Preschoolers with Down syndrome prep for traditional classrooms.
(October is Down syndrome awareness month. This article by Caroline Collier originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of “TCU Magazine.”)
Nya Johnson’s parents did not pursue genetic testing before her birth in 2011. In the delivery room, her mother noticed right away that their child had Down syndrome.
The premature infant spent her first three weeks in a neonatal intensive care unit, while her parents scrambled to learn about raising a child whose development is altered by an extra chromosome.
Nya’s father, Darian Johnson, said one of his daughter’s nurses mentioned KinderFrogs, the early intervention preschool for children with Down syndrome and other developmental delays founded in 2000. The program, which shares a campus building with Starpoint School, is the only one to serve youngsters with Down syndrome in Tarrant County.
Nya’s parents put her on the waiting list. She joined KinderFrogs after she passed the 18-month mark.
Kristen Adams, who started teaching at KinderFrogs in 2001, said parents are often reluctant to drop tiny toddlers off at a five-day-a-week preschool. “It’s very difficult for them to kind of let go of their child.”
Handing off a child who might have required extra parental care is a “big jump,” Adams said. But early therapy is the core function of KinderFrogs, where the goal is to get children ready for inclusion in a mainstream kindergarten.
Nya’s father said integration into the mainstream is the plan for his daughter. “I guess the paradigm from years past was just to put [kids with Down syndrome] in a room with other special-needs kids, and that’s it,” Johnson said. “But that’s really not acceptable for most parents now.”
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