Published here with permission from The MOORE REPORT INTERNATIONAL - September/October
The Moore Foundation,
Box 1, Camas,
Questions and Answers
"Mind Development and the Special Needs Child"
by Ellen Dana
Q. I have an eight year old daughter (youngest of 6) who has Downs Syndrome. I'm
very interested in your Moore Academy for her. Do you still hold to "better late than
early" with children who have special needs like her?
A. Dear Friend, When you say,
"better late than early" and whether it still holds true for Down's children -- we
first have to determine what we mean by "education." Downs' syndrome children do
need more stimulation even when they are even babies, and that is education in a sense.
But sometimes, I think that means to pay attention to them as much as you do to the average
eager, bright, aggressive baby. Perhaps it's too easy to ignore the quiet or sickly Downs'
child. When I was young, Down's babies were put in big institutions instead of the loving family
settings into which their average, normal siblings were automatically placed. They didn't receive
the care and attention that the family gave their siblings, so they remained much more delayed
or retarded. I still remember when I was in my late thirties meeting a family who had adopted
a Down's baby and given him lots and lots of attention. Babies thrive on attention, and this
one was thriving greatly. In the last 30+ years medical science and families with big hearts
have been demonstrating this over and over.
When it comes to education, we have to remember that "better late than early"
is not talking about casual interaction of parent and child over myriads of things that come
up each day; it's not talking about answering 10,000 questions asked by the 5-year-old, including
"What's this word, Mama?"; it's not talking about helping the child count silverware
when setting the table. Waiting for education until the child is mature enough, is talking
about formal, workbook oriented education, sitting at a desk for several hours a day.
Education a Downs' child is giving lots of what is in both paragraphs above, with
no pressure to perform past what he or she can perform. It's being as sensitive to watching
the child's development and working with that development, even more than what you would do
with an average or late-blooming child. It's being willing to let this child be who he is and
giving him plenty of time to accomplish what other children do earlier and more quickly. I've
worked with some Downs' children, and at times you think they will never get a particular concept.
But I also learned that whatever concept I was teaching had better be right, for once learned,
that child would never forget it. We just need to be willing to accept the child; but isn't
that key with every child? The average child needs the same consideration. When we want
to get out in front and drag this little person through a set of concepts and facts so we can
say he has finished what ever grade--that's when we get into trouble.
So the Downs' child at 7 may need to be treated like a kindergartner and the 9-year-old
more like a grade 2. At Moore Academy we treat every child as an individual and provide materials
that are right for this particular person's ability and developmental level, so it doesn't