International studies have shown that 70%-80% of children with Down syndrome could start their school career in a mainstream, inclusive setting, if early intervention techniques were used from birth and throughout pre-school education.
Studies show that truly inclusive education improves schools for everyone. Staff skills increase and teaching methods develop, with more use of peer tutoring and small group work.
Because children with Down syndrome are strong visual learners, many of the learning techniques introduced in the classroom are equally beneficial for children in a mainstream school setting. More educational toys are made available, and of course the additional facilitators are also useful hands inside and out of the classroom, generating a higher teacher to child ratio.
By including children with Down syndrome in the school, all learners, parents and teachers enhance their capacity to interact and relate to children with special needs.
Inclusive education may be described as follows: children with Down syndrome can go to school and integrate with mainstream children and be educated in a normal classroom setting. A separate learning area is made available where they can receive additional specialist assistance relating to their specific needs.
Each student should have an IEP – an Individual Education Plan – that identifies goals for social, behavioral, school readiness, communication and motor skill development. This plan helps all staff and parents to target specific areas needing special attention.
Additional classroom assistance by facilitators called Learning Support Assistants (LSAs) is key for maximum learning, progress and inclusion. Based on international norms, we recommend a ratio of 1 LSA per 2-3 children with Down syndrome.
Research has repeatedly indicated that stimulation during early developmental stages improves the child’s chances of developing to his or her fullest potential. Continuing education, positive public attitudes, and a stimulating home environment have also been found to promote the child’s overall development.