How To Help The Lives of People With Down Syndrome Through Positive Psychology


For our GOA online course, we were tasked with finding a group of people in our community that we can help by using positive psychology practices. When brainstorming ideas for my project, I noticed that many other people in my class were finding ways to help students who were stressed from school, sports, etc. While these are all great ideas and real issues that need attention, I wanted to do something that would stand out. While debating between a few different topics, I decided to focus on something that had always bothered me; how little people know about taking care of and being around people who have down syndrome. The reason why this issue has always bothered me is because I have an uncle who has down syndrome. I have done a few projects in school in the past about people who have down syndrome because of how it is an important part of my life. During those projects, I kept searching for strategies that would help with being around someone who has down syndrome, and I could never really find ones that I liked, which is part of the reason why I wanted to continue my research. When I first began working on this project, I thought that there would not be a ton of information out there nor would I be able to connect it back to positive psychology. As I continued with my research, I found that I was completely wrong, and after finishing up my research, I am satisfied with the strategies I have found and how they connect to positive psychology. Before I can establish my ideas for how to help this issue, it is important to know the history behind the thinking associated with down syndrome.

Down Syndrome In The Past

For most of the 20th century, a child born with down syndrome would be looked down upon or institutionalized for most of their life. When my uncle was born in 1973, the doctors asked my grandparents if they wanted to put him in an institution. They obviously said no, but the fact that this question was even brought up as recently as the 70s shows how much progress we have made. Even by looking at these institutions we can tell how wrong people used to be about down syndrome

American Down Syndrome Institution during 1950s

Even for a large part of the 1990s there was not a lot of treatment available for people with down syndrome. Only recently has the amount of ways and the amount of treatment for people with down syndrome really increased. However even though the amount of treatment has greatly increased, the way people think about having a family member with down syndrome / being around one has not changed a ton.

The growing Understanding of Down Syndrome

Even though there is still much for people to learn about down syndrome, our community has made great strides when it comes to understanding it. Through recent studies, doctors have figured out that people with down syndrome can achieve tasks no one though they could even come close to these days. Many people have also figured out that it is important to not compare their achievements to those of any normal kid but instead focus on what they did and how they can improve from it. Many people with down syndrome can even function as a regular part of society with only a few setbacks. Because of a lot of new findings and research about down syndrome, people have begun to stop thinking about a person with down syndrome as being a burden but rather a unique individual who can bring a lot to the table. However, the success and morale of the life of a person with down syndrome depends on 2 key ideas, which are both instrumental parts of positive psychology.

Tying It Back to Positive Psychology

The 2 most important parts of being around someone with down syndrome are maintaing positive relationships and being grateful for them and the joy that they can bring to the world. In Positive Psychology, one of the first concepts that we learned about is known as the PERMA model. The main idea behind this model is that there are 5 different concepts that people can integrate into their lives in order to have a successful and meaningful life. The positive relationship part of that is defined as “A relationship with another human being that gives us a chance to invest energy into making another person’s life happier and more positive.” The reason why this is so important to this issue is because of how much people with down syndrome depend on the relationships around them. When I interviewed my grandma, who takes care of my uncle, she kept stressing how important it is to keep them happy and engaged in daily life. She also mentioned the importance of making them feel like they are apart of society rather than an outcast. This is where this issue really comes to light. In today’s society, people will think about someone who has down syndrome and their first thought will be that they can not contribute at all to society, and because of that we should completely coddle them and make them feel like an outcast. This is the general stereotype that I am trying to spread awareness about. This way of thinking has to change. People with down syndrome need to be respected as a member of society and it needs to be recognized that they can achieve a lot and be successful in their own way. Not only is it important to give them a lot of constant support and positivity around their life, it is equally important to express that you are grateful for them.

By showing a person with down syndrome that you are grateful for them, their morale will benefit immensely and they will really feel like they are apart of society. One of the worst things you can do around a person with down syndrome which is an issue in today’s society is act like they need to be put on a pedestal and single them out as being different from everyone else. Many people in today’s society will look at a person with down syndrome as a burden for the people who have to take care of them. They will not consider all of the positivity they can bring to the table, but instead think of them as a burden simply because they look different. When I interviewed my grandma (who takes care of my uncle), one of the main things she told me was that there was never a point in her life where she thought having a down syndrome child was a burden. She said that she thinks people need to be more aware of how much a down syndrome person can improve their life. There are even a few different practices that people can do in their daily life to help.

