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An overview of the development of teenagers with Down syndrome (11-16 years)

Sue Buckley and Ben Sacks

Research studies demonstrate that young people with Down syndrome make significant progress in all areas of their development during their teenage years and into early adult life. For all young people, adolescence is a period of development which is characterised by a shift from dependence to independence. At 11 years, most young people are still largely supervised in the community and supported by parents in all aspects of their lives. By 18 years, most young people are quite independent in travelling, managing money, choosing friends and leisure interests, taking care of their personal daily needs and will be on the way to leaving the family home. This life period is also important for deciding on future occupation, life style and personal identity. It is also a period of significant physical, sexual and emotional development, when establishing close friendships, dating and partners become important. In this module it is argued that the physical, social and emotional needs of teenagers with Down syndrome are essentially the same as those of other teenagers and should be recognised as such. The priority for parents and teachers should be to support them through these changes with the goal of encouraging as much independence and personal control over their lives as possible. This is also important for developing their self esteem, personal identities and adjustment to the understanding of what having Down syndrome means for their adult lives. In addition, it is argued that teenagers with Down syndrome can continue to develop their basic skills in speech, language, literacy and numeracy and that teaching for these should continue through adolescence with age-appropriate adaptations to the content of teaching programmes.

Buckley SJ, Sacks B. An overview of the development of teenagers with Down syndrome (11-16 years). Down Syndrome Issues and Information. 2002.


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