OBJECTIVES. This study investigated the relation between functional performance skills of children with Down syndrome and the age of entry into mainstream elementary education.
METHOD. In a cross-sectional study of 70% of the 7-year-old children with Down syndrome in Norway (N = 43), we measured functional performance using the Pediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory (PEDI). The study was a follow-up of a previous study of the same children at age 5 assessed using the same instrument. Data from both studies were used in the analysis.
RESULTS. Forty percent of the sample of children with Down syndrome in Norway had entered elementary school after a 1-year postponement (i.e., at age 7). The functional performance skills of the children, as measured using the PEDI, were significantly lower at both age 5 and age 7 in self-care and social function compared with children with Down syndrome who entered elementary school at the usual time (i.e., at age 6). The main characteristics associated with postponed elementary school entry were found in communication skills and bladder and bowel management.
CONCLUSION. A certain level of development and independence seems to be required for a child with Down syndrome to be viewed as ready to enter elementary school, and perceptions of readiness for school may be culturally dependent. In addition to the well-described challenges in language and communication skills, being viewed as ready for school includes having stopped using diapers, a topic not previously mentioned as a factor in postponing elementary school entry for children with Down syndrome. Awareness of culturally influenced performance skills may give direction to parents and professionals in targeting areas in the preschool years that might help promote these children’s readiness for school.