Early years / Pre school
Information, help and advice for parents and families of young children up to 6 years
In this section you will find some information about early intervention services, how Down Syndrome Ireland can support you, along with questions that will help you choose the most suitable childcare and pre-school services for your child. There is also a useful Booklet on the transition from pre-school to primary school which you may find useful – and more.
How we can support you
Throughout their early years, your child will need the same things that all young children need – love, interaction and opportunities for play. As you know, your child is unique, with individual strengths, interests and needs. During their early years, they will grow, learn and progress, and will reach childhood milestones at their own pace. You may be concerned that your child is progressing slowly in some areas. Don’t worry too much about their rate of progress, like any other child your child is figuring out and exploring the world around them at their own pace.
Listed below are practical supports that we can offer to help you and your child in their early years.
Resources and booklets
As many parents of children with Down syndrome know, there is an abundance of medical information about the condition but not a lot which provides real insight into the realities of having a child with Down syndrome. Our booklet ‘…more than medical’ is a resource to help support families and new parents with a pre or postnatal diagnosis of Down syndrome for their baby.
Written for parents who have young children with Down syndrome, congenital heart disease and feeding difficulties, our Supporting Feeding and Oral Development in Young Children booklet provides a nice overview of how feeding works, and tips on developing good feeding & communication skills. The booklet covers breast, bottle and tube feeding.
Our booklet Including Children with Down Syndrome in Early Childhood Care and Education Settings provides both you as parents and your childcare service provider with practical advice and suggestions to ensure your child thrives at creche and preschool.
Our booklet Transition from Pre-School to Primary School booklet covers choosing a school, preparing your child for the transition well in advance, useful strategies and tips when your child starts school, the resources and supports that are available for pupils with special needs in mainstream schools, the learning profile of individuals with Down syndrome, how to build independence, and how to work with your child’s school.
Our Early Intervention Officer is at your disposal
Our Early Intervention officer Olive Buckeridge is on hand to offer you help, advice and support throughout your child’s early years, right up until your child starts primary school. You can reach her on 01 4266500 or email us at Olive@downsyndrome.ie.
We run a number of seminars and conferences around the country for both parents and professionals on supporting young children with Down syndrome. Keep an eye out for them in our newsletters and on social media.
Our local branches offer a wide range of services and supports. A number of our branches run Parent and Toddler groups and/or early intervention groups which provide an opportunity for young children and their parents or carers to meet. These groups are an informal way to meet other people with children the same age as yours in your local community. They also provide an opportunity for children to play together and practice skills, along with allowing you time to have a chat with other parents or carers. If there is no Parent and Toddler group already running in your local branch, you can contact us and we’ll be able to support you and your branch in setting one up.
You can find your nearest branch here or you can call us on 01 4266500.
Health Service Executive – what you need to know
HSE Early Intervention services consist of a team of people who will work with you and your child to support your child’s development. You will be put in touch with early intervention services by your doctor, public health nurse, or through the hospital.
Early Intervention services generally work as teams, and can be made up of:
- Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs)
- Occupational Therapists (OTs)
- Social Workers
Commonly asked questions - Choosing childcare
Many children with Down syndrome attend their local mainstream creche. This gives them the opportunity to learn and develop new skills in an inclusive environment. To find details of creches in your local area, you should contact your local City/County Childcare Committee.
You may be entitled to a subsidy from your childcare fees if your child attends a mainstream creche. You can find further information about subsidies available at http://affordablechildcare.ie/ .
Our booklet Including Children with Down Syndrome in Early Childhood Care and Education is a useful resource that you can give to your child’s creche. It includes information about the learning profile of children with Down syndrome, strategies to promote inclusion, and building on children’s strengths and interests.
Commonly asked questions – Choosing a preschool and supports available
Once your child turns 2 years and 8 months, they will be eligible for the state-funded Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme, which is commonly known as the ‘free preschool year’. From September 2018, all children are eligible for two years of free preschool. The programme is provided in preschools for three hours per day, five days per week from September to June. To find details of preschools in your area that offer the ECCE programme, you should contact your local City/County Childcare Committee.
When your child is availing of the ECCE scheme, the preschool will be able to apply for additional support for your child through the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM), which is designed to ensure that children with disabilities can access the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme. As part of the AIM model, the preschool will receive support from an early year’s specialist, and depending on your child’s needs, they may receive a grant for specialised equipment or appliances in the preschool, and possibly additional funding for an additional staff member in their preschool. When choosing a preschool for your child, you should ask them about applying for supports as part of the AIM model. It can take a number of months for AIM supports to be in place, so we recommend making contact with your chosen preschool as early as possible.
