Ellen Jane is 17 years old and has Down syndrome which usually causes delays in physical and intellectual development, but there is a wide range of cognitive abilities in children with Down syndrome.
When Ellen Jane was born, her parents were informed that their daughter would have some degree of intellectual disability and that they would need to be patient and supportive. From the time she was a baby, she received help from professionals. She was enrolled in an early intervention program where teachers and therapists taught her and played with her. With this help, Ellen Jane has learned many of the same things other children learn, only at a slower pace. Ellen Jane explains, “All Down syndrome means is that it takes me longer to learn things.”
When Ellen Jane attended her neighborhood elementary school, she spent most of the day in the regular education classroom. The rest of the day she spent in a resource room, reinforcing basic academic skills. Ellen Jane also worked with a speech and language therapist once a day in order to improve her communication skills. Ellen Jane’s unique personality became more evident and her capabilities and talents became more distinct. She showed interest and participated in many diverse activities. She joined the Girl Scouts, took ballet lessons, and went to camp just like a lot of other kids her age. In middle school, Ellen Jane attended regular classes while receiving individual tutoring from a resource teacher. This teacher helped Ellen Jane with functional mathematics and reading skills.
Ellen Jane is now 17 years old and is in high school. Ellen Jane has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) at school that helps her, her educators and parents set goals and objectives and implement ways to execute these goals. Since Ellen Jane is older, transitional goals and objectives are a component of her IEP. This helps Ellen Jane focus on skills required in order for her to be independent and successful after high school, such as practical life skills, communication and social skills. She spends part of her day in a special education classroom focusing on practical academic skills such as learning to use a computer and how to manage her money. She also takes elective classes such as music and physical education. She has friends from both her special education classroom and her regular education elective classes. Two afternoons a week, Ellen Jane learns practical life skills such as grocery shopping and how to use public transportation.
Ellen Jane also receives community-based instruction where she has the opportunity to participate in different work experiences. Last year, she worked in a restaurant, a day care center and a pet store. Ellen Jane’s job coach, Kevin, works with Ellen Jane to help her with her job skills. He breaks down various tasks for Ellen Jane so that she is better able to complete her work, Ellen Jane discusses with him any challenges or successes she has in the workplace. This semester, Ellen Jane is working at the Valley Animal Hospital as an assistant to the veterinarian. Ellen Jane loves this job because she enjoys working with animals. She even adopted a pet snake, George, who had been abandoned at the hospital. Through her various work experiences, Ellen Jane is learning many new skills which will enable her to be independent after graduation from high school.
Ellen Jane lives with her parents and her 10 year old brother, Jeffrey. She has an older sister, Jessica, who is 23. Jessica is married and has a baby named Henry. Ellen Jane loves playing with her nephew. She likes living at home with her parents but one of her goals is to live in an apartment with her friend, Lisa, who also has Down syndrome. Ellen Jane has lots of friends and is involved in many extracurricular activities, both in school and in the community. One of her favorite things is being a member of a community club for girls who have Down syndrome. With a counsellor, the girls discuss their feelings, frustrations, and goals.
She enjoys participating in sports, particularly swimming and bowling. Ellen Jane even won an award for her swimming skills at the Special Olympics. During the summer, Ellen Jane is an assistant counsellor at a day camp and helps the swimming instructor give lessons.
Ellen Jane will be the first to tell you that having Down syndrome can be a little frustrating, especially when she has trouble doing or learning something. One example is that her younger brother, Jeffrey, is a much better reader than Ellen Jane, Sometimes she finds this frustrating, but she reminds herself that everyone learns at different speeds. She just does the best she can.
Another web site to visit:
Down Syndrome Association of Ontario