Many pupils with Down syndrome attend their local mainstream school. For some others, the decision is made to send them to a special school or special class/unit within a mainstream school. This may be for a number of reasons:
They may have additional disabilities which may make it difficult to include them meaningfully in a fully mainstream setting.
- They may have significant medical and/or care needs
- They may require a high level of therapy and /or one-to-one support not available in the mainstream setting
- Their parents may feel it is the most appropriate setting for their child
Although research indicates that inclusive education is preferable for optimal educational progress, the availability of properly-resourced, high-quality inclusive education placements is a concern in Ireland and many other countries. In this environment, some parents may opt for a special school placement for their son or daughter with Down syndrome, if they feel that it will provide them with the most appropriate education for their specific needs.
The educational needs of children / teenagers with Down syndrome are the same whether they are in mainstream school, a special class in a mainstream school, or a special school. Their specific educational needs should be identified and met, taking account of the learning profile of individuals with Down syndrome, and the specific strengths and needs of each individual pupil.
Goals for Teachers
- To foster and encourage involvement by the pupil in all aspects of school life and school routines
- To support the child’s social independence and the development of friendships with peers
- To support the development of play skills
- To foster and expect age-appropriate, socially acceptable behaviour at all times
- To be familiar with the specific cognitive profile associated with Down syndrome
- To provide access to all areas of the curriculum at a level appropriate to the individual child
- To recognise the importance of teaching reading and writing daily, to develop speech, language and working memory skills as well as numeracy skills
- To have clear targets for speech and language, and identify how these can be absorbed into all aspects of the curriculum
- To facilitate independent learning and the ability to work and learn as part of a group
- To make full use of computer aided learning, and employ appropriate software for the individual pupil