Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The importance of exercise in individuals with Down syndrome

By Megan Stringer, Neuroscience PhD student at IUPUI and blogger at neurochow.blog

Most parents are aware of the importance of physical activity, as it can directly improve sleep quality, extend life expectancy and reduce the risk for developing cardiovascular disease and obesity.  However, this is especially true for individuals with DS, as they are at a higher risk for developing obesity and type 2 diabetes, and research suggests that some are more sedentary than their peers.  The importance of exercise in individuals with DS is supported by several studies that report benefits of a strength and cardiovascular program at multiple ages.  

In adults, a Wii-based exercise program conducted twice a week for two months resulted in improvements in flexibility and motor performance.  A separate study showed that a three month fitness and health education program significantly improved attitudes towards exercise and improved life satisfaction.  Adolescents with DS can also benefit from similar programs, as one study showed that exercises consisting of brief treadmill training and virtual-reality based activity tests exhibited improved agility and muscle strength.  An additional study reported that adolescents undergoing a training program for eight weeks significantly improved their balance.  However, a specific strength or cardiovascular program is not required to reap the benefits of exercise.  For example, youth with DS who learned to ride a bike increased their physical activity and decreased their body fat levels one year after learning compared to those that did not.  Research also suggests that exercise may strengthen bones, as adolescent females with high levels of activity also had significantly higher bone mineral density.

An important factor to consider is that families of an individual with DS can encounter physical, social and environmental obstacles when trying to improve the physical health of their child.  However, the good news is that there are several local Indiana programs aimed to help individuals of all ages and abilities lead healthier lives.  DSI sponsors many of these programs, including tennis lessons and dance camps.  In addition, IUPUI offers an Adapted Physical Activity clinic during the fall and spring semesters for individuals at least 15 years old.  The clinic meets once a week at the National Institute for Fitness and Sport located in downtown Indianapolis.  Participants in this clinic receive individualized physical fitness programming based on their abilities.  The programs focus on building muscle strength, cardiovascular endurance and range of motion.  Participating in these local programs allows individuals with DS to have an active role in their own health care, and provides them to opportunity to improve their physical health and overall well-being.

Check out the DSI program guide which highlights many of the activity classes mentioned above: http://www.dsindiana.org/files/content/2017_Program%20Guide.pdf.



Monday, December 4, 2017

Volunteer Spotlight: Karley Woodson


Karley (shown above) also began volunteering with Down Syndrome Indiana in October when she and Katrina came up with the idea for Movin’ and Groovin’. The class consisted of different styles of dance each week that encouraged fun and physical activity for the students. “I love that I am able to help others by volunteering. I love that with this volunteer position, I am able to share my passion of dancing with others. It brings me joy to see how much fun the kids are having in our dance class” said Karley about volunteering with DSI.

Karley is a 22 year old senior studying Community Health Education/ Pre-Occupational Therapy. Karley is originally from Crown Point, Indiana and has also been dancing since she was three, mainly in ballet, jazz, modern, and hip-hop. In the future, Karley plans to go to school for Occupational Therapy or get a Master’s in Public Health and work in health administration or health wellness and promotion. She would also love to keep dance incorporated in her future by teaching.

Karley doesn’t have a direct connection to Down syndrome, however her mom was a supervisor of special education for Hammond Schools. 

Volunteer Spotlight: Katrina Decanini



Katrina (shown above) begin volunteering with DSI this October when she and Karley came up with the idea for the Movin’ and Groovin’ Dance Class for a class project. “I love seeing all the different and new people you can meet through doing different events. It is rewarding to watch people grow and develop and truly enjoying themselves.”, said Katrina when asked about volunteering at Down Syndrome Indiana.

A Little More about Katrina
Katrina is a full-time senior at University of Indianapolis in Public Health Education and Promotion. Her future plans include getting her Master in Public Health and eventually going back to school for a Doctorate in Physical Therapy.  She loves to work with individuals that are injured and or have a disability.  She likes to be able to find ways to make them move and bring them closer into society. She feels each and every person is a learning experience and finds it is amazing to see people strive for more and excel because of what she teaches.

Katrina’s roots in dance go back to when she was 3 years old. She did ballet, modern dance and jazz all the way through high school. Her freshman and sophomore year of college, she was on the UIndy Dance Team. She discovered her love for rehabilitation and therapy through her multiple dance injuries, which include dislocating both knees and a knee surgery.  
In addition to school and volunteering at Down Syndrome Indiana, Katrina is an intern with Special Olympics Indiana for their Health Fitness program. She also works at Topgolf in Fishers. Over this past summer, Katrina also volunteered with Live, Laugh, Dance. She says, “That definitely helped the ideas and process of Movin' and Groovin'”.

 When Katrina somehow finds time in her life, she finds cooking and baking to be a lot of fun. She loves experimenting and creating foods with what she has available. She also has a cat and chinchilla that she loves very much.


Katrina has an uncle with Down syndrome who lives in Mexico. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Please let IDOE know that you support their request to count general diploma

Please let the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) know that you support their request to count students who receive a general education diploma in the graduation rate for the state.

Please go to this link to leave your comment by December 2nd: https://www.doe.in.gov/news/public-comment.