Positive Psychology Practices

Conclusion / Beyond the Catalyst Conference

Positive Psychology offers a new insight on how to help people with down syndrome. We can use different positive psychology practices to help make the lives of families with down syndrome a lot better. The basic ideas of positive relationships and gratitude are very important for this cause. Building positive relationships around someone with down syndrome can not only improve their life but make the lives of other people around them a lot better. It is important to change the way we think about people with down syndrome because we can do a lot to improve both their lives and our lives. There are even ways that we can help people with down syndrome beyond the catalyst conference. One way that I plan on helping is by creating a pamphlet that highlights the different positive psychology practices and how they can help people with down syndrome. This pamphlet will describe how gratitude and positive relationships can be used to help people with down syndrome. This pamphlet will also highlight how someone should treat someone with down syndrome when they are around that person. Because of how passionate I am about this issue, I want to continue to help people with down syndrome outside of the catalyst conference. I feel that the best way to do so is by sharing my ideas through a pamphlet. It is important that these people get the respect and that others know how to treat them.


Channel, Better Health. Down Syndrome and Family Support. Report no. 1, Victoria, Victoria State Government, 14 Oct. 2014. Better Health Channel, Accessed 16 Apr. 2019.

Smith, Deanna. “7 Life Lessons From Raising A Child With Down Syndrome.” Health – Down Syndrome, Parents, 30 Apr. 2012, Accessed 16 Apr. 2019.

Wallace, Maureen. “Parenting my kid who has down syndrome isn’t all rainbows an unicorns.” parenting, sheknows, 8 June 2016, Accessed 16 Apr. 2019.

Share this project
  1. April 26, 2019 by Gio

    I really loved reading your page! I especially loved the quote defining a positive relationship as, “A relationship with another human being that gives us a chance to invest energy into making another person’s life happier and more positive.” I am Vice President at my school’s chapter of Best Buddies and I have been an active member for two years. We go on trips to a middle school with kids who have special needs, some with down syndrome. I resonate with you when you mention how it bothers you of the little knowledge people have about being around people who have down syndrome. I am sure your page will bring a huge sense of awareness to many. Great job!

  2. April 26, 2019 by Kennedy

    Hi Michael! I think that this topic is super interesting as it is not something that I already knew about. You talked about how this topic was particularly interesting to you because your uncle has down syndrome. How has this affected your relationship with him? Have you applied this ideas regarding positive psychology when spending time with him in the past or is this something that you think can help your relationship in the future?

  3. April 26, 2019 by Margaret French

    Hi Michael, I really enjoyed reading your project! It’s very cool that you were able to relate your project to a family member and help bring attention to better treatment to not just them but everyone with down syndrome.

  4. April 27, 2019 by Karin.Noskova

    Hello Michael, I really enjoyed reading your research. It was very well written and informative. For two years, my friend and I have been working with children with down syndrome on regular basis (weekly). We even organized a summer camp for them last year. As we are currently planning the same camp for this year and organizing weekly workshops, I would like to talk with you more, and listen to and learn from your insights and tips. Do you think it is possible to organize a Zoom call to talk more about our experience?

  5. April 28, 2019 by Price

    Hello Michael, this project is most impressive. Your information was written in perfect harmony with being filled with details but not being too long and boring to read. Thank you so much for sharing!

  6. May 02, 2019 by Mary.Rogers

    Hi Michael!

    When looking through different Catalyst Conference presentations your topic really stood out to me since I hadn’t seen anything like it yet and I am so glad I read it. I really enjoyed learning about how down syndrome was viewed in the past and how that stigma has changed over the years. I also thought it was really cool for your personal reasoning behind choosing this topic. Great job!

  7. May 03, 2019 by Chloe Countryman

    Hey Michael!

    I thought you did a great job with your page! The picture of the institution really made your project come to life. I also thought it was super important that you included the story of your uncle. It made me engaged and more intrigued to continue reading. Great job!

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