About Us

"Success is the progressive realization of worthy goals"
- Anonymous

MISSION STATEMENT

To investigate, implement and promote educational approaches that help individuals with Down syndrome experience success and independence at school, with friends and in the world of work.

PHILOSOPHY

The activities of DSRI are based on research that demonstrates that the quality of life for individuals with Down syndrome correlates closely with their ability to communicate. Thus a focus on communication, and the integration of speech pathology principles in all instructional situations, are top priorities. DSRI endeavors to have the greatest impact, not only in enhancing individual student achievements, but in demonstrating that certain educational approaches and strategies can and should be employed by mainstream education providers. DSRI operates in multiple educational and professional arenas by running its own summer school, using cutting-edge research to help educate individual students, parents and families, and providing unique professional development activities for teachers in Ontario.

HISTORY

The Down Syndrome Research Institute (DSRI) was legally incorporated as a non-profit charitable organization in 2008. DSRI was founded in 2005 and inspired by the philosophy and activities of the Down Syndrome Research Foundation of Burnaby, British Columbia. The organization was founded by parents who had identified the need to investigate more effective strategies for teaching students with Down syndrome.

KEY ACTIVITIES

Summer School Camps - A summer school camp has been operated in London, Ontario since 2005.
Research - DSRI works closely with a major Canadian university to evaluate instructional methods used in the summer school program.
Advocacy - DSRI provides parents with information on the latest research on effective educational strategies to support student success at school and in the community.
Professional Development - DSRI utilizes the latest research in the field of Down syndrome education to provide professional development workshops and training sessions for teachers at the school board level.

CHALLENGES

Children with Down syndrome are at high risk for health complications at birth such as heart problems and gastro-intestinal difficulties , and may require multiple medical interventions in infancy. There are several physiological and cognitive dimensions of the syndrome that impact the way students with Down Syndrome learn, live and work, and educators and caregivers require innovative programming and focused attention in order to overcome these unique challenges.

One of the physical manifestations of Down Syndrome is a lack of muscle tone known as "hypotonia", which, combined with other factors, can lead to difficulties in performing manipulative tasks and making complex movements. Thus children with Down Syndrome require early and targeted intervention services to help them develop fine motor skills. Occupational therapists at DSRI help students with Down Syndrome by designing and supervising exercises designed to promote cross-brain activity, improve the precision and strength of muscles in the hands and wrists, and develop the manual dexterity so crucial to day to day tasks such as tying shoes and preparing meals.

Furthermore, students with Down Syndrome can have difficulties with spatial coordination, balance, and poor muscle tone, all of which contribute to making gross motor tasks such as climbing steps, riding bicycles, and lifting certain objects more difficult. Yet research has proven that with continued practice, individuals with Down Syndrome can significantly improve their ability to perform gross motor tasks, even into their early adulthood. Through a combined approach involving aerobic exercises, athletics, active games and physical therapy, students at DSRI's summer schools are able to build physical capabilities that will last them a lifetime.

Boys and girls with Down Syndrome are uniquely disadvantaged in terms of speech and language development given certain physiological characteristics of the syndrome that make the formation of certain mouth-sounds very difficult. This makes the achievement and retention of speech skills somewhat difficult. One of the most important aspect of DSRI's educational model involves an integration of speech pathology principles in every instructional setting, and as a result the organization leans heavily on speech therapists in particular when formulating its lesson plans and curriculum.

Lastly, a significant percentage of children with Down syndrome have other co-existing conditions, including Autism Spectrum Disorder, which pose their own unique behavioural and social challenges. Although children and young adults with Down Syndrome, just like their non-disabled peers, are of unique tempraments and respond differently in social situations, behavioural therapists are nonetheless crucial to help these children form social relationships, play, and interact productively with acquaintances and peers.

As a result of these and other factors, truly effective education of students with Down Syndrome must include targeted therapy to help them overcome their unique gross motor, fine motor, speech and behavioural challenges. DSRI is committed to providing its students with the expert assistance they need, though highly trained professionals such as speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and behavioural therapists. The synergy created between these professionals has led to amazing breakthroughs: physical therapists began to speak to the students during athletic activities in a patient, instructive manner most often used by speech therapists, helping the students to improve their communication skills even while exercising and performing other gross motor exercises. Similarly, speech pathologists have used fine-motor activities to help engage and stimulate the students under their tutelage. It is through stories like these that the need for occupational, behavioural, speech and physical therapists becomes obvious: the way these professionals, working in concert, enrich the learning experience of students with Down Syndrome students is remarkable.