Tanapa Jangjit, Physiotherapist for Special Needs Children and Speech Therapist at the Government Hospital Chanthaburi City for 14 years explains how The Good Child Foundation will help children in the province.
1. What obstacles and difficulties do Downs Syndrome children face due to health problems and their individual abilities?
Scientists do not yet understand how the extra chromosome in Down Syndrome affects mental ability. The levels of retardation differ and mental ability varies greatly. However, early intervention and mainstream schooling have seen mental achievement for children with Downs Syndrome rise where the child has been given the opportunity for inclusive education.
Although children with Downs can be just as healthy as other children, they can also have special medical needs. All babies have a chance of developing any number of diseases or conditions. The chances of a Downs child being afflicted are much higher. These conditions include: Heart defects, defects with vision and sight, respiratory problems, Thyriod problems, Orthopaedic problems, dental concerns, leukaemia, seizures and gastrointestinal problems to name but a few.
2. How could attending a mainstream school assist the development of children with Downs Syndrome?
Inclusion means being in the flow of life around you. Special needs children require inclusive schooling to play a positive part in our community. Triamsuksa School in Nayai-am is the only school in the province of Chanthaburi openly welcoming Downs Syndrome children.
Being in the company of children without special needs can benefit a child with Downs Syndrome in many areas of their development. For any child, school is a central part of life. Downs children benefit greatly from the opportunity to attend school. From 3 years of age, even though they may not be speaking themselves, it can be very helpful to be surrounded by children of the same age who are speaking. The same is true of play skills.
At Triamsuksa school the teachers have found that the models of behaviour of more capable children are copied by the children with Downs which assists them to learn social skills, how to live in the community and take part in Thai culture and customs.
3. What is the future for Down Syndrome children without access to education?
Before the Good Child Foundation started their work with Down Syndrome children, there were only two choices available to parents in the catchment area of the school. One was to keep their children at home. The other was to send the child away to a residential school or home for special needs children in Rayong City about 50 miles away from their family.
Downs children who are kept at home without schooling do not develop to their full potential. They take no part in community life and are often hidden away with a lonely life as parents are ashamed of them. This attitude in our society can change with inclusive schooling.
Those sent away often do not see their families for extended periods of time from a young age. As all children copy from their peers, behaviour problems can result from living in this environment.
Without The Good Child Foundation the children and their families face little choice.
4. What do you think the classmates will get from mixing with Downs Syndrome children?
Welcoming Downs children into mainstream classrooms has benefits for all. School is not just about training people to pass exams, it is a much broader experience. Classmates will learn understanding and compassion for all abilities. It will encourage all children to help and nurture others. Some children will learn leadership skills as they take on the task of helping to educate their Downs Syndrome friends.