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.
If you’d like to speak to someone about choosing a preschool for your child, please contact our Early Intervention officer Olive Buckeridge on 01 4266500 or email at Olive@downsyndrome.ie.
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.
Our Nurse Manager Fiona McGrane outlines the health implications that Down syndrome may have in babies and young children. In our health section, she outlines how best to work with medical professionals to manage them. Remember that we are always here should you need any advice or support.
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, find out more about the See and Learn programme.
If you’d like to speak to someone about See and Lean for your child, please contact our Early Intervention officer Olive Buckeridge on 01 4266500 or email Olive@downsyndrome.ie.
Speech and language therapy
Lots of communication happens before your child learns to talk, and children who have Down syndrome are very individual in how they develop. Nicola Hart, our Speech and Language Advisor outline the ways in which you can help your child along in the Speech and Language section.
Early Years Resources
In this section, you will find a number of useful Early Years resources to help keep your child engaged with learning vital skills like Communication, movement, writing and reading.
Action Songs Sampler – Move, Sing, Play and Learn
A free music CD to provide a positive outlet for a natural action of children, (to leave their seat.) to foster the learning of body parts and ways to move them.
My Interactive Book: Baa Baa Black Sheep
My Interactive Books are both fun and engaging – This book can be used to teach children the popular nursery rhyme: Baa Baa Black Sheep.
On the bottom of each page is a pacing board corresponding to each word to help children get the rhythm of each sentence. The child can use the pacing board to read along or to repeat each sentence.
Baa, Baa, Black Sheep Nursery Rhyme Activity Book Freebie
This activity book will keep your little one entertained and excited as they explore handwriting, colours, counting and more using this classic nursery rhyme as a spring-board for learning.
Free Old MacDonald Interactive Song Speech Therapy
This interactive resource is great for early language acquisition. It targets: Imitating words and actions, filling in words, choice-making and requesting more or done.
AAC Core Vocabulary Freebie/ Interactive Books Speech Therapy/ Help me Open
The interactive book series can be used to help teach first words with the early intervention population.
Early Intervention Speech Therapy Exclamatory Books – OW (Free)
The Exclamatory Words series was written for children who are not quite ready to produce first words. This resource encourages repetition and listening skills.
Distance Learning – At Home Hands On Activities
This resource is full of LOW PREP resources that parents can use at home. There are simple directions for each skill. This packet is geared toward younger learners and focuses on the following: Sorting: Colours, Shapes, Feelings, Categories, Prepositions.
Print and laminate these Picture Communication Symbols, hole punch in the corner and attach them to a keychain. Great for travelling without a communication board.
Bedtime and Morning Routine Visual Schedule (choice board) with pocket
This is a choice board style visual schedule for morning and bedtime routines. It includes storytime, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, getting dressed, taking a bath, eating breakfast, and using the toilet. The file is meant to be printed, laminated and backed with Velcro-style hook and loop.
These fun playdough mats will promote creativity, imagination and fine motor skills. Use these playdough mats as a sensorial activity to promote the sense of touch. For hours of fun, download these free playdough mats for your little learner.
Initial /b/ Poster – Preschool Speech Therapy
This is a one-page poster containing pictures of single syllable words that begin with /b/. This is useful for probing spontaneous use of /b/ in young children who are capable of naming pictures.
No Print Preschool Language Pack – Sample
In this pack, you will find 10 interactive pages to work on pronouns.
Give your child a fishbowl mat – Here is a quick and fun following directions activity. Shuffle all cards read a direction card. If your child completes the direction correctly they may keep the card. If not, have them place it into the middle of the table.
First-Then boards work nicely for helping children to transition from one activity to the next. Put a small piece of Velcro in the middle of both boards and the back of the board. Store the commonly used pics on the back of the board.
Learning Links and App Resources
Below is a list of useful resources that parents/teachers can avail of for free online – they will help with educating and entertaining children while helping them to improve their skills in writing, reading, vocabulary and much more.
Further downloadable resources can also be found in the downloads just below this listing.
Free printable worksheets and educational activities to help to make learning fun. Resources arranged by grade or subject.
Activity Village provides thousands of colouring pages, crafts, puzzles, worksheets and more, for parents and teachers.
