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

    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 Eimear Collins 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 info@downsyndrome.ie.

    Conferences

    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.

    Local Supports

    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:

    • Psychologists
    • Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs)
    • Physiotherapists
    • Occupational Therapists (OTs)
    • Paediatricians
    • Social Workers
    • Educationalists
  • 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.  

    Specialist Preschools

    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 Eimear Collins on 01 4266500 or email us at info@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.

  • Health

    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.

  • 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.

  • Useful resources

    Down Syndrome Ireland: 01 4266500
    Down Syndrome Ireland Early Intervention Officer Eimear Collins: 01 4266500 or info@downsyndrome.ie.
    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.