We often receive questions about teaching children with specific conditions classically. In this issue we focus on intellectual disability and Down syndrome, but we trust that the articles and resources herein will provide help teaching any child with learning challenges. We begin with some facts:
- An estimated 93 million children globally have special learning or medical needs.
- One in five American households cares for a child with special needs. One in ten Americans has a family member with an intellectual disability.
- An intellectual disability presents with an “intelligence quotient” of 70-75 and significant challenges with daily living, self-care, or communication, but children with an intellectual disability can learn, grow, and thrive with support.
- Children with an intellectual disability often face difficulties with language acquisition, motor control, finger dexterity, postural strength, or mental stamina. Down syndrome, a chromosomal condition, often results in mild, moderate, or severe intellectual disability. Named for English physician John Langdon Down who described the condition in 1866, the preferred term “Down syndrome” uses the physician’s last name with no apostrophe and no capitalization of the second word.
- Although often perceived to be happier, more affectionate, or more jovial than other people, people with Down syndrome experience frustration, anger, shyness, stubbornness, sadness, discouragement, mischievousness, eagerness, and a desire to be loved and respected like we all do.
- Children with Down syndrome often have low muscle tone, small stature, and medical complications, but whereas in 1960 the life expectancy of a child with Down syndrome was about ten years, today it is closer to sixty years.
- In 2020 a young man became the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman competition.
Some of the most heartwarming moments at homeschool conventions are when a mother comes to me after hearing about Simply Classical and asks, with tears of doubt in her eyes as if waiting to be disappointed: “What about Down syndrome? Does anyone teach from Simply Classical for a child with an intellectual disability?” I see visible relief when I tell her that yes, help exists for her child.
I recently met with people from a classical Christian school who were eager to learn how to welcome and teach children with Down syndrome. When the head of school and the children’s parents began to understand that this could be accomplished, joy filled our gathering. Someone led us in a prayer of earnest hope and gratitude. We were all excited about the possibilities for these families who felt they had no place to turn. When we concluded, one mother noted with awe that we had convened for the dawn of this hope on the eve of 3/21/21, the date mirroring the third copy of chromosome twenty-one that often characterizes Down syndrome.
I rejoice at the growing interest among classical homeschools and schools in serving students with special needs, and hope all who teach any child in any setting reap bountiful rewards!