Free educational resources, worksheets, writing prompts, themed colouring pages, craft and snack ideas for parents, teachers & caregivers.
Colouring Nature is for children and adults. We have more than 675 FREE printable colouring pages. Our colouring categories include serious science: anatomy, animals, plants and more, plus some pure whimsy – just for fun.
Free pintables, activity sheets, colouring pages, and more!
Creative Lesson Plans, Animated Video Lessons (Parent and Student-friendly), Parent Hand-outs, Free Weekly At-Home Learning Webinars (for Parents and Teachers)
Free Maths Workbooks
Digital resources, tools, and learning materials developed by educational experts. They are useful in any type of teaching. There is no such thing as “one size fits all” in education; each educator and child has unique challenges and goals. They celebrate the diversity of users by offering differentiated resources that can meet a wide range of educational needs – and raise kids’ confidence in learning.
Thousands of free printable, games, quizzes and fun stuff
A free PDF pack of printable/activities for kids.
FREE resources (downloadable books, mazes, word searches, and more) from Heifer International’s school programmes — with topics in social studies (geography, economics), science, language arts.
Free printable Maths and Reading packets for students
Maths games and activities by grade and math strand.
Entirely free phonics and comprehension programme for Kindergarten through 2nd grade students
Headsprout is an adaptive, online reading program that is easy to implement, fun to use, and proven to help children become capable and confident readers. Using a unique scaffolded teaching approach, the programme instantly responds and personalises the learning experience to ensure that each student can master essential reading skills. Plus, kids love the cast of friendly characters, engaging activities, and built-in incentives that make learning to read fun.
Raz-Kids is an award-winning digital library of levelled eBooks and eQuizzes that students use to practice reading in school, at home, or on the go. Raz-Kids makes it easy to differentiate reading practice and monitor student progress online. In addition, the engaging student portal features interactive tools and incentives that keep kids motivated to practice and improve their reading skills.
Free resources to help you continue children’s handwriting, keyboarding, and pre-kindergarten development from a distance.
Free printables library with activities for children 0-6
Free at-home kids yoga lesson plans
Free English Learning Online games, mobile apps and printable Board games and worksheets. All ages
Free math worksheets for teachers, parents, students, and home schoolers.
Math Playground provides hundreds of math games, logic puzzles and educational resources.
Hundreds of FREE printables, games, puzzles and learning packets
Free home learning packs for ages 3-11. Low print topic and project ideas and more!
The Picture This app makes learning interactive and fun! This virtual card-matching memory game allows you to customize your own “flashcards” with educational content and exercise your memory recall skills all in one. Cover any subject from social studies to language arts, or math to science. The possibilities are endless with customizable games of Picture This. Great for parents and kids of all ages to train their brain and enjoy learning! Download for FREE on any device.
Lots of free (and some paid) printables and resources for homeschooling as well as simple living and wellness resources.
Award-winning fun learning programme for younger children
Child-friendly workouts — choose from Strength for Kids, Agility for Kids, Flexibility and Balance for Kids, Warm-Up for Kids, Cooldown for Kids, Stand Up and Move for Kids, OR create your own custom kid workout.
Assists in learning early reading skills. 3 levels
A fun and interactive education platform which allows downloads of fun maths and literacy games.
Jigsaw activities specifically for those who are just learning how to use a mouse or touch screen. Each jigsaw has only four pieces which are dragged and dropped with a large high contrast mouse pointer.
Online resources for children with Special Educational Needs who are at home as a result of the schools’ closure. Resources are available for both parents & teachers.
Down Syndrome Ireland: 01 4266500
Down Syndrome Ireland Early Intervention Officer Olive Buckeridge: 01 4266500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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This download is aimed at supporting parents/teachers with play that promotes learning.
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A full listing of Android and ISO apps that parents/teachers can download to help with education.
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Online Educational Handouts
A list of online educational sites that allow parents/teachers to download and print learning handouts for children.
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Listening, Vocab and Sequencing Resources
A useful resources for finding books, songs and videos that can help with communication.
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Primary School App List for Learning
A useful listing of Android and ISO apps for primary school children to work on reading, sentence structure, vocab and much more.
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Transitional Primary to Secondary School App List for Learning
A useful listing of Android and ISO apps for late primary to secondary school children to work on reasoning, sentence structure, tools and much more.