When I first encountered people with Down Syndrome in my earlier years, I didn't know they had the condition of Down Syndrome. All I knew was that they looked weird to me.
However, my recent encounter and interaction with them has caused me to change this negative mindset about them. Actually, they are people just like us, who experience pain, joy, stress and other feelings.
The difference that I observed was perhaps their slower learning abilities. And just like us, they too get frustrated when they are unable to grasp a concept or learn something properly.
Down Syndrome- Trisomy 21- that was all I knew about Down syndrome as a genetic disorder. Patients have mental retardation and learning disabilities along with congenital heart diseases - that was what my knowledge was limited to; until I went down to the Down Syndrome Association to conduct a lesson, my perception of these people changed.
The class started at 11 o’clock and all the students poured in. The class started, and as I was helping one of the students solve the problems, I realized that Down syndrome patients were no different from that of the normal people – just that they learned things slower. The student I was helping got the first problem wrong, but he moved on to the next. I had to explain to him several times before he understood the steps to the problem, but at last, he got hold of it, and did the problems as good as a person of his level would probably do.
It felt ridiculous at first- teaching people how to add, subtract, read, or count, but as time went by, this feeling evolved into interest. It was quite interesting to see the children solve the problems and rejoice on their success or condole with them when they made a mistake or became stressed.
I learned one very important thing about Down Syndrome people – that however different they might be from us “normal people”, they are still human- and they have the right to be treated as humans should be, with due respect and should not be seen as someone abnormal.
I also realized that these people were more sociable and amiable than we were. As I walked in to the room as a complete stranger, they warmly greeted me and we became friends within a few minutes. My misconceptions faded away as seconds passed in close contact with Down Syndrome patients. I realized how wrong I was regarding these people as outcasts – not the norm, not part of the normal world.
Throughout the 4 months in which the team worked together, overcoming challenges such as deadlines and plagiarism, we certainly did bond together, both academically and personally. Every person in the group has a role to play, be it the group leader, the time keeper, the web designer etc.
Samuel was selected to be our leader as he has many past leadership experiences and would know how to lead our group to success. When he divides the task among the group members, he always has a soft side of listening to our difficulties and why we were unable to complete the task should we not be able to. I feel that it is this particular factor in him that sets him apart from other students to lead the rest. In terms of personality, he proves to be a caring and loyal friend, never failing to help those in need.
Clement is the main IT guy in our group. Being a member of the school’s computer club, he is the main technology whiz kid. He always stresses on excellence and perfection, and thus proves to be an outstanding member of the team. Despite his busy schedule, he ensures that his work is never substandard. Although that may set his standards to be high above the rest and result in him having more stress, he always manages to cope with it and become a better manager of time and ultimately a better person.
Soham is an entirely new face to me this year. However, after working with him for 3 months, I would feel that we have bonded very closely in terms of working together as well as personally as a friend. He always puts in the effort to try his best. I saw that spirit in him and I felt that he made a very exemplary team member.
As for me, being the happy-go-lucky guy, I was always the one cheering people up despite the enormous pile of work we had to face and overcome. I was the motivator of the team, encouraging my team members to do their work and always cracking jokes to keep the mood happy. This might have resulted in the team side-tracking once in a while, but after which we will get back to work. Motivation in my opinion is the most important when it comes to whatever you are doing. As long as the motivation and the cheerful spirit are there, work can be done at an extremely efficient pace.
Throughout the 4 months in which we slogged it out at computer labs, libraries, friends’ houses, we somehow forged a bond ourselves that no one could describe. It was not friendship that we forged; it was the commitment to the task, to the project that brought us together. Whenever we gathered to do our part for the project, the bond grew stronger and it soon affected our personal lives. Trusting each other with work became part and parcel of our task and soon we learned to trust each other in our personal lives too. We did share the plentiful knowledge that we gained throughout our research. This also helped us in understanding Down syndrome better and from a different angle.
Overall, this project was not so much a project for me, but a personal experience. We are a group with members who have different pros and cons, but a team.
This is the first time I’m entering an international contest. As a result, I got very excited when I was asked to join this contest. Soham told me about Think Quest last winter when he visited me, in India. I immediately agreed to join this contest. Soham introduced me to my teammates over the internet. I was really happy to be a part of the team. Soham and I had thought of a few topics to make our website on but later we all agreed to make our website on Down’s Syndrome. Being so far away from the rest of the team, we only communicated over the internet. I provided the team with many links I thought may be useful and wrote about Mathru Mandir, a Down’s Syndrome organization in India. This contest was a great expirence for me. I got to meet new people and enjoyed working as a team.