Educating Children with Down SyndromeWhen a child with Down syndrome reaches school age (after the 3rd birthday), the public school system becomes responsible for educating the child and for addressing the child’s unique needs related to his or her disability. Parents and school personnel will work together to develop what is known as an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for the child. The IEP is similar to an IFSP in that it describes the child’s unique needs and the services that will be provided to meet those needs. The IEP will include annual goals for learning and much more. NICHCY offers a great deal of information about the process for developing an IEP—especially our parent’s guide called Developing Your Child’s IEP—all of which can help parents learn how to participate effectively in their child’s education.
Much information is also available for teachers to learn more about effective teaching practices for children with Down syndrome. It’s important for teachers to take into consideration the degree of intellectual disability involved, the child’s talents and interests, and the supports and services he or she needs, as specified in the IEP. Generally speaking, teachers will find it more effective to emphasize concrete concepts with a student who has Down syndrome, instead of abstract ideas. Teaching skills in a step-by-step fashion with frequent reinforcement and consistent feedback has proven successful.
Today, the majority of children with Down syndrome are educated in the regular classroom, alongside their peers without disabilities. This is in keeping with the inclusion movement of the last decade and the requirements of IDEA, which states that each school system must ensure that: