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Down's Syndrome


Down's-syndrome children with SEN

The abilities of children with Down’s syndrome vary enormously, but most tend to be within the mild to moderate learning disability range.

Parents of children with Down's syndrome are often concerned that a vulnerable child will be bullied or picked on.

Experience suggests that the reverse is often the case; children who have been perceived to be prone to this kind of behaviour have responded by offering support and protection to the less able child, bringing out positive behaviour and increasing self-esteem and self-worth in many who struggled to find any.



Difficulties children with Down's syndrome experience

With thanks to the Down's Syndrome Association

Children with Down's syndrome have a lot to offer, they are friendly, cheerful, kind and trusting but they will experience a range of difficulties and problems too.

Potential difficulties and disabilities include:

  • Poor muscle tone. 
  • Developmental delay – they are often slow to turn over, sit, stand and respond.
  • Speech and language abilities may take longer than expected and may not occur as fully as parents would like. Speech is often indistinct, owing to the atypical mouth formation.
  • May have associated difficulties: congenital heart disease, and vision disorders, are more prevalent among those with Down’s syndrome. Children are prone to middle-ear problems and conductive hearing loss. 


However, children with Down’s syndrome do develop communication skills and can learn effectively. 

The developmental gap between children with Down’s syndrome and typically developing children widens with age.

This is one of the reasons why some children with Down’s syndrome cope well in mainstream primary schools but find the demands of secondary school problematic.


Choosing a school for a child with Down's syndrome


Choosing a school for a child with Down's syndromeChoosing a school for a child with Down’s syndrome can appear challenging, but ultimately is fairly simple. A good school that takes a range of children from its local area, a school that values diversity and understands children is equally a good school for a child with Down’s syndrome.

Parents have the right to ask for a special school if they particularly want one or if their child has significant additional or complex needs.

At ‘rising 5’ over 80 per cent of Down’s children go to a local mainstream school with additional support.

Parents will generally choose the school that is local to them, which their other children go to, or the one that the child’s preschool peers are likely to be attending. Both state and private schools can easily include a child with Down’s syndrome, and many will network with other schools in their area to share information and strategies.


What special educational needs will a child with Down's syndrome have? 

The abilities of children with Down’s syndrome vary enormously, but most tend to be within the mild to moderate learning disability range. 

What helps?

  • Time - a child with Down's syndrome will take longer than most to process information.
  • Practice - they require more practice when learning skills. Some learning may never be completely mastered.
  • Teaching methods  - these should include visual as well as linguistic clues to help learning.


Including children with Down's syndrome in mainstream schools

In many cases yours may be the first child with Down’s syndrome that the school will have included, and some adjustments will need to be made to understand and accommodate a child who may have more significant learning difficulties than they have previously encountered.

Schools that are welcoming and committed to inclusion will accept these challenges for what they are, and will look at the needs of your child as a child first.

All good schools celebrate the individual successes of those that are slow learners as well as the high achievers.


A good school will:

  • listen to parents’ concerns;
  • seek outside information from expert sources on the learning and other needs of children with Down’s syndrome;
  • look at your child’s inclusion as a matter of right;
  • will be committed to them for the whole time they are in the school and not as some part-time social experiment;
  • seek to offer access to a broad and balanced curriculum;
  • be creative at finding ways to include your child in the whole range of school life.


Advantages of mainstream inclusion

Down's syndrome children in mainstream schoolsThe benefits to the school are profound.

Many teachers report that looking at the needs of this group of children has enhanced the learning experience of the whole school...

and helped to find a range of strategies for dealing with other special needs, and the impact of inclusion has had many other advantages. Many who are not even directly in contact with the child will feel better informed and less intimidated. PHSE and disability awareness become part of everyday practice rather than a separate simply academic activity, and schools report improvement of understanding, achievement and provision across the ability range.

With sensible differentiation, assessment and tools such as the P scales for measuring and celebrating individual achievement, children with Down’s syndrome are successfully included throughout their infant and primary education.

By the time children transfer to secondary school only 27 per cent currently continue in mainstream.


Inclusion and secondary school education

Until secondary schools have caught up with their primary colleagues in supporting and celebrating inclusive practice, many children will continue to need good special school placements through to transition into further education. However, as schools learn to make the necessary adjustments.This figure increases every year and with planning and forethought more children with Down's syndrome children are opting to stay in the mainstream. 


About Down's syndrome


What is Down's syndrome? 

Down’s syndrome is a chromosomal disorder caused by an error in cell division that results in the presence of an additional chromosome in pair 21 or ‘trisomy 21’. It isn't known what causes this extra chromosome, which can come from either the mother or the father, but there is a definite link with advanced maternal age.


How many children are affected? 

It is estimated that there are around 60,000 people with Down’s syndrome living in the UK, and about 600 babies with the condition born in the UK each year. There are slightly more boys born with Down’s syndrome than girls, but this difference is small.


Diagnosis of Down's syndrome

A new-born baby with Down’s syndrome often has physical features recognisable in the delivery room. These may include a flat facial profile, an upward slant to the eyes, a short neck, abnormally shaped ears, white spots on the iris of the eye (called Brushfield spots), and a single, deep transverse crease on the palm of the hand. However, a child with Down’s syndrome may not possess all of these features, some of which may be found in people who don’t have Down’s. Diagnosis is confirmed via a blood test called a chromosomal karyotype.

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