Why You MUST Home School Your Child With Down Syndrome

The world is stacked against a child with Down syndrome. Children with Down syndrome come out of the womb genetically altered. The presence of an extra chromosome in each cell has far reaching biochemical and developmental consequences. If this is not bad enough, these children face a hostile world that has been tainted by centuries of misunderstanding. Gone are the days of "village idiots" and "mongoloid idiots," but the stereotypes still remains. Despite all the accomplishments of individuals with Down syndrome, the world assumes the worst about them. While parents are no longer routinely counseled to institutionalize their child with the disorder, they are still told their children are "mentally retarded" and will not accomplish much in life.
The public-education establishment, despite its self-proclamations of progressiveness, perpetuates the stereotype through a bureaucracy that fails to acknowledge the uniqueness of the condition. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 13 disabilities that are supported, including deafness, brain injury and mental retardation. Down syndrome--in and of itself--is not a recognized disability. In order for a school district to receive special-education funds for a child with Down syndrome, they must classify him as something else. Most children are epoxied with the label "mental retardation." And once the label is applied, an entire education system--which is not geared to the real education of a "mentally retarded" individual--washes over a family like tsunami. It is a rare parent who can come up for air, regain his footing, and make his way back to the shores of hope and progress.
The best way to avoid getting caught in the undertow of a system that under-serves children with Down syndrome, is to teach your child with Down syndrome at home. Homeschooling a special-needs child is your best--and only--choice if you want your child to reach his full potential. I say "only" choice because even if you do put your child in an institutional educational setting, you WILL need to teach your child after school.
The public-school success stories I have heard involving children with Down syndrome show that the success was the result of active parents who were totally involved with the child's education in--and especially out of-- school. I know a woman who has chosen to keep her smart son with Down syndrome in the public school system. But she has done most of his teaching after school. When they said he couldn't write, she taught him. When they said he couldn't write cursive, she taught him.
By the time he was in middle school, he had proved himself over and over again, yet every year, she had to insist that he be challenged in school. The last time I communicated with her, he was taking algebra. Even in schools where mainstreaming works, you cannot be assured that your child is being well educated. Few classroom teachers have experience with Down syndrome. And few classroom teachers can effectively manage normal students and students with special needs. Teachers I've spoken with have said that the special needs students disrupt the classroom routine, even if the students themselves are not disruptive.
While we can and should work to change a system that doesn't work for our children, there's little time for this. Time is not on your side when it comes to educating your child with Down syndrome. It will be a better use of your time and energy to direct your child's education at home than to fight the institutions. "But I'm not a teacher!" you say. "I don't know anything about teaching. And I definitely don't know anything about special education."
You know more than you think about teaching. Do you have normal children? Do those children pick up their toys, make their beds, go to the bathroom independently, or sit at the table politely? They just did all of these things by themselves, right? No! You TAUGHT them. And when it comes to "special education," you might not know the theories, the methodologies and jargon, but you know your child.
You are an expert in your child. You know what works and doesn't work. And likely, if you don't know, you will find out, because you love your child and want to be the best he can be in all areas. That more than anything else qualifies you to teach your child. You love. You care. And you will do more than a stranger to help your child reach his potential.
You are your child's first and BEST teacher. Believe in yourself. You CAN teach your child. And you must.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with this article.I have a son with Down syndrome and he is a junior in our public high school. I keep him there for the social piece. The children are wonderful with him and he has real friends. It's the adults who could use a lesson in acceptance and common human decency. They have tried to strong arm me out many times. Common techniques used: purposely frustrating my child by not modifying material or having proper materials, picking on his "behavior"- literally every little sneeze was brought to my attention, insulting me, acting coldly and impolitely to me etc. My son is smart, polite and eager to learn. He carries the stigma of an extra chromosome and they will never let me forget it. Worse yet, our state will now only let him go for a vocational certificate, not a high school diploma. It is state-sanctioned discrimination but no one cares.

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