Down Syndrome in the Education System

Casey Sheather and Astrid Codemo

Down Syndrome (DS) is a chromosomal abnormality that doesn’t discriminate against ones race, gender and socio economic status. It occurs pandemic scale affecting 1 child in every 700 to 1000 live births.
Children and adults with DS are noticeably different from the average individual, their cognitive abilities have been hampered and rarely exceed beyond the age of a developing 6-8yr old. Also there is the trademark DS physical features; their small stature, of muscle tone and flat facial profile. These physical that set them apart form the other people in, result in a lowered self-esteem and this will need to be combated by incorporating a variety of strategies into the curriculum.


Common Practices used in Dealing With Children with DS

· Intellectual Challenges:

Intellectual abilities for students with DS range from sever to moderate, thus inhibiting normal cognitive functioning. It has also be identified in some texts that students suffering DS intellectual abilities do not expand beyond the age of a developing six to eight year old.However the education system endeavors to move children forward, expanding their intellectual capacity, incorporating certain strategies into the lesson can help achieve this. Such as;

-Appropriate language
- Simple instructions
- Activities that are to the point and not long and drawn out
- Relevant activities; things they will use in in every day life
- Visual cues
- Check lists
- Rewards when activities and work is completed.

DS students should be enrolled in a inclusion class what this means is, that is a class dedicated to solely to aiding and supporting the special needs of the students. Having the DS students in an inclusion class would enable the teacher to take the lesson as slowly as it need be and it would also provide an environment that is less likely to stigmatise the student thus posing as a major distraction.

Another advantage of an inclusion class is that they are enrolled in a main stream school allowing them to be a part of the standard school community and not feel isolated from other students. Being apart of a main stream school community could possibly provide less resentment to the condition as they would be included in activities other students are included in. The provided link to a video introduces us to the positive aspects of an inclusion class.

This image below is an example of a visual timetable that can be used in a classroom setting to help assist with learning, planning and routine. Thus making the student more comfortable because they are aware of what is going to happen next.

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· Speech and Language:

Most students who are afflicted with DS suffer from additional problems such as speech impediments and hearing problems. Speech therapy conducted by a speech pathologist will allow the students to learn how to articulate the sounds properly on a regular basis thus allowing a more fluent form of communication between people. It also will enhance the learning and cognitive abilities. The following link enables one to see the a form of speech therapy on a child with DS.

The following link shows us the importance of communication between the student with down syndrome and teacher. The video also shows how to effectively engage in communication either through objects, images or body language.


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- Physical Challenges: 

The lack of muscle tone is a side affect that comes with the condition of DS, restricts the ease of their movement, making the simplest of tasks difficult such as walking. Numerous tools have been devised to help assist them with every day life. These devices may include crutchers, walking frames a wheel chair it is much dependent on the severity of the DS and how independent the student is. Some students may need to wear a helmet because they are constantly falling over and cannot maintain their balance thus the helmet prevents a head injury. These are things a teacher and the school needs to be aware of as if the student had crutchers to help them with mobility they would put them in a room with easy access to the entrance and exits.
Services such as physiotherapists can provide assistance in helping to strengthen the muscles by giving them exercises to do, hence improving their physical strength. New technologies are constantly being developed to help with mobility, thus beneficial propositions of the possible options could be made to parents who aren't aware of them.

In the provided link it leads to a video, it introduces us to a new technology to help with the mobility of children with DS and additional disorders.

Self Esteem:ThThe physical differences and the hampered cognitive ability of a child afflicted with down syndrome may impact the individuals self esteem. Possible sings of lack of self esteem are; -E Reluctance to take part in group activities - I Isolated/withdrawn
  • As a teacher you may have to implement strategies to combat or prevent the notion of self esteem from becoming an issue. This may be done by introducing preventative strategies;
  • Such as placing them in an inclusion class where they are less likely to be distracted and feel left out in a mainstream environment. A student mentor is also another way in controlling a possible lowered self esteem, by providing constant encouragement. All so their constant presence and older age hopefully will enable the student to feel safe and secure in a whole range of different settings.

Behavioural Management:
Students with the DS condition should not be treated any different in regards to behavioural discipline within a classroom setting. Inconsistent class treatment between the students could be viewed as favouritism of a particular student quite possibly the one with down syndrome. However on the alternate side the student with DS could resent the extra attention and help and would quite probably like to be treated like every other student in the class.

However DS students need a special kind of attention, this kind of attention can be found in specialised schools or in an inclusion class in a main stream school. This would then allow the teacher to give the required amount of attention to the student with out any misconceptions of it being favouritism.

Impacts on Family and Peers.

Having a member of a family with the Down syndrome disorder can create numerous strains on the family network. Ultimately influencing how the family unit interacts with one and other and the community that they are apart of. The Down Syndrome disorder can produce impacts that can produce strains that can be perceived as negative and positive. These strains/impacts may include the following;

- Time: Having a child/sibling/ student with DS would alter the amount of time you would need on certain points. For example in the morning when getting ready for school you would have to wake up that little bit earlier so one wouldn't be late. It would dictate a families life as you would have allocate more time from getting from point A to B

-Financial: With Down syndrome also comes numerous other conditions such eye sight, hearing, lack of muscle tone and congenital heart defects. To correct these health issues costs money there for placing a strain on the family. Financially some schools may not be able to provide the correct support a DS student needs this would be a major issue in a rural area as it would cost money to travel to a school that can provide for them. The severity of the DS manipulates financial situation.

Community: Acceptance within the community and the ability to find friends with in the schooling environment.

However stated before the impacts that DS imposes on a family and community can either be perceived as negative or positive. Having someone with DS can be a wonderful learning experience for the family and those around them because it allows you to see the world from a different angle. The supposed negative impacts can be counteracted by the correct support found with in the community i.e.; counsellor, if some one in family needs some one to talk to. Physical aids like a visual timetable and instructions throughout the house can create the organisation and gives the child with the down syndrome a bit of independence.


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-Interactive Visual Timetable. (2007). Retrieved September 18, 2010, from Help Kidz Learn:

- Issues for Families with Children with Down Syndrome. (2009) Retrieved September 18, 2010, from Down Syndrome Online:

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- Services Provided. (2010). Retrieved September 15, 2010, from Leincestershire Down Syndrome Group:

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- What is Down Syndrome?. (2010). Retrieved September 18, 2010, from ACT Down Syndrome Association: