Down Syndrome – Three Tips for Educating Your Down Syndrome Child

One of the most daunting questions about having a child with Down syndrome is how to best educate them. A child with Down syndrome will have more specific educational needs than a typical child.

Mental retardation is the general rule for kids with Down syndrome, so you will be entering a whole new world of special education. But don’t despair! There are many systems set up to make sure that your Down syndrome child receives the best education possible, tailored to his or her needs.

Laws Guarantee Your Down Syndrome Child’s Education

The first thing you should know about Down syndrome education is that every child in the U.S. is entitled to what is called a free and appropriate education. That means that your child will be educated in the public school system in a way that fits his or needs, and this is guaranteed by law.

When your child enters school, testing will be done to see what kind of services your child needs. An IEP, or Individualized Education Plan, will be written to address your child’s unique needs. If the school is not able to provide for your child’s needs, there is a process by which you may be able to get the school to pay for a special school that can.

There are many different therapies and accommodations that the school can provide for your Down syndrome child. The specifics, in terms of which services are appropriate for your child, will be decided at your first IEP meeting.

An IEP does the following:

  • Identifies your child’s disability, and lays out how it affects their ability to be educated.
  • Lists goals that the child should be able to accomplish during the school year – both academic and functional, such as life skills goals.
  • Provides a mechanism for how these goals will be measured and assessed.
  • Specifies the specific aids and services that will be needed to meet these goals – for instance, tape recorders, sensory aids, note takers, aides, a modified curriculum and so on.

A helpful website to learn more about IEP meetings is IEP meetings are usually conducted once a year so adjustments can be made to your child’s services as he or she changes, if needed.

Three Things to Look for in Your Child’s School

Most kids with Down syndrome are educated in public schools and receive special services. If you have a choice between public schools, or want to choose a private school instead, here are some things to think about.

1. Will your child be educated in an inclusive environment or a self-contained classroom?

A lot of schools these days educate Down syndrome kids in the same classes as other kids, pulling them out for specialty services like speech and occupational therapy. They have an aide to help them navigate the mainstream environment. This helps them learn better how to interact with their typical peers, and their peers how to better interact with people who have disabilities. Some still use self-contained classrooms, where people with disabilities are grouped together. Some use a mixture of both.

Look into what transition support services the school offers for making the move from high school to beyond high school. This will become important later on.

2. Supports Your Child May Need in School

There are several different areas that your Down syndrome child may need support in once he or she enters school, and you will want to be aware of all of these.

  • Academic support is an obvious one, but you will also want to make sure your child has support out on the playground.
  • He will need help interacting and feeling integrated with his classmates, and you will want someone there to make sure that no bullying is going on.
  • Some kids with Down syndrome will still need help in the bathroom, using the toilet, at least at the very beginning of their school years.

Other areas of support can be added once you observe how your child is doing in school.

3. Another Option – Private Schools for Down Syndrome Children

If you feel your child cannot cope or thrive in a regular educational setting, there are private special education schools just for kids with Down syndrome. There are not a whole lot of them, and it is not the most common way to do things, but they do exist. (There are a lot of special education schools that accept kids with all sorts of disabilities, but fewer dedicated to only Down syndrome.) One example of a school dedicated to the education of Down syndrome kids is Pathfinder Village in Edmeston, New York.

Education for Down syndrome kids can seem confusing and overwhelming at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. There are many resources available to guide you: books, websites, teachers, and other parents who have been there. This is where a support group with other Down syndrome parents will come in handy to share experiences with what works. With a little legwork, you will be well on your way to ensuring a wonderful educational experience for your Down syndrome child.