Working with People with Down Syndrome: Things You Should Know Part 2

I hope you enjoyed my first blog. This one will give you lots of great tips. My coworker Corrine and I did a presentation recently for a service provider (you can see our picture with them above) and we thought you would like the information. She helped me write this blog.

Here is some information we found. First, let me share where we found it:

– Mental Wellness in Adults with Down Syndrome by Brian Chicoine and Dennis McGuire

– CDSS’s Educator Package

Here are some things you should consider when you are working with people with Down syndrome:

– Abstract vs. concrete ideas People with Down syndrome work best with concrete ideas. Sometimes it is hard for them to imagine abstract things. When you are trying to explain things, always use concrete ideas.

– Generalization There is a difference between “Always close this door” and “Always close all doors”. Make sure you are specific and clear.

– Photographic memory People with Down syndrome often store memories as pictures in their heads. You may notice that people with Down syndrome know almost all the words and actions from movies. However, one thing to remember is that when someone has a scary or bad situation happen to them, they can store that memory as a picture. So, if they are afraid of something, it might mean that they have a picture of that in their head and they can’t get rid of it. Please don’t force them to do something that we are scared of.

– Fixated on things People with Down syndrome can become fixated on things like organizing, personal grooming, collecting and arranging items etc.

– Self-talk It is normal for people with Down syndrome to talk to themselves. Dr. Dennis McGuire and Dr. Brian Chicoine said that 83% of the patients they saw in their clinic would self-talk.

– Grooves This one is important! Grooves are what Dr. Dennis McGuire calls rituals and routines. An “aspect of the personality of many people with Down syndrome is the tendency to prefer sameness or repetition.” This can be seen as stubborn because people with Down syndrome can get stuck on things. Please don’t get annoyed, there are benefits to grooves. Grooves can help us be more independent because most people are able to complete home and work tasks really well when these tasks are part of their daily routine.

Working-with-People-with-Down-Syndrome--Things-You-Should-Know-2aPaul: I have routines that I follow each day, these help me get things done. For example, each day when I come into work, I say hello to everyone in their office, then I change my shoes, then I check my emails, I get a glass of water, and then I check my dropbox for my tasks. I like to have routines. When someone breaks my routine, I can get stressed. If someone is going to change my routine, it helps to get a warning and sometimes to think about the change. I work best when my tasks are broken down into smaller steps. Sometimes I take notes, or I have someone make notes for me.

Grooves can help people with Down syndrome relax. Some people with Down syndrome have a favourite activity they like to do a lot of the time. For example, I really like to listen to music, some of my friends like to write stories.

Dr. McGuire says that if people with Down syndrome ran the world:

– “Affection, hugging, and caring for others would make a big comeback.

– All people would be encouraged to develop and use their gifts for helping others.

– People would be refreshingly honest and genuine.

– We believe, too, that a stuffy high society would probably not do well in the world of Down syndrome.

– People engaged in self-talk would be considered thoughtful and creative. Self-talk rooms would be reserved in offices and libraries to encourage this practice.

– Order and structure would rule.

– The words “hurry” and “fast” would not be uttered in polite society. “Plenty of time” would take their place.”

This is from a great article the Dr. McGuire wrote that you should read. You can find it here.

Working-with-People-with-Down-Syndrome--Things-You-Should-Know-2bPaul: People with Down syndrome can learn things best when they can see them. When someone is trying to teach me something at my jobs, I like to watch them do it first or see pictures. Use plain-language when you need to, that means staying away from big words or hard to understand ideas. Also, by letting people speak for themselves, you are helping them with their speech and communication. So when others are asking us questions, please do not answer for us unless we need help.

Many people with Down syndrome find adapting to new surroundings and adjusting to change difficult and may need extra preparation and help. Here are some more tips:

– Plan for transitions

– Give warnings about transitions

– People with Down syndrome may need time to respond….wait at least five seconds then repeat the same instruction if necessary. It can take them 7-10 seconds to process what someone says

– Look at what you want the person to do when giving them directions

– Pair a preferred activity with a non-preferred activity

– Be positive and reinforce people for specific tasks; many people will work for positive recognition and affirmation from you.

Some people with Down syndrome may have difficulty processing information from many sources at once, doing more than one thing at a time or responding quickly in some situations. They may shut down, become excited or act out when their senses are not working together properly. Some people look “stubborn” when they are experiencing sensory or motor planning difficulties. Slow down, give them time to process, try working on only one step at a time.

Working-with-People-with-Down-Syndrome--Things-You-Should-Know-2cPaul: If I am working on a task, like writing a thank you card and someone talks to me while I am writing, it can be hard to understand what they say. It is best to give me time to stop and look at the person so that I can listen. I also have a hard time when someone asks me to do something really quickly, sometimes I may need a minute or two to change what I am doing.

Working-with-People-with-Down-Syndrome--Things-You-Should-Know-2fFinal thoughts from Paul: One last tip I have for you is to treat people with Down syndrome like anyone else. I am a 30 year old man, I am not a child. I can have my own opinions, make my own decisions, and am independent. Yes, I may need some support sometimes, but I still like to be treated like an adult. Help people do activities that other people the same age as them do. Help them make good choices, but don’t make the choices for them.

I hope that these tips help you. And if you ever have any more questions, please let me know.