with Down syndrome are eligible for a free and appropriate education through
the public school system until their 22nd birthday. At the time when their typically-developing
peers are graduating from public high school, teens with Down syndrome generally
remain in the secondary setting and receive education according to their Individualized
Educational Plan (IEP). The goals, objectives, and learning strategies are tailored
with an eye to each adolescents abilities, impairments, needs, interests,
and life plan. In some cases, the IEP may reflect academic areas such as reading,
writing, arithmetic, science, and social studies. For other adolescents, the
focus may be on adaptive skills, including self care, household management,
and job training.
Weve come a long way
in our understanding of the late teen years in individuals with Down syndrome.
While there has been little research in the area of cognitive development in
these youths during these years, there is a growing awareness that learning
is continuous during this time. Many experts differentiate between academic
learning and adaptive skills, citing three key points:
- In most areas, development
can continue beyond childhood. This continuing progress requires age-appropriate
activities and stimulation.
- Academic and adaptive
skills can be separated from pure cognitive abilities. Dont assume that
an important skill or behavior is beyond the teens capabilities without
a fair attempt at teaching or training in that skill.
- Cognitive abilities are
only one limited part of everyday functioning in adolescence. Many teens with
Down syndrome can learn self-care, household management, and work readiness
skills despite significant cognitive impairments.
Nurses working with adolescents
who have Down syndrome can play a pivotal role as an advocate for appropriate
learning environments, age-appropriate activities, and rich stimulation. In
many cases, the nurse can serve as a sounding board for parents, educators and
developmental specialists who are discussing the balance between academic and
their cognitive impairments, many adolescents with Down syndrome learn self-care,
household management, and work readiness skills.