School leaver/ Adult

Down Syndrome Ireland member Amy Purcell describes the impact that the Latch-On programme has had on her life. One of Amy’s main ambitions on entering the programme was to be able to read to her nephew. Amy and her family also describe the other positive impacts of the programme.

The end of formal schooling often marks the beginning of adulthood for many people, whether they have Down syndrome or not. It brings with it new adventures, as well as new difficulties and new uncertainties.

One of our key goals is to provide people with Down syndrome with a high degree of independence in adulthood. This section is all about giving you the information you need to make sure that the school leaver or adult that you know is getting the most out of life.

In this section, you will find information on some of the options your school-leaver or adult child has – there are two further education programmes in particular that we run: Latch-On and MOTE.

  • Adult independence and education

    Challenges change as children become teenagers and adults, and so do the opportunities for learning new skills.  Many adults with Down syndrome are now leaving home, living independently with varying degrees of support, holding down jobs, forming relationships and generally getting the most out of life.

    Research shows that when adults with intellectual disabilities are provided with opportunities to broaden their literacy education through appropriate teaching and learning strategies, they continue to develop and improve their language and literacy skills.

    Acknowledging the value of life-long learning and access to quality education for adults is core to everything we do. Through our local branch network, we facilitate two further education opportunities:

    • Literacy and Technology Hands On Programme (Latch-On)
    • My Opinion My Vote programme (MOTE)


    You’ll find further information on both those programmes under the headings below.

  • Latch-On


    In recent years, people with Down syndrome have achieved levels of literacy that were once regarded by society as unattainable. Such achievements have been possible because of an increased recognition of the need for lifelong learning when it comes to literacy.

    Our Literacy and Technology Hands On (Latch-On) is two-year literacy programme for adults with Down syndrome.

    Latch-On was initiated and developed at the School of Education at the University of Queensland and has a strong foundation in educational research and practice. The programme provides opportunities for adults with Down syndrome to commence and continue their literacy development.

    Latch-On is a four module programme taught twice weekly over two years by a qualified teacher who has been accredited to teach the programme. The teacher is assisted by a tutor (where there are six students or fewer) or two tutors (where there are 7 to 12 students). The maximum class size is 12 students.

    Down Syndrome Ireland is running Latch-On programmes across all four provinces; we have twelve teaching sites nationwide.

    Ireland is the first European country to acquire a license to run Latch-On.

    If you would like to find out more about our Latch-On Programme, please contact our Adult Education Officer Rosalind Walsh on 01 4266500 or email us at

  • Ability Counts

    We have recently embarked on a partnership with Celtic FC Foundation, the charitable arm of Celtic Football club, to deliver their very successful activity project for young people and adults with Down Syndrome & Autism, Ability Counts.

    This programme provides activities and games on a weekly basis with the aims of developing participant’s communication, coordination and social skills through physical activity and increased interaction with peers. 

    Physical activity & social integration have been identified as one of the critical success factors in the overall wellbeing of our members. We have been very keen to identify a programme which can support us in helping our members achieve both.

    You can read more about the Ability Counts programme and how you can get involved here.

  • My Opinion My Vote (MOTE)

    Our My Opinion, My Vote (MOTE) programme is a European Project which empowers people with learning disabilities through active citizenship and participation in political elections.

    It educates people with learning disabilities about their political rights and encourages them to form and express an informed opinion and make an informed decision during local, national and European elections and referenda.

    The MOTE education programme comprises of 10 modules:

    1. Forming a Personal and Independent Opinion
    2. What is Politics?
    3. Delegation and Representation
    4. Participation in Interest Groups, Political Parties, Trade Unions
    5. Political Parties and Electoral Programmes
    6. Voting Procedures
    7. Local Public Authority
    8. National Authority: Parliament / Government
    9. What is Europe?
    10. Referendums and Petitions



    It is characteristic of a modern democracy that all adult citizens have an equal opportunity to exercise active political influence. When looked upon as a group, people with learning disabilities represent a percentage of the population whose life conditions are most dependent on political decisions and yet people with learning disabilities represent a group in society that is most frequently excluded from the political process. The MOTE programme aims to correct this phenomenon.

    MOTE Locations 2017/ 2018

    MOTE, Year 1
    – Waterford

    MOTE, Year 2
    – Tralee, Co. Kerry
    – Naas, Co.Kildare
    – Dublin

    If you would like to find out more about our MOTE Programme, please contact our Adult Project Officer Lisa Martin on 01 4266500 or email us at

  • Ability Programme

    Our Ability Programme breaks down barriers and provides people with Down syndrome access to meaningful employment opportunities.

    Aimed at all school leavers and adults with Down syndrome across the country, the approach of the programme is two pronged:

    • We offer a bespoke person-centred education and training programme which prepares adults with Down syndrome for employment.
    • We also develop direct links with employers around the country through a programme of partnership initiatives aimed at securing long-term employment for adults with Down syndrome across a broad range of sectors.


    You can read more about our Ability programme here.

  • Adult employment – for employers

    People with Down syndrome have the right to seek employment in their communities.

    People with Down syndrome want to work and represent a substantial source of untapped commitment and talent.  However, according to the 2010 Employers Disability Forum, people with Down syndrome are one of the most under-represented groups in the labour market.

    People with Down syndrome have a lot to offer the workforce. They have many abilities and should be supported to make informed choices about their work and careers, and have the resources to seek, obtain, and be successful in gaining employment.

    Companies who employ people with Down syndrome report that those employees are committed and motivated, and often only need an opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities.

