Published here with permission from The MOORE REPORT INTERNATIONAL - September/October 2002

The Moore Foundation, Box 1, Camas, WA 98607

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 matter.