LAS VEGAS (KLAS)– The ‘Down Syndrome Program’ is a new program at UNLV, aimed to help those with intellectual disabilities and their families.

The goal is to improve access to healthcare.

Dr. Kate Martin is UNLV’s Associate Dean for Graduate Education and the ‘Down Syndrome Program’ director.

Dr. Martin knows this firsthand, her brother Michael suffered from intellectual and physical disabilities. She said he is her inspiration to help others like him in the community.

“In assisting him with the things that he needed, I realized there was likely a larger need for others like him here,” added Dr. Martin.

She said there is a lack of healthcare coordination for adults with intellectual disabilities despite them being at a higher risk for chronic diseases.

“We conducted focus groups with individuals, athletes with the Special Olympics, and also their families,” explained Dr. Martin. “What they told us was that they may have great physicians that they’re working with and organizations here in the community but there a lot of gaps.”

She hopes the Down Syndrome program at will bridge that gap, helping find specialists or specific services families need. she said one big challenge is is communication, some adults with intellectual disabilities may be nonverbal and will communicate in other behavioral ways.

“Which they’re acting out and telling us something is wrong, because of that the quality of healthcare they receive unfortunately is impacted if a healthcare provider is not skilled in picking up on those cues,” said Dr. Martin.

Dr. Martin added it’s all starts with education, from training the next generation of doctors at UNLV to matching patients with the right doctors.

“It’s about being seen and being heard,” Dr. Martin said. “What that means for someone with intellectual disabilities looks very different for them and helping healthcare providers understand that, to make a space for them essentially.”

If you would like to learn more about this program, you can find more information at:

https://www.unlv.edu/medicine/down-syndrome-program