I would advise anyone interested in Occupational Therapy to read up on the profession or else try to meet a qualified Occupational Therapist and talk to them about their work.
The internet can be a great resource in getting information. Also information from the universities might indicate if this is a course that is suited to you. A lot of the course work relies on you being a self-directed learner. This makes the course different to other more mainstream/academic courses as the onus is on the student to complete a lot of work independently.
As this is a caring profession an interest in working with people is a must. You also need to be a good communicator as you will be working closely with clients, families and other staff on an ongoing basis.
Organisational skills are essential to enable you to manage a caseload.
Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.
Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
Down Syndrome is a genetic condition caused by the presence of an extra chromosome. Peope with Down Syndrome share certain physical traits, and may also have problems such as heart defects, respiratory problems and eye defects.
Young adults with Down Syndrome variously exhibit the some of following characteristics: auditory and visual impairment; delayed fine- and gross-motor skills; difficulties with thinking and reasoning and applying knowledge in new situations; limited concentration span; poor auditory memory; speech and language impairment; and sequencing difficulties.
People with Down Syndrome will also be more susceptible to certain medical conditions, which affect the thyroid, heart, sight, hearing and overall health.
IMPACT ON LEARNING SKILLS & DEVELOPMENT
Every Down Syndrome student is an individual. The level of general learning disability among children with Down Syndrome can range from mild to profound.
In general, people with Down Syndrome are better able to understand language than to communicate it expressively. As a result, their cognitive skills are often under estimated.
Motor skill development in young people with Down Syndrome is essentially delayed, rather than just different to that of the average student. This delay is typically the result of poor muscle tone and loose joints, recognised traits of people with Down's Syndrome, which affect their motor development.
Learning Strategies and Supports
Students with Down Syndrome should be treated as individuals whose education is based on an assessment of his/her individual strengths and needs.
The rate of learning and information processing is slower for the person with Down Syndrome. This can be corrected significantly by early interventions.
Students with Down Syndrome are strong visual learners, so teaching is most effective when it includes a strong emphasis on visual learning - visual demonstrations; pictures and illustrations etc.
Many children with Down Syndrome are able to develop their reading skills to a useful and practical level and, in so doing, can also improve and develop their verbal comprehension, and speech and language skills.
Active participation in physical education class will encourage motor development in these students. Make sure the teenager with Down Syndrome is not left on the sidelines, as long as no medical reason would suggest s/he do so. With continual practice, their motor skills will improve.
The numbers of pupils with Down Syndrome being included in mainstream classrooms are increasing, as we see changes in attitudes and values, as well as new policy and legislative developments.
Children with Down Syndrome have been treated differently under Department of Education rules since 2005, regarding allocation of resource teaching hours, depending on a diagnosis of 'moderate general learning disability' or 'mild general learning disability'.
A child with Down Syndrome and a moderate GLD diagnosis is entitled to four hours and 15 minutes of weekly resource teaching hours, whereas a child with Down Syndrome and a mild GLD diagnosis, does not get an individual allocation unless he/she qualifies by reason of some other special need (i.e a visual impairment).
The Department of Education has been asked to rectify the situation. A replacement model is being designed by the NCSE to end the differentiation between general allocation and individual hours, giving each school a set number of special teachers based on the overal profile of the pupil population. The model. which was due to be in place for September 2015 has not yet been finalised.
NOTE: The allocation of 2.5 extra resource hours for pupils with ‘mild’ Down syndrome was announced 24/3/15. Making the announcement, Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan said that the government has agreed that additional resources will be allocated to schools as an interim measure to support those children with Down syndrome, who are not already supported through the National Council for Special Education’s (NCSE) annual allocation process.
At Secondary Level Education:
When a student with Down Syndrome starts secondary school from a regular mainstream environment in primary school, the social and learning needs of the student would be best served by enrolment in a regular, mainstream class in the secondary school. The support of a Special Needs Assistant (SNA) is crucial for the success of such a transition. (Ref Down Syndrome Ireland)
A student who has been receiving special education support or resources while in Primary School is eligible for continuation of support at secondary level, once they continue to have a special educational need.
The same general provisions he/she received in primary school apply at Secondary Level. This typically includes specialist teaching from a Learning Support or Special Education Resource teacher (both now referred to as Special Education teachers).
