The Effect Of Down Syndrome On Educational Outcomes Of Sufferers

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Rationale:

In the human cell, there are 46 chromosomes located in the nucleus of a cell. Gametes, which are the sex cells, are created through a process called meiosis. Meiosis is the process of cell division when a parent cell that contains 46 chromosomes divides into four daughter cells, each containing 23 chromosomes, (Australia, 2016). An error in the cell division is predominantly the cause of chromosomal disorders. The most common type of chromosomal abnormality is aneuploidy, which is when there is an abnormal chromosome number, consisting either of an extra or missing chromosome, (Alliance, 2009). The most common type of aneuploidy is when they have trisomy, which is three copies of a chromosome. Down syndrome is the most well-known type of aneuploidy. From this research, a broad research question was developed, ‘how is the quality of life affected by Down syndrome,’ based on the initial claim that chromosomal disorders negatively affect the quality of life of the offspring.

Down syndrome is a very common chromosomal disorder that affects 15-20% of the intellectually disabled population, (Rutter, 2019). Down syndrome occurs during fertilization when the egg or the sperm has an extra chromosome 21. This disorder is a lifelong challenge that many people have to go through that ultimately impacts their lives. Down syndrome has many effects on the children’s intellectual and developmental abilities as well as physical symptoms. Cognitive impairment, problems with learning and thinking range from mild to moderate depending on the severity of the disorder. Severe cognitive impairment is rarely seen in Down syndrome patients but there it still does occur. Trisomy 21 not only has negative effects on cognitive impairment, but people with this disorder are also at a higher risk of other medical problems, such as autism spectrum disorders, hearing loss, vision problems, and heart abnormalities, (Communications, 2017).

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From the symptoms identified, that the quality of life would be highly impacted due to these effects that follow Trisomy 21. Although many other parts to quality of life are affected due to Down syndrome, it is evident that education is high on the list. Children who are trying to gather an education would have to overcome a variety of issues due to the severity of the condition. Teaching children with Down syndrome who have a high risk of suffering from hearing and sight problems would need a large amount of support. Therefore, leading to the research question; what are the effects of Trisomy 21 and how does this impact the educational outcomes of sufferers?

Background:

Down syndrome affects many features of the human body, whether that be physical or psychological. One of the most influential physical symptoms is hearing loss. Hearing is important in education as it allows teachers to communicate with the students and for them to communicate back. Down syndrome can cause issues in children’s hearing, varying from mild to severe, (Surgery, 2017). The Medical University of South Carolina ran a medical trial, to evaluate hearing impairment in Down syndrome children. It was reported that in 1088 patients, 921 had hearing loss in one ear. 18.8% of these patients had moderate to worse hearing (Characteristics and Progression of Hearing Loss in Children with Down Syndrome, 2017). Hearing loss causes a delay in the development of receptive and expressive communication skills, causes learning problems that result in reduced academic achievement and causes communication difficulties that lead to social isolation and poor self-conduct, (Association, 2005). Children with hearing loss have difficulty in academic achievement due to the slower development in communication skills. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2005), children who have mild to moderate hearing loss achieve one to four grades lower than general students. This source also reported that the gap in academic achievement widens as students’ go into higher grades. Hearing loss is a prominent symptom for Down syndrome children, which consequently causes academic limitations.

According to Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute (2017), Down syndrome has many effects on children’s intellectual and developmental abilities. Cognitive impairment, problems with learning and thinking ranges from mild to moderate. Some cognitive disorders include; short attention span, poor judgment, slow learning, and delayed language and speech development, (Communications, 2017). Down syndrome children often show impairment in sustained attention and visual selective attention, which contributes to difficulty prioritizing. This ultimately limits the child’s ability to reside independently, (JULIE GRIECO, 2015). According to Mark. S. Steed (2013), a school Principal at a British School in Hong Kong, says that independent learning is vital, as it develops creativity and intellectual curiosity, (Steed, 2013). Children with Trisomy 21 rely on teachers’ support significantly, due to them not learning at the same rate as other students, (JULIE GRIECO, 2015). Teachers have found that supporting inclusion requires them to change their approaches to teaching which results in extra demand for teachers to problem-solve and facilitate all of the other students, (McFadden, 2014). This QUT study also provided insight into how Down syndrome children are treated, reporting that they experience discrimination and exclusion in their educational experience due to the learning gap. Overall, it can be identified that due to having cognitive impairments from the chromosomal disorder, they require more attention from teachers and struggle with inclusion in a school environment.

