What is special about this scene? Monica has Down syndrome and has been assessed as having a severe intellectual disability. Her language skills are very weak: she has only two or three words of speech. At twelve, she is older than the other children in her grade, although not much bigger. Twenty years ago, most students with Down syndrome would have attended a day training centre for people with intellectual disability, segregated from the mainstream of education. But Monica is part of an integration programme in her district and attends a mainstream primary school full-time. She is unable to cope with the academic skills that other members of the class are learning, but she participates in most of the other activities in the classroom. Much of her behaviour has been learned from observing and imitating the children around her, and superficially at least there is little to distinguish it from that of the other children with whom she mixes. Monica’s classmates realise her limitations and make allowance for her disability. They are usually kind and helpful, ready to show her what to do and
often extravagant in their praise for her efforts. Despite her disability, integration appears to be working well for Monica.