by Vishnuprasad on  November 12, 2014 at 2:00 PM Health In Focus
An Indian Approach to Improve the Lives of Individuals With Down Syndrome
Across the world, individuals living with Down Syndrome are denied their natural rights because a large section in the society has very poor awareness of the condition and considers Down syndrome persons 'less than human'.

The school of Down Syndrome Federation of India at Mylapore, a cultural hub of South India, is dedicated to help people affected by this social stigma, providing them with support and care.

Here, children are happy and can dance, write poems and stories, succeed in intellectual as well as sports competition, and lead independent lives, dispelling all stereotyped views about the genetic disorder.

The school keeps itself away from outside negative influences and maintains a disciplined learning environment.

As you walk into the tranquility of the school, a short message will greet you at the entrance. "This is a temple. Make sure that you are pure in thoughts and action before entering."

At 10 am, a day at the special school begins with prayer and meditation.

Soon after the short session, all therapy divisions of the school get into busy training schedules under the supervision of healthcare and academic professionals.

Physiotherapy area on the ground floor of the three-storey building is attention grabbing. Banumathi, a physiotherapist, has just helped a nine-month-old baby to sit properly with two simple leg-stretching techniques.

The therapist, who has more than 35 years experience in the training field, says, "Low muscle strength and low cardiovascular fitness is common in children with Down syndrome. As a result, they are slow to reach the early motor milestones such as grasping, rolling, sitting, standing and walking. Physiotherapy is used as an effective tool to strengthen muscles and bones of the children."

After correcting the sitting posture of the baby, she gets into the interaction with the parents.

She says, "Parents are the physiotherapy trainers for children at home, so we make them familiar with the training techniques. Exercises are recommended based on overall health condition of the child as around 50 percent of babies with the chromosome disorder have heart defects."

The parents with the child leave the school for the day as Banumathi gets into the movement issue of another child.

Upstairs is the Vocational Therapy Area. Weaving traditional looms, baking, catering, candle making are taught here to make the children financially independent.

At the weaving section, children interlace two distinct sets of yarns to fabricate colorful floor mats, towels and napkins. Contrary to the widely held belief, this therapy area proves individuals with the genetic disorder have memory power and can concentrate well.

"We gave them training and they are doing more than 60 percent of work in this section. We pay them a fixed amount for their effort," says Mohan, trainer of the weaving section.

At the Academic Department, children are taught basic concepts in subjects such as sciences and mathematics and then money concepts, time concepts, and other relevant academics.

Here, Vidhya Sree is proud of her beautiful handwriting, Vellu and Vignesh happily show off mathematical skills and Lavanya spells each word correctly; she has just learnt from her favorite teacher.

Again, they flaunt an ability that defies a preconceived medical notion associated with Down syndrome.

At 1.30pm, it is sports and games time for children after a nutritious lunch.

The counseling centre is still busy. Dr. Rekha Ramachandran, chairperson of the Federation, talks to persons affected with Down Syndrome as she tries to find out their difficulties and address their concerns.

Dr. Rekha holds a doctoral degree in 'Cognitive Deficit and Depression' in Down syndrome and has traveled all over the world to acquire knowledge on the subject. She organizes World Down Syndrome Congress every year, which aims to display the key role of India in creating a world of respect for all those people with Down syndrome.

"We help individuals with Down syndrome to cope better with life challenges eradicating their physical and cognitive illness with our own therapeutic approach." Dr. Rekha says.

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