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Social Skills Activities for Children With Down Syndrome

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell, studioD

Down syndrome seems to have a reputation as a rare disorder, but in actuality, it's the most common genetic condition in the U.S. Some 6,000 infants -- or one in every 691 babies born in the U.S. -- are diagnosed with DS annually, according to the National Down Syndrome Society. Each child with Down syndrome is unique; many kids have mild to moderate intellectual delays while cognitive performance can be more severe in others. Kids with DS are often enrolled in mainstream education systems and enjoy participating with peers in any number of activities.


The social advances of children with Down syndrome seem to be reasonably strong, at least when compared against language skills and other cognitive developments. Kids with DS are normally attracted to the social aspects of their environment and are eager to interact with others, according to a January 2011 report by American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, published by the University of Washington. Managing emotions during frustrating social interactions can be difficult for kids with DS.

Activities For 3-to-5-Year-Old Preschoolers

Many kids with Down syndrome develop play skills -- including make-believe play -- that equals or surpasses that of peers without the disorder. Social interactions help preschoolers with DS learn to share and play harmoniously. Some tepid or guarded 3-to-5-year-old preschoolers may require a little peer persuasion before they’re willing to engage socially. Children with Down syndrome can be more drawn to passive play or repetitive activities such as stacking blocks or circling the playground several times in a row. A young child with DS may agree to take part in a game of tag, especially if it means he can keep running.

School-Age Kids

Recreational activities become more important as children get older. Keeping a school-age child with DS privy to the latest toys, gadgets and videos that her peers are fanatical about can help her feel more part of the group. Playing with and watching shows or tackling the latest video game help her understand what all the hubbub is about. If your child is able to dance, play soccer, ride a bicycle, swim or bowl, she can hone her skills in her spare time with friends or during extracurricular activities. Parents with younger children should speak to their child's teacher about specific areas of concern, such as if she has substantial communication problems, explains the National Down Syndrome Society.

Spreading Their Social Wings

Enrolling your child in scouts, youth groups such as 4- H or religious or spiritual education courses can help expand his social circle, expand his knowledge and teach him new skills. Parents can organize community-service events such as bagging trash in city parks. Your child will have the opportunity to socialize with new people and will feel good about helping beautify the park system.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

Photo Credits

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