Down syndrome is a genetic disorder commonly resulting in slower learning, impulsive behavior and short attention span. Musical activities can be beneficial to students with Down syndrome because these students learn best with lessons that are repetitive and engaging. Music is fun for most people and will help a child to pay attention because it is like a game. The rhythms and repetitiveness of music will help a student with Down syndrome remember something more easily than simply telling him. Speech-language pathologist Rachel Arntson says that music stimulates the whole brain, making it an excellent learning tool for children with Down syndrome.
Children with Down syndrome often stick out their tongue when talking, due to lack of muscle control. Sit with the student in front of a mirror and play a fun song that the student likes. Sing with the student while you are both looking at the mirror. The student will see her own tongue and can try to model how you use your tongue when you sing.
Some of the first things all children learn in their preschool years are the alphabet, how to count, their address and phone number. One of the easiest ways for young children, and children with Down syndrome of all ages, to remember these sequences of information is to put it to a song. You can use pre-made songs for the alphabet or counting, or you can make up a simple, catchy tune. You can make this work for any age or developmental level of the student and for any piece of information or simple directions that needs to be remembered. An additional bonus is that most children with Down syndrome find music motivating, according to Metro Music Therapy Inc., so students will pay more attention and be excited to repeat their songs and will therefore learn the information easily in many cases.
Incorporate music with movement to encourage motor, hand eye-coordination and cognitive skills. Children with Down syndrome are at a high risk of obesity, according to Kennedy Krieger Institute, and are generally much more interested in music than movement. Incorporating the two is a great way to get a student with Down syndrome moving. Simple activities can include dancing to a song or having a ball catch to music. Cognitive skills can be increased by tossing a ball to music. Stop the music periodically. Each time the music is stopped, the student must practice a skill that is currently being worked on. For example, if you are working on rhyming with the student, each time the music is stopped the student can say a word that rhymes with “cat”.