The Down syndrome Association of Pretoria is committed to improving the lives of those living with Down syndrome. The birth rate of children with Down syndrome is 1 in 700 babies born.
Although the Association consists of members from Gauteng, we have members from Northern Province, Mpumalanga, Free State and North-West Province as well. Members are families of children with Down syndrome and professionals working with persons with Down syndrome who have the same vision and goals as the Association.
We strive to provide support and guidance to our parents and members starting from birth as we have trained support parents visiting the parents of a newborn baby with Down syndrome in the hospital and at home in order to provide information and the necessary emotional support.
The Moms club and Dads club gather to share stories and advice during coffee chats and socials. Support from one parent to another is invaluable. Research has proven that with early intervention and the necessary stimulation, children with Down syndrome make wonderful progress and can even go to mainstream schools which is the main reason we encourage families to get involved in our outreach and stimulation programmes or if they can afford it invest in early intervention. Our outreach drive offers monthly parent guidance, support and Early Intervention programmes which are presented at Ga-Rankuwa, Mamelodi, Atteridgeville, Dr G Mukhari Hospital and at our Lyttelton office. Children with Down syndrome (0-7 years), and children who are developmentally challenges are seen by counsellors and therapists. Services are partly subsidised by the Association.
As per our philosophy of inclusion, the Association provides a service to parents and children who are already incorporated in mainstream education or who find it difficult to enrol their child with special educational needs into mainstream schools. The Association also provide assistance to families to get children with Down syndrome enrolled in the schools of their choice. Even though Mainstream schooling may not be the right fit for every child with Down syndrome, at least 80% of children with Down syndrome can be successfully mainstream schooled.
We always encourage our parents to have high expectations for their little bundles of joy. Inclusive Education has come a long way since the start of the Association.
The Dept of Education has identified that there are many children who are not getting the support they need, therefore there are now policies in place to ensure that our kids with special need not only be place in Mainstream schools in their area, but also that they receive the support they need in order to thrive in that environment. Facilitators visit the schools on request, and teacher-training workshops are presented from time to time. Some of the children in the Pretoria branch are currently attending mainstream schools.
Our aim is to challenge all educational facilities to see the true potential of learners with Down syndrome and provide them the opportunity to learn at their own pace.
We have a Jeans and Tekkies club for teens with Down syndrome and they gather once a term for a social outing. The Young Adult club is a social club for our young adults with Down syndrome (18 years and older). Quarters socials/dances are organised for them and the group gets together for self advocacy training and experiences providing practical learning. The ultimate goal of this club is to facilitate the process through which they can reach a level of social independence that could facilitate their inclusion into the open labour market. In line with this policy of ensuring our adults reaching their fullest potential we have a supported employment initiative.
The worldwide trend is to try to include people with a disability into everyday life. We aim to support all persons with Down syndrome and people with other disabilities to find suitable work in the open labour market and thus give them a sense of fulfilment and self-worth as well as contribute to the economy of South Africa. Our School to Work Transition programme consists of a skills training phase, a job sampling phase and a job placement phase.
Our public awareness campaign has several aspects which include Radio interviews; National day celebrations; our quarterly newsletters which contains articles from members and other pertinent information. Parent empowerment is the golden thread running through all our projects and programmes and the newsletters and symposiums and support sessions are but a few of the empowerment tools used at the Association. Down Syndrome Pretoria/Tshwane strives to provide support to families of people with Down syndrome from cradle to grave.