A Snapshot of a First Grader With Down Syndrome

Julianna head shotIt’s been a month of Tuesdays with Julianna in honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and I thought I would wrap up by giving you a snapshot of her academic skills two months into the first grade. Bear in mind this is only a snapshot of one child, a single individual; I know of children her age with the same diagnosis who are far ahead of her, and those who are behind, and others still who are ahead in some ways and behind in others. So this should not be considered anything more than a single example. Like typically-developing children, kids with Down syndrome have a wide spectrum of abilities and achievements. But for what it’s worth:

Speech: At 6 3/4, Julianna is now trying to communicate a lot by words. She’s developing coping techniques for the many times we can’t understand her–signs as backup, or pointing or showing us what she’s talking about, when it’s possible to do so.

Reading: This girl loves to read, and she’s good at it. The schools use a numbering system to indicate level. A couple of weeks ago her teacher told me her reading level was 4, and grade level was 6. Shortly after, one of Christian’s piano students’  parents, a speech therapist, read through a book with her during her daughter’s lesson. She said Julianna is actually reading at an 8 or a 10, but that fluency and comprehension are factored into the package and might bring her down. And comprehension & fluency definitely lag behind her ability to recognize words. That’s what her teachers are wanting us to work on.

Homework with DaddyWriting/spelling: Julianna’s weakest area in the language category. She can write the letters & numbers, but they are huge, misshapen, and don’t follow one after another, so it’s nearly illegible. Christian has been really good about drilling her on spelling words repeatedly over the course of the week, and she’ll know them cold, but still miss two out of six on the test, which we can only attribute to the writing hurdle.

Math: She recognizes numbers and can count one to one, but you can tell she doesn’t get the conceptualization required to do addition and subtraction. A few weeks ago her homework made me want to cry because it was addition problems, and I had to write out all the domino shapes for each number, and we’d have to count: 1-2-3-4-5, 1-2-3, now let’s put them together, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. Now they’re telling us to work with her on adding one to different numbers, just to get her to understand the concept.

Even so, she is still basically working at grade level. We’re trying to keep it that way as long as possible. Of course it would help if Michael Mayhem would quit ripping her glasses off her face and snapping the earpiece in two. Grrr. But that’s another post.

So there you go: a snapshot of one first grader with Trisomy 21. Any questions you’d like me to answer?