Understanding Down Syndrome in Huay Pakoot

By Gemma Annan 4 years ago
Categories Chiang Mai

I have been living in the village for quite some time now, and although the elephants are my passion I do have a soft spot for the less privileged villagers. There are three villagers that I know of who have learning disabilities of varying kinds. They do not attend school or receive help in any way but they are also not locked away or shunned at all. Instead the villagers interact with them and try to involve them in daily village activities.

I have been spending time with a certain lady named Chew De Mah; she is approximately 18 years old and has Down syndrome. Chew De Mah comes from a large family and from I can see see receives love and affection from them all.

On my visits to see Chew De Mah we paint, make necklaces, learn to juggle, play Frisbee and so on. At the end of each visit I paint Chew De Mah’s nails in a bright colour which she loves!

Quite often we will have village elders join in or watch us interact. At first I felt the villagers thought I was odd for wanting to spend time with Chew De Mah but now they also enjoy our time together and have adjusted well to having a ‘gola’ (western person) in their house doing arts and craft activities.

Chew De Mah has responded well to me over the year and seems more confident now; she repeats what I say less, responding with answers. She is also learning the English words for body parts which is helping with her speech impediment a little!