People with Down syndrome can have abnormalities in the cardiovascular system. According to the National Down Syndrome Society (2019), approximately half of infants born with this chromosomal disorder have a heart defect. The most common heart defects are Atrioventricular Septal defect, Ventricular Septal Defect, Persistent Ductus Arteriosus and Tetralogy of Fallot, (Society, 2019). Many of these defects result in serious implications. A study conducted in Western Australia reported, that out of 405 children, 395 had one or more hospital admissions. This totaled 3786 admissions for all of the children. On average, each child was admitted 9.7 times, and the average hospital stay was 3.8 days. 58.5% of children were admitted due to upper respiratory tract conditions. Children with Down syndrome were hospitalized at a rate five times that of the general population, (Patrick Fitzgerald, 2013). Due to the high hospital admission rate mostly caused by reparatory problems, it is evident that attendance in school would be lacking for Down syndrome students. School attendance is very important to a student’s academic achievement. Research conducted by the Queensland Government (2019), shows the poor attendance is associated with lower academic achievement, reduced opportunities for students to learn and access educational resources and further absenteeism in higher year levels, (Government, 2019). Therefore, due to common heart defects associated with the condition, school attendance may be affected causing the students’ education to suffer.

Mental health issues are prevalent in children who have Trisomy 21. The pattern of mental health problems varies depending on age and developmental characteristics. Young children who are at the early school-age have disruptive, impulsive, inattentive, anxious, ruminative, hyperactive behaviors, chronic sleep difficulties and deficits in social relatedness which raise concerns of co-existing autism. Older school-age children suffer from anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and chronic sleep difficulties, (Munir, 2019). Students who have Down syndrome may cause disruptive behaviors due to developmental immaturity. This may result in disruption to the other students, (DSWA, 2018). Disruptive behavior affects the learning process for other students as well as the student who is being disruptive. The concentration is broken and the students are forced to waste learning time while the behavior is being addressed which can consequently cause lower grades for the students, (Ministry of Education, 2015). School impacts a student’s mental health greatly. According to a survey in Australia, it was reported that 83.2% were feeling stressed, and 79% were feeling anxious, (Bennett, 2019). Down syndrome students are already exposed to high anxiety and stress levels due to all of the symptoms associated with the chromosomal disorder. According to another study, 50% of students were stressed due to study-related issues. It concluded that excessive stress among students reduced the effectiveness of their study, (Aafreen, 2018). Overall, it can be concluded that mental health issues for students who have Down syndrome can disrupt other students in a classroom resulting in all students’ grades lowering. Also, due to Down syndrome children already being more likely to have anxiety, being placed in a school environment where stress is prominent may cause the anxiety to become more severe.

Conclusions and Evaluation:

Evaluation of Data

The data gathered is reliable as it has been resourced from scientific websites that have provided information about the author and when it was last updated. There was no bias present in any of the sources, rather it was factual information relevant to the topic that could be supported by other sources to validate the reliability of the information. The quality of the sources used to collect the data could be improved to further validate and expand the information. Sources such as high level published scientific journals could be used to further extend the data collected as they provide more reliability and credibility. Rather than getting statistics for down syndrome around the world, the data could be refined to find statistics relevant to just Australia. This would make the investigation more specific to a set population. More statistics and graphs could be found to further visualize and extend the data collected. Including these methods would overall, solidify the conclusion and make it a stronger investigation.

Conclusion:

As the research has demonstrated Down syndrome negatively affects educational outcomes of sufferers This is due to the lack of hearing which causes academic limitations, the cognitive disorders associated with the disorder causing lack of independency, ongoing medical problems which affect attendance at school and behavioural and mental health issues that cause disruption and danger to the Down syndrome sufferer. With the research, it can be seen that chromosomal disorders negatively affect the quality of life of the offspring. 

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