What kind of recreational activities can be proposed to clients with Down syndrome?

What are the suggestions to improve the reception for people with Down syndrome or with intellectual disability? What kind of recreational activities can you offer them in a hotel or in a tourist village to make your holiday even more interesting?


In holiday and leisure places, it can often happen that the staff assigned to the reception, or to the animation, relate to adults with Down syndrome or with intellectual disability as if they were still children. Starting from the mistaken assumption that a disabled intellectual is an eternal child, therefore, activities are proposed far removed from the tastes of the client, thus offering a totally inadequate service. We contacted Anna Contardi, national coordinator of the Italian Down People Association, for suggestions on how to improve reception.


Why did you choose to treat this subject with us?

Not everyone knows that the life expectancy of people with Down syndrome has changed dramatically: in the forties it was 12 years and now it is 62 years; today in Italy about 38,000 people with Down syndrome, 60% are adults. This demographic change brings with it a marked change in perspectives. Yet many still think that if a person has an intellectual disability, he remains a child for life, so the risk of infantization is quite high.

It is easy to notice how people with Down syndrome, or with intellectual disabilities, even if adults are treated like children: they are given to you, they are touched or caressed even by strangers, and so on.

A cultural change is necessary and one begins to relate to people with cognitive disabilities using the same respect and the same expressive register that would be used towards another adult of the same age. A person with 40-year-old down syndrome is a full-fledged adult.

Basically, if a person struggles to make the multiplication does not mean that he has to play with the dolls: there is no connection.


Are there better activities than others that can be offered to a person with Down syndrome?

People are all different, those with Down syndrome included, each has its own story, its family and its habits. Desires may be the most varied, but certainly there are some activities that are more engaging. For example, all expressive events: taking part in an animation activity in a tourist village, dancing or similar things, involves more easily. There are many people with Down syndrome who are particularly interested in sports, so in a tourist facility the pool can become the most interesting place of attraction.

People express themselves in various ways: if we propose activities that prefer the language of the body, such as dance or sport, for example, we will give more space to those who may have a deficit that prevents them from communicating in more conventional ways.

Of course, I would never go to offer a lesson in ancient literature, but just approaching it as you would any other adult and ask.

Of course, everything must always be done with due care, respect and above all, remembering that everyone has the age that you bring, so I would not feel an adult to propose to go on the rides.


Are there any specificities to keep in mind when communicating with a person with Down syndrome?

A simple language, to speak slowly, not in an excessive way, and above all, if we have the feeling that the other person has not understood us, we must try to re-explain it with other words.


Do you want to add other suggestions?

One suggestion I would give is not to be too permissive, this too is an important part of the relationship. It may happen that a person with intellectual disability has an inadequate attitude, of course we can and must be tolerant, but being too much means contributing to maintaining this attitude.

For example, if a person leaves all his or her things around the hotel, it is not said that you should always bring them back to them, you can also point out that you have forgotten them and invite them to resume them. Or if a person asks three times to pick up the first one at the restaurant, but the normal practice is to have only one round of the first, you can kindly point out that the first one is not provided, just as you would any other customer . Reception and integration also pass through the ability to feel free to say “no”.

Are you interested in taking a person with Down syndrome?

People with Down Syndrome can be good workers, in a hotel or restaurant. If you want to start an internship or enter a person at work in your company, make contact with the Italian Down People Association.

We can help you identify the suitable worker and accompany you in the insertion!

Write to us at aipd@aipd.it or call us at 06/3723909.


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