Individuals with Down Syndrome have very specific medical needs. They suffer from low muscle tone and poor digestion. About 50% suffer from congenital heart defect, as well as hearing and vision problem. Most have a mild to moderate learning delay.
Children with DS can learn. Their learning style is different and it takes longer for them to learn something. Life skills are not going to be learned by observation. They must be taught specifically. When I was Director of Special Education, the Life Skills class at the high school sold baked potatoes every Thursday to earn money for their field trips. The teacher broke down the skills into manageable learning increments. In the beginning, they learned to wash the potatoes. By the end of the year, they could wash and cook the potatoes. They prepared small condiment cups with cheese, green onion, butter, and other options offered. They could also read and fill the orders. By the end of the second year, they could deliver the orders and collect the money independently. One day one of the students walked into my office, put the take-out container on my desk and said, "Give me $6.00." Which I gladly did.
These students learned to wash and dry dishes--no dishwasher. They cooked something almost daily. They also went out to eat on grocery shopping day. The teacher of this class was a genius. She would decide the week before where they were going to eat. Then she would obtain a menu from the restaurant. The students would decide what they wanted and practice all week ordering it from the cashier, paying for it, and receiving the change. If they refused to order, they didn't eat. Some had speech problems and the teacher would interpret if necessary, but the student had to attempt ordering.
Individuals with DS can learn to be independent. It just takes someone with the time and patience to teach them. Please visit http://www.ndss.org/Down-Syndrome/Myths-Truths/ to learn more about Down Syndrome.