Carol Johnson, B.Ed.
Information Manager, CDSS
1 (800) 833-5608
  CDSS Information Series reprinted with the permission of CDSS and the author.

Students with Down syndrome are capable learners who will progress with appropriate supports and opportunities.

Factors that can influence a student's educational success

Attitude is the most critical factor related to the success of student with Down syndrome. If you think a student will succeed, he will. When students are treated like valued learners, they learn. Everyone in a school is part of the inclusive learning environment, educators need to be willing to work as part of a team and be open to trying various methods of teaching and learning. Inclusion, like life, is a process and can be "messy" at time; don't be afraid to ask for help.Often peers have great ideas.

Medical concerns

When a student joins your classroom, read the cumulative file and talk to the parents abut the student's medical history. Determine if there are any precautions or supports needed.If a student is taking medication, find out what it is and how it works.Some students may have chronic health needs, others will have occasional needs and most will be as healthy as any other student in your school. Health problems may appear differently in students with Down syndrome. For example, undiagnosed sleep apnea or celiac disease may cause irritable or resistant behavior or reduced attention span. Behaviours may have a medical/health basis rather than a cognitive or personality basis; health issues should be ruled out before attempting a behavioural approach.

Vision and hearing

Frequent upper respiratory infections

Heart conditions

Cognitive challenges

Students with Down syndrome will benefit from the multi-modal approach both when learning or responding to material in the classroom.The visual and/or tactile approach at the students level has been shown to be of particular value to students with Down syndrome.Visual learners are able to envision things before they can write or talk about them.

Teaching concepts

Teaching routines

Building relationships

Preventing Problems

Communication Difficulties

Communication consists of receptive knowledge, what is "inside" the student's head and expressive skills, how the student "tells".Many students will know far more than they can express.The goal of any communication program is to teach the student to communicate in whatever way works and to teach others how to engage in meaningful interactions.

Sensory/Motor Difficulties

Some students may have difficulty processing information from many sources at once, doing more than one thing at a time or responding quickly in some situations.They may shut down, become excited or act out when their senses are not working together properly. Some students look "stubborn" when they are experiencing sensory or motor planning difficulties.


We learn how to be part of our world and community by living, learning and laughing with others.Students need to spend time together to learn how to live together now and in the future. Academics are one part of why students attend school. Learning how to be human is the unwritten curriculum that permeates everyone's learning. Inclusive learning experiences teach people how to respect and learn from each other. By being included every day in a classroom a student with Down syndrome learns what it means to be a full member of a school community and visa versa.

Educational Websites of Interest
Comprehensive site with links to groups across Canada. Order books online. Email questions to our information line for research and response by qualified staff.
Comprehensive website dedicated to students with disabilities, and/or the gifted.
Site dedicated to inclusive practices.
Practical information for teachers, including case studies and links.
Large site that covers a wide range of information related to disability and inclusion.
Large site with educational links.
Extensive information on this US site.
An energetic and informative American site that focuses on inclusive practices.
Educational material that can be down loaded for free.
A daily news bulletin dedicated to disability and inclusion issues.
An American advocacy site with an "attitude", great ideas for parents dealing with resistant school systems.
A Canadian site related to advocating for your child within the school system.
Site dedicated to adapted lesson units to support Canadian curriculum content from elementary to high school.
The PREP Program is a school and resource center that serves individuals with Down syndrome.
Comprehensive Canadian research and resource site.
A large Australian site with excellent information and resources.
English and Spanish information on curriculum.
French language site.
A fun site with great responses to comments that arise when planning for a student.
An excellent site for information related to inclusion, advocacy, testing and rights issues.
Site dedicated to inclusion issues with material for educators and parents.

Research Articles of Interest

Building on similarity: a whole class use for simplified language materials
By: Jonathan Rix, Westminster Studies in Education, V. 27, #1, Apr. 2004
To purchase article go to:
This article examines how the teaching strategies for students with Down syndrome may be useful for other people within the educational system.The author states that there is considerable evidence that people with Down syndrome do better with the use of simplified learning materials (SLM), which focuses on shorter, simpler sentence structures.

