Through My Eyes is a campaign by the Down Syndrome Centre to raise awareness that people with Down syndrome have hopes and dreams just like everyone else.  We want to encourage our young adults to pursue their dreams and ambitions, and enjoy the same freedoms to develop their capabilities and reach their full potential. We want to highlight the rights of people who have Down’s syndrome to live full and rewarding lives.

The overall goal is to replace the myths and misconceptions about people with Down syndrome with evidence that they are more alike than different – they share the same hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes; they love their families, value their friends, root for the home team, and cope with the challenges of daily living.

Young adults with Down syndrome (Ds) look to have a full and inclusive life.  This means education, sports, employment,  socialising, love and everything else life has to offer.

Currently in Ireland, 90% of adults with Down syndrome do not have paid employment although there are many jobs that a person with Ds is very capable of doing.

Down syndrome is genetic disorder.  A person with Ds has an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21.  This extra genetic material causes the developmental changes and physical features of Down syndrome.

There is great diversity amoung people with Ds in terms of personality, intelligence, appearance, humour, learning styles, compassion, compliance and attitude.  Each person is an individual with unique qualities and like everyone else, have strenghts and weaknesses.

Today the average life expectancy of a person with Ds is 60+ years.

People with Down syndrome have an extraordinary ability to see the good, the joy, and the beauty in this world that the rest of us can’t see.

What’s it like to have Down Syndrome?

Even though I have Down syndrome, my life is a lot like yours.  I read books and watch TV.  I listen to music with my friends.  I’m on the swim team and I play a lot of sports.  Sometimes, I go to the pub with my friends.  I love to dance.  I have a part-time job in an office doing general administration which I love so much.  I think about the future, like who I will marry.  And I get along with my brothers and sister—except when they take my stuff without asking!

I went to regular secondary school and I had extra support for some of my harder classes.  I got help to take notes and got tips on how I should study for tests. It really helped, but I also had to challenge myself and work hard to do well.

But sometimes it is hard being with typical kids.  For instance, I don’t drive, but a lot of other people my age do.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to, and that’s hard to accept.  Hopefully some day they will have self drive cars.

It’s true that I don’t learn some things as fast as other people.  But that won’t stop me from trying.  I just know that if I work really hard and be myself, I can do almost anything.

But I still have to remind myself all the time that it really is OK to just be myself.  Sometimes all I think other people see is the outside of me, not the inside.  And I really want people to go in my head and see what I’m all about.

I can’t change that I have I Down syndrome, but one thing I would change is how people think of me.  I’d tell them: Judge me as a whole person, not just the person you see.  Treat me with respect, and accept me for who I am.  Most important, just be my friend.  After all, I would do the same for you.

By Mellisa

The Down Syndrome Centre and Early Intervention

The Down Syndrome Centres are the first and only service-led facilities in Ireland providing all the therapies a child with Down syndrome needs to support their potential.

We have two centres of excellence in Dublin, one in Sandyford and our newly opened centre in Swords.  These are purpose-built facilities with all the latest equipment and technology that benefits therapy including Occupational Therapy Gym and Sensory Room, electronic whiteboards, iPads with specialised learning programmes, individual therapy rooms as well as Group facilities.  The centres are family focused and allow for parents to come together to build a support network and community.  We run many specialised programmes and workshops including SKIP (Special Kids Intervention Programme), Lámh (sign language), summer camps, teens club, sibling workshops, financial planning, information evenings, toilet training workshops, new parent classes and much more.  We have 9 professional therapists employed at the centre to provide Occupational Therapy, Speech and Language Therapy and Physiotherapy to over 300 children from Dublin and surrounding counties from 9-5.30 Monday to Friday.

There are a further three Down Syndrome Centres operating under our umbrella in the Midlands, Cork and North East.  These are family voluntary service charity groups providing services to children with Down syndrome and support to families and carers.

Speech and Language issues are almost universal among people with Down syndrome.  Learning to talk is a particular challenge.  Difficulties with understanding and using language present obstacles in daily life.  This delayed language has a massive impact on learning which is why therapy should start as early as possible.  Unfortunately, the present situation in Ireland involves long waiting lists followed by short programmes of treatment and as a result, children are not receiving the early intervention that is needed to allow them to develop to their full potential.

For children with Down syndrome, missing out on the early and consistent benefits of necessary therapies has lifelong negative consequences but it also has consequences for our health service in terms of increased need for health and social care services across the lifespan.

Early intervention for infants and children with Down syndrome can make a major difference in improving their quality of life.  Because each child with Down syndrome is unique, treatment will depend on individual needs.  Also, different stages of life require different services.

The Down Syndrome Centre opened its doors in 2014 and was set up due to the lack of vital early intervention services available to children with Down syndrome in Ireland.  Early intervention is key to helping children communicate and reach their full potential.

Although many may share characteristics and similarities in appearance, children with Down Syndrome will look more like their family members than they do one another. These children have a full range of emotions and attitudes, are creative and imaginative in play, and grow up to live independent lives with varying degrees of support and accommodations.

The Down Syndrome Centre aims to ensure that this generation of children and all the rest to come are reaching their full potential and enjoying what every human deserves and has the right to expect.