Teaching Students With Down Syndrome

Teaching Students With Down Syndrome

Teaching Students with Down Syndrome:

What is important to learn?

by Barbara Laird, BEd.

Each person with Down syndrome is unique and wonderful, and needs to be seen for their strengths, potential and individuality. “Down syndrome” does not define who a person is. It is simply a label needed in the service delivery world to get services. It is only the beginning in understanding a person and what they are capable of.

Individuals with Down syndrome have huge potential, and a great desire to learn and to be included. They arrive at school and community activities excited, eager and hopeful, but often spend hours and years separated from their peers, learning things that will have little meaning in their lives - learning things that with their memory retention difficulties, they will forget.

We must ask ourselves as teachers why we are teaching a skill? Is this skill useful in their immediate lives? Will it bring them into contact and participation with their peers? Are they cognitively ready to learn the skill? People with Down syndrome are living long lives. We want to ensure they will have lives of quality — lives that have meaning for them. We must empower them with skills important to enjoy a life of quality, the means to attain those skills and the love of life-long learning.

People with Down syndrome learn throughout their lifespan. Their academic skills (such as reading and math), computer skills, speech and language, as well as social and friendship skills evolve well into their teen and adult years. Educators must take this into consideration when they are contemplating what is most important to teach students with Down syndrome.

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