Life with Down Syndrome – Functional Skills Continue to Improve

Recent research indicates that functional skills continue to improve throughout life with Down Syndrome. The American Journal of Medical Genetics published research examining the range of functional abilities found in people with Down syndrome in order to help parents and clinicians.

Survey of Life with Down Syndrome

A survey was conducted with 2658 parents from the United States and the Netherlands. The goal of the survey on life with Down Syndrome was to evaluate 11 functional skills of the parents’ sons and daughters with Down Syndrome: walking, eating, speaking, grooming/personal hygiene, reading, writing, preparing meals, working at a job, going on dates, traveling independently, and living independently.

Results of the Survey on Functional Skills Throughout Life with Down Syndrome

The results of the survey on functional skills throughout life with Down Syndrome indicated that the majority of the individuals could:

  • walk by 25 months of age.
  • speak reasonably well by 12 years.
  • maintain their own personal hygiene by 13 years.
  • work independently by 20 years.

In addition, the results indicated that by the age of 31 years old:

  • 49% could read reasonably well.
  • 46% could write reasonably well.
  • 30% could travel independently.
  • 34% were living independently.

The results from the survey indicated that parents in the Netherlands were similar to parents in the United States for most measures.

Conclusion on Life with Down Syndrome Study

The senior author of the study, Brian Skotko, stated that “contrary to some public beliefs, people with Down syndrome never stop learning, and functional skills can still be attained and improved well into adulthood.”

The researchers are hopeful that this data on functional skills throughout life with Down Syndrome will help with guidance, decision‐making, and milestone information for parents and clinicians.


de Graaf, G., Levine, S. P., Goldstein, R., & Skotko, B. G. (2018). Parents’ perceptions of functional abilities in people with Down syndrome. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A.

The Harvard Gazette. People with Down syndrome never stop learning. Retrieved on 1/6/19 at https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/01/functional-skills-of-those-with-down-syndrome-can-improve-into-adulthood/

Read More of Functional Life Skills




Resources for Teaching and Monitoring Life Skills

The Life Skills Checklists help track progress towards routine life skills needed to succeed in the school, home, and community. The checklists have been created in Microsoft Excel.  When you record a score for each life skill, it automatically enters into the graph for a visual representation of progress.  If you are using the document in PDF format you will have to hand write in the score and the graphing information.  This is a great resource for tracking quarterly progress and establishing goals.  

Life Skills of the Month includes 12 life skill hand-outs for parents and 12 posters for the classroom or therapy room. Review a life skill in the classroom or therapy session with the student(s).  Follow up with the corresponding hand out to send home to parents.  Use this packet, to help with carryover of important life skills for ALL children.  Also, includes a reward chart for students to take home to earn prizes.