Back to School

Sep 8, 2022

Here Lucy and Julie, specialist teachers from Inclusively Down, share some practical tips for starting the new term.
The start of the new academic year can be both exciting and nerve wracking for teachers, parents and students alike. We thought it would be good to share with you some helpful quick tips when meeting the learning needs of children and young people with Down syndrome.

Things teachers might consider when setting up their classrooms:

Hearing – Seating and noise levels – ensure the student is seated near the front of the classroom to ensure maximum opportunity to see and hear what is being said.

Vision – The size and layout of resources and materials which will be used. Think ‘Big and Bold’. High contrast is always best and this should be remembered when writing on boards or in books.

Visual Memory – Prepare any visual resources you will need early on especially when related to supporting routines and structure e.g. visual timetable, now & next board, lining up/dressing/toileting routines etc.
Use visual prompts to ensure the student learns any class rules.

Auditory Memory – Plan opportunities for over learning, repetition and consolidation of skills. Information will need to be broken down and supported with visual resources/prompts.

Low Muscle Tone (Hypotonia) – Ensure the furniture is suitable for the height of your student. Feet must be positioned flat on the floor so you might need to find a step or alternative tables/chairs.
Having a writing slope can support fine motor skills and positioning.
Consider alternatives to written recording the student might be able to use. Ensure any equipment the student may need is accessible.

Language Skills – Expressive: How you will assess what the student has learned?
Receptive: Negatives can be difficult so ensure written instructions, classroom rules etc. are explicit.

Concentration & Attention – When planning groups, your student should be fully included with access to good role models for behaviour, language and learning. They may need shorter tasks and a wider variety of activities/tasks needing to be planned. Think about using a ‘busy box’ which will have additional educational activities available for them to use independently.

Things parents might consider when preparing their children for the start of the new academic year;

Health/Medical – Prepare a care information sheet which can be given to new staff that will be working with your child e.g. When glasses need to be worn, any hearing issues that may affect listening or when staff are working with your child, toilet routines, any feeding issues and possible list of likes and dislikes if appropriate.

Visual Memory – As in school, a visual timetable and social stories may be useful especially if your child finds change more challenging. For secondary age students having a copy of their timetable up on a wall may help when supporting greater independence skills.

Structure & Routines – Establishing routines at home especially with homework, self-care and bedtimes. Use of a diary or calendar to support the preparation of transitioning into a new school or class. This will help with the concept of time in a visual way.

Language Skills – Setting up a home school communication book or system. This will ensure information is passed both ways and can act as a starting point to encourage your child to talk about the things they have been doing in school.

Low Muscle Tone (Hypotonia) – Practicing dressing skills particularly with school uniform and P.E kits. If available consider the use of IT so your child becomes familiar with key boards, iPad apps etc.

Social & Independence Skills – Encourage and practice turn taking and joint attention skills. Encourage and plan for increasing your child’s independence skills. Ensure school staff know what your child can do and what they may need help with so expectations are consistent. Have a shared plan which is updated on a regular basis.

This is by no means a definitive list! These hints and tips plus many more are explored and explained further in our training ‘Meeting the Learning Needs of Children and Young People with Down Syndrome’ which is available online.

This is by no means a definitive list! These hints and tips plus many more are explored and explained further in our training ‘Meeting the Learning Needs of Children and Young People with Down Syndrome’ which is available online.

This course is aimed at all staff/professionals working with a pupil with Down syndrome, who have not previously had any training. Equally it will be of interest and value to parents who wish to broaden their understanding of the impact of the learning profile on their child’s education. This session will enable participants to teach and support pupils with Down syndrome more effectively. It covers the key elements of the specific learning profile, how to best support progress, dispels myths and gives strategies and resource ideas, based on research and good practice, to ensure participants can meet individual learning needs. We also consider the role of the support assistant and what effective inclusion looks like.

Also available online is our popular training course ‘Managing Behaviour and Promoting Positive Interaction’.
The aim of this course is that you will…
• understand reasons why behaviours may be exhibited and can act as a barrier to positive interaction with others
• identify the possible cause/s of behaviours that may be exhibited
• suggest strategies to use that will help overcome difficulties which lead to behaviours being exhibited

We emphasise that, despite many misconceptions, there is no behaviour which is specific to children and young people with Down syndrome and look at using positive proactive strategies to achieve potential. We look closely at what behaviour is and how it is through managing and changing our own responses that we can support positive behaviour, develop social interaction skills, and encourage our children to give their best.

For more information and details on how to access this and other training for your school or setting and for all other enquiries regarding our support please contact us at [email protected] or via our website using the contact us tab

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