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Community Experience Journal


Down syndrome (DS) is a genetic disorder that delays the babies’ development both physically and mentally. It is common in the United States where 1 child among 700 is born with this condition, and a total of 16,000 kids are affected by the DS each year (Miller, 2016). As a result, a National Down Syndrome Foundation has been created to help handle such kids. Due to my interest in this particular issue, I decided to visit the organization and volunteer in the Boys and Girls Club that is comprised of the children suffering from Down syndrome. I feel these kids’ parents should be helped on how to understand their child's behavior and reactions to various situations that they encounter in their surrounding. Thus, as a therapist, I chose to commit my time as a volunteer in the National Down Syndrome Congress center.

General Information about Volunteering Experience

I worked in the club every Saturday for two hours in the mornings from May 5, 2018 to July, 2018. I prepared a lot of various activities for the children in the club and worked with boys and girls with Down Syndrome aged between 2 and 8 (see Table 1).

Table 1

Activities Designed for Children

Date

Time

Activity

May 5

10.00 am – 12.00 pm

Piano class

May 12

10.00 am – 12.00 pm

Painting on a canvas

May 19

10.00 am – 12.00 pm

Visiting the local animal orphanage

May 26

10.00 am –12.00 pm

Swimming lesson

June 2

10.00 am – 12.00 pm

Piano class

June 9

10.00 am – 12.00 pm

Painting class

June 16

10.00 am – 12.00 pm

Reading stories aloud

June 23

10.00 am – 12.00 pm

Swimming lesson

June 30

10.00 am – 12.00 pm

Let every kid choose the activities they wanted to do

July 7

10.00 am – 12.00 pm

Group work based on the choice of activities children wanted to do


As one can see, the children were exposed to various activities with the aim to help them attain new skills and also to expand their range of interests. Moreover, at the end, it was obvious what the favorite activity of every boy and girl was. In each session, parents accompanied caregivers in introducing and doing the activities with their children; however, after a while, kids were left them work with their club-mates alone. Throughout the process, I noticed the common challenges kids faced being the lack of full impulse control, communication problems, troubles with managing frustration and relating with other people around them (Bricout, 2015). At the end of my work in the club, I made a report regarding each kid for their caregivers and parents where I highlighted children’s weaknesses I had observed and their possible solutions.

The main observation was that every kid had a different learning pace which was related to their development pace. Therefore, every boy and girl with Down syndrome is different and should be handled as unique. One should not generalize them and treat all of them in a similar way. That way, each child will attain the needed support and comfort for much better growth. Thus, the experience has helped me learn the diversified dynamics of the children-to-adults, adults-to-kids and kids-to-kids interaction and typical problems kids with DS experience in the process. In fact, volunteering in the center has ensured that as a therapist, I will easily point out various challenges, needs and capabilities of these children.

Importance of the Organization for Community Psychologists

Work in this club has helped me in understanding the issues that children with DS face. Moreover, I have realized that there is lack of people’a awareness regarding how to deal with kids suffering from the disorder. Therefore, every community psychologist should make an attempt and volunteer in such centers. Firstly, the experience will helped them to understand the children living with Down syndrome better. In particular, one will see the mental challenges that the kids face. Secondly, later, they will provide assistance to the parents dealing with such children. Additionally, interacting with this group of the young ones will assist them in understanding how these kids interact with each other and also with the caretakers. As psychologists, they will realize that the belief that that these kids behave in the same way is wrong, and they should not be generalized. Moreover, they will assist in campaigning concerning the condition in the community and hence raising awareness about it. This will help other people apart from the caregivers and parents that interact with these children to offer proper support they need. The therapist must work with the community members in gropus and individually enlightening them on the best practices expected from them. In its turn, this activity will ensure that practitioners expand their skills on the various issues that communitis face and their capabilities to handle the problems.

The Role of the Organization for the Community

The club’s main role is to help the community by raising awareness of the condition to help people deal with those suffering from DS. Secondly, the organization should ensure that it provides the population with the right mental health support. This can be achieved with the help of community therapists who will work with the individuals. As a result, the children visiting the club and all the rest with DS will feel well and appreciated, and that will provide better supportive environment for their growth and guarantee that the problem is handled in an appropriate way (Bricout, 2015). However, in order to achieve the needed success in these activities, it is important to ensure that principles of confidentiality and professionalism are applied (American Counseling Association, 2014). In fact, ethics facilitates efficiency of every course of action and also helps in managing dynamics of the population diversity (American Mental Health Councellors Association, 2015). Focusing on children with DS, competition among various groups of student should be encouraged to promote team work and motivate each kid to achieve the best in their activities. Moreso, the competition serves as an approach to nurturing these boys and girls’ talents.

Application of Counselling Psychology Skills

Volunteering in the club has reassured me in some aspects of psychology. Firstly, it has proved that the best community psychologist to deal with children suffering from DS and their parents and caregivers is a counseling therapist. This practitioner will manage to understand the behavior of the parties involved both kids and adults and figure out the best approach to manage them. For example, in handling various reactions of the young ones and their development issues, the application of a behavioral theory is needed. The theory advocates for learning the dynamics of human behavior in the study population and looking for ways that can affect their response to issues (Miller, 2016). A therapist should always strive to understand a patient and come up with an approach that will improve their growth and development and support interaction with the people around them. Moreover, the humanistic theory can also be applied in evaluating the best way to help the caregiver, parents and kids to attain their highest potential in their roles (Chao, 2015). This approach is aimed at having low focus on the past events and norms. It emphasizes the need of strategic planning for ways to handle children, understand their behavior better and find possible solutions to help them achieve the best results possible.

In order to help the group under consideration, my main recommendation is that the organization has to seek more health care services and help from psychologists to assist caregivers, kids, and parents in interacting well with each other. Additionally, counseling processes should not involve seclusion of those suffering from DS from other people. Children should be let to play with other kids that do not have Down syndrome to aid them to learn what is expected of them. This factor will help them learn how to live better with their siblings and to relate with other kids. In my study, I only made the observation of how the kids with DS interacted with the same children and specialists. However, I would recommend to involve them more in activities that do not separate them from living a normal life just because of their condition. As a result, their growth will be encouraged, and their communication skills will improve. Personally, I will make sure these changes are implemented and offer my assistance to help the families involved and the kids with the condition live a better life with stable mental health.

Conclusion

Down syndrome has been affiliated with fact that chidren suffering from it have troubles communicating, managing frustration, controlling impulses and interacting with other kids and adults. However, close observation helps to understand the condition and its various effects on the kids behavior and mental health better. As a psychologist, I have made a conclusion that counseling with the use of behavioristic and humanistic theories will improve the interaction between the kids and their relations with the surrounding. These approaches call for patience and compassion in handling the kids with DS. The children have also to be exposed to various activities and people to understand their responses towards a wide range of things and guide them into the best way to do them. As a result, a better environment for growth will be created for the children with Down Syndrome with the needed support and understanding from the individuals around them in most of the times. Lastly, one has to remember that to achieve the best results, application of ethics is paramount.

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