeeded in creating a more accepting world. Children are not stupid, they realize that we all have differences and I don't think that we should teach them to ignore our differences or be scared of them. Instead, if they are taught about things like Down syndrome, then they will learn to understand and respect everyone as an equal. All children want the same thing, to be loved, to have fun, and to make friends. What are your plans to celebrate World Down syndrome Day? 

I have copied the documents I am sending out to the teachers in my school this week. (I wasn't sure how to attach them to this blog, so they are just written out one after another below.. each separated by the blue line) Feel free to adapt and use!!

World Down Syndrome Day
March 21, 2014
“When children grow up in an atmosphere of diversity, they are
much less likely to develop biases toward others who seem different
from them. This does not mean that children in inclusive
classrooms do not notice differences. These children develop a
sophisticated understanding of self, of others, and of difference. If
their natural curiosity and attempts to understand their world are
met with respect, encouragement, honesty, and with words that
make sense to them, children will learn to view differences with
acceptance.” - Amy Thrasher, M.A., CCC-SLP

March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day! The date (3-21,) represents the three copies of the twenty-first chromosome found in Down syndrome. Our school will join others around the world in celebrating and learning about Down syndrome. We hope to create a global awareness on this day, while advocating for the rights, inclusion and respect of people with Down syndrome.  To participate in celebrating World Down Syndrome Day, please have your child wear something blue or yellow (the colors of the Down syndrome ribbon) on Friday, March 21st.

Books and Videos

1.       I found a great story called “My Friend Isabelle” by: Eliza Woloson.
This story focuses on the friendship between two kids. Throughout the story the characters talk about what they like to do that is the same, and different. The little girl in the story has Down syndrome, but it is not mentioned. I found a video on YouTube of the story being read and animated. At the end of the video the actual mother from the story talks about her daughter with Down syndrome. – My Friend Isabelle video version

2.       There is a video I found on YouTube called “Just Like You- Down syndrome”
This video is narrated by a few teenagers, some with Down syndrome and some without. These pairs of friends talk about what they have in common, and what makes them different. The video is great for answering any questions you might have about Down syndrome.  It also explains chromosomes in an understandable way. A must watch! 

These videos are great ways to start a conversation about Down syndrome. After reading/watching either of these videos, you can have a class discussion about the differences and similarities of all the students in the room. For an activity related to similarities/ differences I have attached a worksheet titled “What Do We Have in Common?” The students should leave the discussion knowing that even though everyone is different in some way, we all want the same things; to have a good time in school, to make friends, and to be respected. Life would be pretty boring if we all were the same!


What Do We Have in Common?
Directions: Read through each item and put a check in the “Me” column if it is something you have or like to do. Meet with each student in your class and have them initial in the “friend” column (on your paper) next to one thing they have or like to do. See if you can fill up the whole chart. What do you have in common with your friends? What are your differences?
Do you/ Have you …..?
Have brown hair

Like to play outside

Like to draw

Have blue eyes

Like to read

Like to play basketball

Been on a plane

Have a brother

Been to Disney World

Can ride a bike

Like the beach

Like dinosaurs

Like the movie Frozen

Like the color green

Have a cat

Like to play card games

Like video games

Like to swim

Like to eat broccoli

Like bugs


Down syndrome Hands-on Activities

Demonstrating Speech Delays

To introduce the activity:
People with Down syndrome might have low muscle tone in their mouths.  This makes it difficult for them to say everything they are thinking. Sometimes it is hard to understand what that person is saying. If you ask them to slow down, or repeat what they said it might help you to understand.

Imagine how hard it would be to know what you want to say in your head but you can’t get all the words out just right.

1.       Group the students together. Two to three students in each group.
2.       Hand out a large marshmallow to each student.
3.       Tell the students to think about their favorite movie.
4.       One at a time, have each student in the group take a turn to describe their favorite movie. Before they begin talking, they have to stick out their tongue and place the marshmallow on the end of it. They have to describe their favorite movie while keeping the marshmallow on their tongue.
5.       Discuss as a class the difficulty in trying to talk with a marshmallow. How did it make them feel? Were they embarrassed that they couldn’t talk the way they wanted to? Was it hard to understand their friends?  Knowing this, what will you do differently now when you are talking with someone that has trouble speaking?

Demonstrating Fine Motor Challenges

To introduce the activity:
People with Down syndrome may have trouble with their fine motor skills. This could include tying their shoes, grabbing a fork to eat or writing. They do exercises to help strengthen these muscles in order to accomplish everyday tasks. The following activity will demonstrate how difficult it can be to have to work harder at skills that come easily to most children.

1.       Have each student place a sock on their writing hand.
2.       Ask the students to pick up a pencil with their sock hand and write their name, or even a whole journal entry.
3.       Discuss with the class how difficult it was to write when they couldn’t hold the pencil the way they wanted to.


Down syndrome Question and Answer
*Adapted from the NDSS*

1. Question: What is Down syndrome?

Answer:  There are trillions of cells in the human body. They are so tiny you can only see them through a microscope. Inside these tiny cells are even tinier parts called chromosomes.Chromosomes contain the directions that tell your body how to grow. These directions tell your body what color your eyes and hair will be, how tall you will be,and even what you will be good at, like singing or running! Most people have 46 chromosomes in each of their cells. People with Down syndrome have 47, and because of that they may look and learn a little differently.

2. Question: Why is it called Down syndrome?

Answer: Down syndrome was first studied and described by a doctor named John Langdon Down.

3. Question: How do people get Down syndrome?

Answer:You cannot “catch” Down syndrome; everyone who has Down syndrome was born with it and will always have it. Down syndrome affects people from all around the world, and both boys and girls can be born with it. One out of every 691 babies born in the United States has Down syndrome.

4. Question: Do kids with Down syndrome like the same things as other kids?

Answer: Yes! When you get to know someone with Down syndrome, you will find that they have unique personalities and interests just like everyone else! If they want to, they can be on sports teams, make art, play instruments and join clubs at school.  They want to have fun and make new friends like all kids do. 

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