Down Syndrome Indiana agrees with the Indiana Department of Education that, “the State’s and the new federal definition of a “regular high school diploma” will negatively impact Indiana’s published graduation rates, misidentify schools as needing comprehensive support, and create unnecessary confusion and mistrust of our accountability systems.” Down Syndrome Indiana supports a waiver from the federal definition which currently would not count students receiving a general diploma in a school’s graduation rate. Down Syndrome Indiana believes deeply in inclusion and is concerned that students who are capable of earning a general diploma would be urged to earn a Certificate of Completion instead which can hinder their post high school opportunities. If nothing changes, then students who earn a general diploma will not be counted in a school’s graduation rate.  (They will still have a diploma.)

Please do submit your comments as soon as possible. The deadline is December 2nd.  This can have a huge impact on the future of our children’s education.

A copy of the state’s waiver request is available here: https://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/news/waiver-requestnovember2.pdf.

Volunteer Spotlight: Jen Buechler




Our youngest child, Lauryn, was born in August of 2010.  I learned about the Buddy Walk during our month-long stay in the NICU.  The day after I received the brochure, I registered our team, and reached out to family and friends to join us.  We participated in our first Buddy Walk® – fundraising and all – in October of 2010 – when Lauryn was only about 6 weeks old.  We were hooked!  😊

In 2012, I began the 21 DreamS project, which has become a platform for raising awareness about Ds, promoting acceptance of individuals with Ds and other disabilities, encouraging inclusion of individuals of all abilities, and inspiring others to do the same.  At the heart of the project is a series of books that feature individuals with Ds and their stories.  In the beginning stages of this project, I reached out to DSI for some help in promoting the project and reaching potential participants.  The majority of the profits from the books goes back to DSI via The 21 DreamS Team Buddy Walk team.  21 DreamS has been an incredible blessing for me and my family.  It has come to life because of all of the individuals and families involved.  Without DSI’s involvement, 21 DreamS would not be where it is today.  What started out as an idea to create/publish one book has become somewhat of a “movement”, with the 8th volume of 21 DreamS to be published on WDSD 2018. 

Around the time 21 DreamS got started, I also became more actively involved with the Buddy Walk planning committee.  I was truly honored to be asked to join the Board of Directors in the Fall of 2014.  I then became Secretary of the BOD.  Serving in this capacity for DSI is so fulfilling for me!

I have been blessed to be a part of the planning and implementation of DSI’s The Learning Program™ Pilot this year.  I volunteer as the Lead Teacher for the student session of the program.  It’s a truly exciting and rewarding program that I firmly believe will have a positive impact for our children/families. 

What Jen Loves about Volunteering at Down Syndrome Indiana
I love so much about volunteering.  It is wonderful to be involved and to feel like I am making a difference and having an impact in our community.  I know that my involvement directly impacts Lauryn’s life, as well.  I especially love getting to know so many amazing and wonderful families on this same journey.  It is a blessing and privilege to be a part of this community.  The staff at DSI are truly gifted, passionate, compassionate, wonderful people.  The friends I have made by getting involved are many of my most favorite people in the world.  DSI does so much for the Down syndrome community…volunteering is one way I feel I can “give back.”

A Little More about Jen

My husband, John, and I reside on the South side with our five amazing, energetic, fun kids (ages 18, 14, 11, 9, and 7).  We spend most of our days keeping up with their many activities/social lives.  😉

Jen’s Future Plans?
I hope to continue 21 DreamS for as long as there is interest!  Anyone can participate in the project – it is free to participate (families have the option of purchasing images from the photo session, and, of course, the option to purchase books).  I love being involved at DSI and plan to continue to be involved however I can.  I would love to see The Learning Program™ grow and thrive at DSI – being a part of that is something I am very passionate about.  I would also love to continue to grow in knowledge and experience with inclusion/inclusive education/IEP’s, etc., as I feel there is such a need for our families to have resources, guidance, and support in determining and advocating for our children’s educational paths.  

Jen’s Connection to Down syndrome
Our beautiful daughter, Lauryn, has Down syndrome.   She is the youngest of our five children.  We have also connected with hundreds of people who either have an extra chromosome or have a loved one with something extra – they are now family to us! 


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Please Speak out on Including the General Diploma in the Graduation Rate

Please let the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) know that you support their request to count students who receive a general education diploma in the graduation rate for the state.

Please go to this link to leave your comment by December 2nd: https://www.doe.in.gov/news/public-comment.

Down Syndrome Indiana agrees with the Indiana Department of Education that, “the State’s and the new federal definition of a “regular high school diploma” will negatively impact Indiana’s published graduation rates, misidentify schools as needing comprehensive support, and create unnecessary confusion and mistrust of our accountability systems.” Down Syndrome Indiana supports a waiver from the federal definition which currently would not count students receiving a general diploma in a school’s graduation rate. Down Syndrome Indiana believes deeply in inclusion and is concerned that students who are capable of earning a general diploma would be urged to earn a Certificate of Completion instead which can hinder their post high school opportunities. If nothing changes, then students who earn a general diploma will not be counted in a school’s graduation rate.  (They will still have a diploma.)

Please do submit your comments as soon as possible. The deadline is December 2nd.  This can have a huge impact on the future of our children’s education.

A copy of the state’s waiver request is available here: https://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/news/waiver-requestnovember2.pdf.


Friday, November 10, 2017

DSI Holiday Dance and Desserts

Bring your dancing shoes and holiday spirit!  DSI Holiday Dance and Desserts will be Friday, December 1, 2017 from 6:30-8:30 at Down Syndrome Indiana, The Sol Center, 708 E Michigan Street, Indianapolis, IN  46202.  This event is proudly hosted by the DSI Westside Community Group!  Activities will also include dancing, a DJ, Santa, crafts and desserts.  Please RSVP to register@dsindiana.org or call (317) 925-7617.