When people in our society think of Down Syndrome they have this preconceived idea in their head and looks a little something like this:
People see the stereotypical look of people with Down Syndrome, but fail to see the unique individual behind the "flattened nose and face, upward slanting eyes and widely separated toes."
In Christopher Kliewer's article Citizenship in School: Reconceptualizing Down Syndrome, he challenges the preconception of what its like to be a child with Down Syndrome and the linear teaching model that goes along with it. No matter the level of academia of a child our education system promotes this linear approach, however it is extremely unsuccessful in the life of a child with Down Syndrome. The system does not celebrate a child's uniqueness and the different teaching opportunities that they can bring to the classroom and the students and teachers within it. This idea can be attributed to the inclusion of the community within the lives of a child with Down Syndrome. So in other words, "We have got to learn to get along as individuals and as citizens." This concept can easily be brought into the classroom by including children with special needs in to a "normal" classroom, which has proven to increase intellect.
In the example that was given within the text, a teacher named Shayne Robbins used a passion of Isaac's (a child with Down Syndrome) to use as a lesson and activity in class. Isaac loved the book Where the Wild Things Are, and they re-enacted the book with using their own script, back drops and costuming. (Not to mention they addressed gender roles when female students wanted to play the main character Max) With one simple activity Isaac could feel included with his school community and they learned important lessons too!
This sense of community can be established in four ways according to Christopher Kliewer:
1. A belief in one's ability to think= rejecting the idea of "narrow interpretation of mathematical and linguistic characteristics when defining school citizenship [and] multiplicity of knowledge"
*this can be done in the following ways*
a. logical mathematical thinking
b. linguistic capacities
c. spatial-representation intelligence
d. musical intelligence
e. kinesthetic intelligence
f. interpersonal intelligence
g. intrapersonal intelligence
2. A belief in one's individuality= students not being grouped and categorized based in ability
3. A belief in the reciprocity of the relationship="acknowledging students with Down syndrome as thoughtful, creative learners with personal identities that distinguish them from all the other people"
4. Defining social place: a shared location=giving children the sense of community and family that the can have a connection too.
Essentially what this entire post/summarization of what Kliewer has to say is as such. In order for students with Down syndrome to do well, they need to feel included within the classroom as an individual, not the "mentally challenged" one of the class. This can easily be done by looking past the "symptoms" and looking at the individual, after all it is just an extra chromosome.