This support is provided based on need, with the number of hours of support determined by the Individual Education Plan (IEP) drawn up in the last year of primary school.
At Third Level Education:
Many young adults with Down Syndrome pursue further education. Some also gain employment, usually on a part-time basis, although this will depend on the individual.
In the Workplace
Many organisations now make public claims to be an "equal opportunities employer". This suggests the existence of an equal opportunities policy (EOP), which is a policy statement adopted by the organisation declaring an intent not to discriminate and, further, to promote equality by taking steps to aid disadvantaged groups. Such employers are in effect promising to avoid discrimination on grounds of sex or marital status, and may also make such a commitment in relation to people with a disability and racial and ethnic minorities.
Impact on Career Choice
Skills for workplace success fall into two main categories: hard skills and and soft skills. Hard skills are job-specific and they vary, depending upon the industry or field in which you want to work. For example, a graphic artist must have the computer skills that go with that job.
Soft skills are the personal characteristics that go with a variety of jobs - they include social skills, problem solving, communication, time management, and organisation. For example, a person who prefers to work alone might find a research job particularly appealing. Explore Career Skills in more detail here.
Many young adults with Down Syndrome want to work, but may face obstacles when trying to get a job and finding work that they can do.
People with Down Syndrome want to work and represent a substantial source of untapped commitment and talent. According to Down Syndrome Ireland, they are one of the most under-represented groups in the Irish labour market. There is a misconception among Irish employers that people with Down Syndrome cannot cope with employment or are only able to undertake routine, methodical jobs.
There are many simple jobs that use manual labour that can be good options for young adults with Down Syndrome. Many find work in the hospitality and retail sectors. Those with good communication skills could also handle receptionist or office assistant jobs.
Young people with Down Syndrome typically have strong ability in visual processing and visual memory. They can also exhibit artistic talent, and developing ICT skills can help them put these talents to use.
Computers are opening up job opportunities for young people with Down Syndrome that were never there before. Many jobs that in the past required a lot of social interaction and keeping track of large amounts of data in your head, or manually, have now been simplified with the use of computers. Also, a lot of the communication associated with this kind of work can now take place by email. Jobs such as Data entry and Digital photography; Art and graphic design; Despatching - all are potential opportunities.
For young people with Down's Syndrome who are not ready for the mainstream workplace:
Sheltered workshops are an option. These provide employment where the worker receives a range personal support services. The workshop may be producing goods with a commercial value.
Vocational training can also be of help in finding and helping to tailor jobs for young adults with DS. It aims to equip trainees with specific skills which help them secure employment. Most vocational training is provided by FÁS (the National Training and Development Authority) or by specialist agencies under contract to FÁS.
Another option is a Job Coach. A job coach can help somebody with a disability into employment through a range of supports such as vocational profiling, by actually finding the job, by mentoring and eventually helping them sustain the employment. See also Supported Emploment.
Famous People with Down Syndrome
American actress Lauren Potter plays character of Becky Jackson in the popular television show Glee.
18 year-old first-time Irish actor Seamus Reilly, who has Down Syndrome, played the role of Lawrence in the Neil Jordan movie Breakfast on Pluto alongside Cillian Murphy and Brendan Gleeson.
Scottish actress, Paula Sage is also a Special Olympics netball player. She appears in the British film Afterlife, for which she won the Best Actress in the Bratislava International Film Festival, 2004, and a BAFTA Scotland Award for the best first-time performance.
Tommy Jessop is the first British actor with Down Syndrome to be directed in a prime-time BBC drama, Coming Down the Mountain directed by writer Mark Haddon. Jessop's performance received much critical acclaim and earned a nomination for a television BAFTA for 'Best Single Drama'. In 2008, the film won the RADAR People of the Year Human Rights Media AWARD. Jessop has also gone down in history as the first person with Down syndrome to professionally play the title role of Hamlet in Blue Apple Theater's touring production.
American swimmer Karen Gaffney was the first person with Down Syndrome to successfully complete a relay swim across the English Channel in 2001, and is also the first person with Down syndrome to successfully swim the nine miles across Lake Tahoe. She was accredited with 'Doctor of Humane Letters', an honorary doctorate degree by the University of Portland, Oregon USA.