Supporting Children with Down Syndrome to Learn Better

Down Syndrome, named after Dr. John Langdon Down, is a genetic condition caused due to an extra chromosome present in human cells. The additional chromosome alters the course of cognitive, language, and physical development in individuals. 

Many children with Down syndrome may share a few physical characteristics but that doesn’t mean that they are all alike. They have different personalities, learning styles, attitudes, and cognitive abilities. They are also capable of engaging in creative and imaginative play and feeling the full range of emotions. Many children also grow up to lead independent lives with the right kind of support and accommodations.

Let’s take a look at few characteristics of individuals with Down Syndrome and corresponding strategies to support their learning:

They are Visual Learners

  • Provide pictures or symbols with spoken or written language
  • Use infographics and pictorial representations to explain concepts. 
  • Provide kinesthetic reinforcement
  • Color code and highlight important information to help with comprehension
  • Use visual cues and objects while teaching

They may Have Processing Delay 

  • Make sure that there’s not too much text/information in each page
  • Provide information in a concise and clear manner
  • Give additional time to learn 
  • Provide more practice before the task
  • Allow learners to pick the learning activities they like
  • Promote independence by encouraging them to complete a task on their own with visual supports
  • Set appropriate academic expectations and achievable goals 
  • Breakdown activities into simpler tasks
Down Syndrome Learning

They may Have Trouble Attending to a Task

  • Train their attention by minimizing distractions. Do not have too many elements in their worksheets.
  • Use objects, gestures, or lighting that captures their attention
  • Avoid having them seated near a door, window, door, or a crowded area
  • Motivate by praising and offering rewards

They may Have Poor Memory

  • Present information as sequence ideas.
  • Include engaging activities for learning .
  • Provide multi sensory learning opportunities
  • Provide opportunities to practice in different contexts
  • Encourage them to observe patterns
  • Make sure that you go over the concepts several times so that they can remember better. 

They May Need More Motivation

  • Make sure to explain the tasks in clear instructions that the learner can understand
  • Provide materials that make sense to the child
  • Give them a say in designing the structure of the learning activities
  • Provide loads of encouragement and positive reinforcement
  • Encourage social interactions with peers
  • Plan activities with intrinsic motivation so that the learner does not become dependent on prompts
References:

https://dsagsl.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Paraprofessional-Powerpoint-20141.pdf

https://www.inclusive.tki.org.nz/guides/down-syndrome-and-learning/

https://scotens.org/teaching-pupils-with-down%E2%80%99s-syndrome/

https://www.globaldownsyndrome.org/about-down-syndrome/misconceptions-vs-reality/

https://www.kcdsg.org/files/content/Supporting%20the%20Student%20with%20Down%20Syndrome%20in%20Your%20Classroom-Teacher%20Manual.pdf

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