Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. Down Syndrome Society touts benefits of music therapy, workplace mentoring programs

The Newfoundland and Labrador Down Syndrome Society (NLDSS) is concerned that some families may not be aware of the beneficial services they offer.

Tara Antle says stepson Eric Ruby is great example of help NLDSS offers

Eric Ruby and stepmother Tara Antle speak to the St. John's Morning Show Tuesday on World Down Syndrome Awareness Day. (Paula Gale/CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador Down Syndrome Society (NLDSS) is concerned that some families may not be aware of the many helpful services they offer.

March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day, a day to raise awareness about the condition that affects one in every 700 babies who are born.

Tara Antle, whose stepson Eric Ruby has down syndrome, spoke to CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show in hopes that other families might avail of at least some of the services the province's down syndrome society oversees.

March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day. (tnuds.org)

"We offer many services; speech therapy, music therapy, occupational therapy, there's a health component," she said. "There's also a focus on well-being and socialization."

'Unbelievable' results

The NLDSS runs a mentored employment program, which Antle's stepson takes part in.

Antle said where the society was launched about 20 years ago, some of their initial members are now entering the workforce for the first time through the mentor program.

Eric Ruby tells the St. John's Morning Show that the music therapy and work mentoring programs offered through the Newfoundland and Labrador Down Syndrome Society have been very beneficial for him. (Paula Gale/CBC)

Eric Ruby works with Smith's Home Hardware in the Village Mall, with his mentor Keith Day. Antle said for someone with down syndrome like Ruby, being able to earn money and be useful in society has immeasurable benefits.

"When I first met Eric maybe five or six years ago, he would probably crawl underneath the table before he would speak he was so shy," she said.

"Now he's walking in there shaking complete strangers hands, it's unbelievable."

"My mentor is Keith Day, and he helps me learning about nuts and bolts and stuff," said Ruby. "I love learning about the nuts and bolts."

'Huge improvement'

Another one of the programs the NLDSS offers is music therapy, through which members learn how to play an instrument or how to sing.

Ruby participated in that program as well, and said he really loved it – still playing the accordion to this day.

"I'm as good as I can be," he said. 

"There are more and more studies showing the benefit of music therapy on the expression of speech, cognitive ability, functioning, things like that," Antle said.

"We've seen a huge improvement with Eric, along the lines of being able to rationalize things more and being able to speak and understand the lingo a little bit."

With files from St. John's Morning Show

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