October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month. One of the goals of the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) is to advocate for individuals with Down syndrome to be fully included and accepted in all areas of their lives, including educational settings. When teaching students with Down syndrome, a few special considerations should be taken, as recommended by the Special Education Support Service (SESS). Many students with Down syndrome are visual learners, so teachers should use visual cues and representations whenever possible. Students with Down syndrome also benefit from social activities, using manipulatives, having extra comprehension and task completion time, and being given clear directions. It is particularly important to always keep expectations high so that students will be driven to succeed.
The following are five resources that can be used to support students with Down syndrome in inclusive educational settings:
1. One Place for Special Needs
Started by a parent of children with disabilities, One Place for Special Needs offers an online forum for parents, teachers and professionals to share resources, which you can search by disability type. The Down syndrome area offers apps, picture symbols, books and video recommendations, and discussion forums. There is also a Teacher Resources area that hosts a number of educational videos.
2. National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS)
Besides being one of the best advocates for the inclusion of individuals with Down syndrome, the NDSS has an Education & Down Syndrome page. There are several wonderful Youtube videos that celebrate friendship and diversity, as well as articles on how to support students’ communication, recreational and transitional goals. Students with Down syndrome can also be encouraged to share their personal stories in the My Great Story virtual book.
eReadingToGo is an app that has been used by teachers and parents of children with Down syndrome. Based on the popular eReadingPro program, which appeals to children with and without disabilities, the app matches words with pictures to help young children learn to read. It is the ideal “whole-word approach” for visual learners.
4. iPod Touch and iPhone Applications for Special Education
The comprehensive list of iPod Touch and iPhone Applications for Special Education offers free and low costs apps that will help students build skills in multiple areas, including communication, organization and math. Many of the apps employ appealing visuals and virtual manipulatives that students with Down syndrome will find accessible and motivating.
5. Down Syndrome Education Online
This site is an excellent and professional resource that is committed to providing the best educational environment for students with Down syndrome, using research-based practices. A must read is Gert de Graaf’s article “Supporting the Social Inclusion of Students with Down Syndrome in Mainstream Education.” He offers tips for successful inclusion and higher self-esteem, like having a child with Down syndrome tutor a younger child and planning many cooperative learning activities.