The Education of individuals with Down Syndrome: A review of educational provision and outcomes in the United Kingdom, Professor Sue Buckley
To down load this report, go to:
A 1999 report of research conducted by the Down Syndrome Educational Trust in collaboration with the University of Portsmouth over a fifteen-year period found no educational benefits of special school education.On all measures, the students with Down syndrome educated in mainstream schools were either equal or significantly ahead of their special school peers with Down syndrome.

Reading, language and memory skills: A comparative longitudinal study of children with Down syndrome and their mainstream peers.
Angela Bryce, John MacDonald, Sue Buckley
Source: British Journal of Educational Psychology (2002), 72, p. 513-529
For copies of the study contact:

Accommodation Checklist

Student: ______________________________ D. O. B _________________
Date: _________________________
Completed by: ____________________________

Please indicate which of the following accommodations are needed for this student.

Review what you know about the student and plan the accommodations that should take place throughout the school day as well as in specific classes.

Pacing and motor activity
___ Give more time on assignments
___ Allow "warm up time" for new activities
___ Allow planned activity breaks
___ Don't use timed activities
___ Don't try to "hurry" the student
___ Ignore minor movement
___ Allow student to stand and work
___ Use physical adaptations
___ Other
Time management
___ Use a visual schedule
___ Use a calendar or journal
___ Clarify for understanding
___ Teach study skills
___ Have student repeat directions
___ Establish timelines for work
___ Plan for generalization
___ Connect skills to student's life
___ Give transition warning
___ Other
Planned seating
___ In classroom   ___ on bus
___ In lunchroom   ___ other
___ Ensure proper seating with feet on floor and elbows at desk top height
Reduce distractions:
___ Visual    ___ Auditory
___ Spatial   ___ Movement
___ Use a study carrel
___ Use clip board, wedges for note taking
___ Use a head set or ear phones
___ Other
Socialization Supports
___ Peer tutoring
___ Create socialization opportunities
___ Use cooperative learning
___ Vary groupings
___ Teach social skills
___ Create social supports
___ Teach about differences/disabilities
___ Allow opportunities to help other students
___ Other
___ Tape text or other materials
___ Pre-teach materials
___ Use highlighter tape or highlight materials
___ Use manipulatives
___ Use supplementary materials
___ Provide note-taking support
___ Use large print
___ Use pictures
___ Adapt tasks based upon student mastery
___ Clarify expectations for work
___ Use rubrics
___ Reduce language level
___ Use written back up to oral directions
___ Change difficulty level
___ Change assignment length
___ Reduce paper/pencil work
___ Give extra cues or prompts
___ Allow student to produce work in best output modality
___ No penalty for some errors
Allow use of equipment:
___ Calculator ___ Tape Recorder ___ Computer ___ Other
___ Use worksheets that require less graphics
___ Do not return work to be recopied by student
___ Use fill in questions rather than longer responses
___ Provide a note-taker or copies for student
___ Ignore sloppy work
___ Ignore poor penmanship
___ Provide a model for writing information (web)
___ Omit assignments that require copying
___ Other
___ Allow the use of calculator, number line
___ Group similar problems together
___ Provide less problems
___ Use graph paper to write problems
___ Provide "math facts" sheets
___ Scan for reading level of materials
___ Break story problems into small steps
___ Other
Motivation and Reinforcement
___ Verbal from whom: ______________
___ Non verbal (Visual)
___ Social / interactional
___ Create a valued task/job
___ Offer choices
___ Other
___ Build whole word vocabulary
___ Focus on oral reading
___ Use high interest low vocabulary books
___ Don't allow comprehension scores to limit access to reading
___ Read with a buddy
___ Have a second set of materials at home
___ Use a home-school communication program
___ Have parents preview or review material
___ Suggest a tutor
___ Link learning activities to family routines
___ Other
Level of support
___ Peer support
___ 1:1 with an adult
     ____ Some of the time
     ____ All of the time
___ Extra staff in room
___ In-school resource staff
___ Program specialists
___ Therapy
___ Psychology
___ Other