    The positive impact on the person with Down syndrome is substantial. Working helps improve confidence, increase social connectivity and integrate the individual into the local community.

    If you are an employer, we ask you not to make assumptions about what a person with Down syndrome can do. We ask you to consider the skills, abilities and aspirations of each individual.

    If you are an employer who wishes to employ a person with Down syndrome, we are here to support you. Please contact our Adult Independence Officer Aoife Gaffney on 01 4266500 or email us at

  • National employment programme: Beauty in all its Forms

    Beauty in All Its Forms (BIAF) is an innovative new national employment programme for adults with Down syndrome, which we have developed in collaboration with our partner ALFAPARF Milano Ireland. BIAF gives adults with Down syndrome the opportunity to train as hairdressing assistants with a view to securing long-term employment.

    Following the programme’s international success, we piloted it in Ireland in early 2017 with six of our members and had a more-than-80% success rate measured as securing employment following training. We are currently in the next phase of the programme with another new group of six participants undertaking their training at the moment (November 2017).

    One of our key goals is to provide our members with a high degree of independence in adulthood. We are making real progress in developing our adult education programmes and establishing partnerships with other companies like ALFAPARF Milano.


    “The training was great. I learned lots, how to fold towels, cleaning and washing hair. Getting a job in Lloyd’s made me happy and confident.”

    John Mulligan, Waterford


    “I have become more confident in talking to people, greeting and looking after the clients. I have become much more aware of what it means to be in the workplace – arriving on time, dressing suitably and doing the best I can in the salon.”

    Orla Hannon, Sixmilebridge, Co Clare

    Can I participate in Beauty in All Its Forms?

    The current BIAIF programme has already been filled; however, we will be hosting another open day for interested candidates at a later stage in 2018. Watch this space for more details!

    You can view the programme details and job specification for programme participants here.

    You can view and download the application form here. Completed application forms can be emailed to Please include the words ALFAPARF Milano Training in the subject line.

    Are you an employer who would like to get involved?

    Working alongside a person with Down syndrome often enriches the wider workforce and benefits a company in many diverse and unique ways.

    As an employer, would you like to get involved in one of our training and employment programmes? You can get in contact with us at We would love to talk!

    Can I find out more about the programme?

    Download the Beauty in all its Forms booklet with background information on the programme, graduate feedback from the pilot programme and support information.

    Read our full Press Release here.

    RTE News Video

    RTE News visited the BIAIF programme recently and met with the six participants currently training to see what the programme is all about. The video has been so positively received across social media, (with 4.1 million views on their Facebook page alone!) attracting encouraging comments and well wishes for the participants as well as support for inclusion and opportunity in the workplace.

  • Rights for people with Down syndrome

    We are committed to working towards an Irish society where people with Down syndrome have the same basic human rights as any citizen throughout life to education, employment opportunities and decision making as all other citizens.

    At the moment in Ireland there are a number of laws that have yet to be enacted, which will improve the legal rights of people with disabilities. We are actively lobbying to have these laws enacted.

    Read more about this campaign and all our lobbying campaigns here and find out how you might be able to help.

  • Get involved! National Advisory Council

    Our National Advisory Council (NAC) represents the opinions of adults with Down syndrome within our organisation. The Council is composed of adults with Down syndrome from across Ireland.

    Learn more about the NAC here.

    If you or an adult you know would like to get involved in our National Advisory Council, please contact Helena Connors on 01 4266500 or email us at

  • Future planning

    Thinking of the inevitable is a difficult task for parents. Making a will can be even more difficult when you are the parent or guardian of a person with Down syndrome.

    Down Syndrome Ireland provides information seminars for parents on making wills and has produced an information booklet designed to give practical advice on making long-term provision for your child with Down syndrome while also making suggestions that might help your child deal a little more easily with the loss of a parent.

    Planning for the Future: Guidelines for Parents of Children and Adults with Down Syndrome

    There are two parts to the booklet. The first is the important issue of making a will and properly providing for your son or daughter for in a way that is both legal and beneficial to his or her future life. The second part is about writing a Letter of Intent which informs future guardians and trustees of the details of your child’s life, both past and present, which consequently will help your child deal a little more easily with the great loss of a parent. The booklet also talks about how establishing a special estate plan might provide for your child’s long-term needs.

    Information Seminars

    If you wish to enquire about an information seminar; please contact your local branch secretary.
    The information seminars are delivered by the author of the above-named publication:

    Tadgh Kelly, Solicitor with Dublin-based law firm, Pearts Solicitors, located at 24/26 Upper Ormond Quay. Tadgh primarily practices in the area of land disputes, planning law, defamation law and personal injury claims. Of particular interest to Tadgh is the area of law surrounding how best to protect and cater for the needs of people with Down syndrome and he has developed a growing practice in this area based on his particular experience and expertise.

  • Speech and language therapy

    It’s important to keep developing language throughout adulthood. Rest assured that there is no learning plateau and adults will continue to develop speech and language skills with the right support. In our Speech and Language section, Nicola Hart, our Speech and Language Advisor, goes through various ways adults can continue to advance their language skills.

  • Useful resources

    Down Syndrome Ireland: 01 4266500
    Down Syndrome Ireland Adult Employment Officer: Aoife Gaffney
    Down Syndrome Ireland Adult Advocacy Officer: Helena Connors

    The National Council for Special Education’s Information on Options for Adults and School Leavers with Disabilities booklet provides general information about the main programmes and supports in education and training of people with disabilities.