Your child’s preschool will apply for AIM supports on behalf of your child, in conjunction with you. Further information about AIM can be found at www.aim.gov.ie.
Some children with Down syndrome attend a specialist preschool for children with complex needs. You can find out more about specialist preschools in your area from your local Early Intervention Team.
Some children split their time between a mainstream preschool and a specialist preschool (e.g. 2 days per week in a specialist preschool and 3 days per week in a mainstream preschool). When this happens, the funding provided through the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programme can be split between the specialist preschool and the mainstream preschool, as long as both are in contract to provide the ECCE programme. Both preschools will be able to advise you on this.
Commonly asked questions - transitioning from preschool to primary school
Moving from preschool to primary school will be a significant transition for your child. However, there are many things that you can do to support and ease this transition. Our booklet Transitioning from Preschool to Primary School offers practical suggestions to support the transition.
It covers choosing a school, preparing your child for the transition well in advance, useful strategies and tips when your child starts school, the resources and supports that are available for pupils with special needs in mainstream schools, the learning profile of individuals with Down syndrome, how to build independence, and how to work with your child’s school.
Supporting Language Development – See and Learn
See and Learn is an evidence based, structured teaching programme which teaches speech, language and reading skills in small steps for children with Down syndrome up to 6 years of age.
The programme is designed to help parents and educators provide young children with the additional support and practice they need to learn language.
We are investing in the programme with funds raised through our HB Fundays campaign this year.
During 2020, we want to put a See and Learn pack in every participating pre-school in the country that has a child with Down syndrome attending and provide See and Learn packs to each of our 25 local branches.
If you would like to participate in the programme, you will receive See and Learn training and also a free See and Learn kit. Please contact Gavin McDonnell, See and Learn Project Leader at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Speech and language therapy
Down Syndrome Ireland: 01 4266500
Down Syndrome Ireland Early Intervention Officer Olive Buckeridge: 01 4266500 or email@example.com.
Down Syndrome Education International
Access and Inclusion Model
Department of Children and Youth Affairs
See and Learn
The Better Start Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) is a model of supports designed to ensure that children with disabilities can access the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Programme.
Lámh is a manual sign system used by children and adults with intellectual disability and communication needs in Ireland. Lámh signs are used to support communication.
Upside Down, The Story of My Brother James Liadh Hanley
Here is a wonderful book called Upside Down, The Story of My Brother James written by a young girl called Liadh Hanley. In the book, Liadh shares her experiences of having a brother with Down Syndrome. The initial aim of the book is to teach siblings and children how to appreciate and respect those with Down syndrome. We think this book could help all members of families with Down Syndrome as well as prospective parents.
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‘…more than medical’
“…more than medical” provides an insight into the realities of family life with a baby, child, teenager or adult with Down syndrome in Ireland today. It’s about reality and providing balanced, complete information for new families.
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The physical environment plays an important part in creating inclusive early childhood care and education settings. The physical environment includes toys, art materials, wall displays, books, and dolls. Positive, visible depictions of children with Down syndrome in the environment are essential to support their inclusion and meaningful participation. This short children’s book ‘Including Me’ was created by Graiguecullen Parish Childcare Centre. Having books like this (which can be handmade very easily) in your book corner provide opportunities for discussion, and support children’s identity.
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Supporting feeding and oral development in young children
Written for parents who have young children with Down syndrome, congenital heart disease and feeding difficulties, this booklet provides a nice overview of how feeding works, and tips on developing good feeding & communication skills. The booklet covers breast, bottle and tube feeding.
I am a family member
Including children with Down syndrome in early childhood care and education settings
This booklet is a useful resource that you can give to your childcare service. This booklet is useful regardless of whether your child attends a mainstream childcare service/preschool or a specialist service.
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We regularly get queries from parents wondering when is the best time to toilet train their child with Down syndrome. This article on Toilet Training offers some useful suggestions which will help you, such as determining if your child is ready, along with practical tips when you begin toilet training. The article appeared in our DSI Member Magazine.
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Toys for fun and learning
This article highlights the importance of play for young children with Down syndrome, along with some practical ideas for play activities. The article appeared in our DSI Member Magazine.