Saturday, September 24, 2005

Launch of Gibraltar's Down's Syndrome support group

by Alice Mascarenhas

A Down’s Syndrome Support Group was officially launched in Gibraltar yesterday in the gardens of The Convent by Lady Richards.

Surrounded by Down’s Syndrome children and adults, family members and friends, Lady Richards paid tribute to the setting up of this group by Annette Zammit and Jane Payas.

Honoured to be associated with this new group Lady Richards told the Chronicle that when one has a child who is a special challenge as well as a special pleasure it helps to share experiences and that this was one of the reasons why the group had been set up.

“It is also about sharing the experience of the wider community. But perhaps the most important is that all these children and adults here today should lead happy and fulfilled lives because we have been able to help a little to make it so,” she said.

Coinciding with the launch the Support Group has organised the first Down’s Syndrome Conference in Gibraltar entitled Towards A Brighter Future which will be held on the 11th and 12th October at The Garrison Library.

The conference is sponsored by the Gibraltar Government and private sector companies aimed at parents, teachers and other people caring for individuals with Down’s Syndrome.

The Down’s Syndrome Support Group Gibraltar (DSSGG) wants to make a positive, meaningful difference for individuals with Down’s Syndrome.

Annette Zammit, Chairman of the group explained that although the group and support had existed for many years behind the scenes amongst the parents and professionals it was felt it needed to be officially established.

“We needed a tool to work with for many reasons but mainly because of new research and new practices in the UK. Most children are now in mainstream education and it is very new to the Department of Education and we still have more to achieve.”

Mrs Zammit struggled herself with the system over the years to have her son accepted in mainstream education.

“But over the years I have felt a lot more had to be done so that all these children could go through mainstream. When my son went to special school and from an outreach programme into mainstream this was against our wishes as parents. At the time the system was not ready to take that on but ten years on we have to see the big change which has occurred with all the children being included within the mainstream setting,” she said.

Gibraltar has a community of some 15 Down’s Syndrome. Six of the children are in mainstream education and some of the adults are in care.

The group wants to create and develop conditions which will enable people with Down’s Syndrome to nurture their individual capabilities and attain their full potential. Affiliated to The Down’s Syndrome Association of the United Kingdom (DSA) and the Disability Society of Gibraltar the group help and support families, carers and professionals concerned with the care and development of children and adults with Down’s syndrome.

Places are still available for anyone who may want to attend the conference. The main speakers are from the Down Syndrome Educational Trust based at the Sarah Duffen Centre in Portsmouth. They are Professor Sue Buckley, Director of Research and Training Services, and Professor Ben Sacks, Consultant Development Psychiatrist and Medical Advisor. The talks will centre on the present and emerging challenges that face parents, teachers and other professionals educating and caring for individuals in Down syndrome.

For more information contact Annette Zammit on eams@gibraltar.gi or Jane Payas on Lauren@gibtelecom.net

The long term aim of this new support group is to bring all these families together on a regular basis to help one another and share up-to-date advice and information.

Related Articles and Links:

The Down’s Syndrome Association of the United Kingdom (DSA)

Down Syndrome Educational Trust

Sarah Duffen Centre

Down Syndrome Information Network UK

23 September 2005 - Gibraltar to have own Down’s Syndrome Support Group

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