Down's Syndrome - The Happy Friendly People deserve more than just having a happy friendly face

Down's Syndrome - The Happy Friendly People deserve more than just having a happy friendly face

Posted by music on September 1, 2009

People with Down's Syndrome often give an impression as being sociable, friendly, and happy regardless of their age. Usually, they also present as a 'good boy' or 'good girl' image in other eyes.

We often hear parents saying "They're happy, so let them stay the way they are!" My experience working with people with Down's Syndrome, however, tells me that despite their smiling faces and sociable qualities, they have much unexpressed feelings within them. Also, people with Down's Syndrome can have much potential for personal growth beyond society's expectation. They can be more in control of their own lives, feel happier with themselves, and be able to attain more self-confidence and personal achievements.

Here are some examples of work that I have done in Music Space with people with Down's Syndrome:


1. Encourage healthy expression of true feelings

People with Down's Syndrome may use copied and imitated expressions of their favourite story characters or people around them, thus some of them lack true expressions. It is also common for them not being able to get in touch with their emotions especially when sad things happen to them. E.g. when they lose a loved one or significant other, they feel sad but may not be able to express the feelings verbally. People may think that they're not able to understand or feel what the loss means, but let me tell you, they do.


2. Work on initiating interpersonal interactions

People with Down's syndrome often appear as compliant individuals. Another way of viewing this characteristic is that they are actually often in an 'audience' or reactive role in which they will listen to people and about what these people want them to do. Therefore, participation in social interactions of people with Down's Syndrome are often initiated by others. Providing a space for them to explore ways of initiating interpersonal exchange can help them to discover how they can engage in a variety of roles in interpersonal interactions as well as to become more influential in the interchange.


3. Nurture a good sense of self

It is quite usual to hear people with Down's Syndrome say "I can't do it" in response to new things before they have even tried. In Music Space, they can discover ways of expression and relating to people, along with other possibilities in themselves and their lives. A good sense of self is considered as important in determining overall happiness of individual.


Feelings and psychological wellbeing are important elements of a person's life. I suppose people with Down's Syndrome deserve more than just having a smiling face and being regarded as friendly happy people.

By Emma Mak

Director, Music Therapist, The Hong Kong Music Therapy Centre 

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