"Collaborative networked framework for the rehabilitation of children with Down's Syndrome" (PDF) is an old paper from the University of Averio in Portugal, but the project described is really interesting. Presented at the third International Conference on Disability, Virtual Reality and Associated Technology in Alghero, Italy in 2000, the authors propose "a multi-user virtual communication platform that enables rehabilitation and social integration of Down's Syndrome children."

Using this platform, the kids engage in fantasy play and problem-solve with their avatars; the neat part is that they're playing with other kids who have Down Syndrome from all over the world. So not only are kids learning independently in a virtual environment—"learn[ing] by themselves through experience without close adult mediation," as the authors say—and not only are they collaborating with other people. They're also working and playing with other people who have Down Syndrome. The framework brings people with disabilities together in ways that aren't possible in real life because of geographic constraints. While there's nothing wrong with being around one's "typically developing peers," it's great when disabled people can form communities with other disabled people, too. And self-advocates do a lot of great work.

Tera Kirk
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