You are on page 1of 51

Homeschooling Children with Down Syndrome

By Amy Dunaway

©2010 – All Rights Reserved

My Blog:

Table of Contents
1 Introduction 4

2 Why Homeschooling 5

3 Homeschooling and Down Syndrome 6

4 FAQs – Homeschooling Children with Down Syndrome

and other Special Needs 8

5 Learning and Down Syndrome 10

6 Individualized Education Plans 13

7 Learning the Basics – Reading Writing and Arithmetic 16

8 Reading and Down Syndrome – The Early Years 18

9 Reading and Down Syndrome – The Primary Years 20

10 Motivation and Errorless Learning 21

11 Routines – The Groove 24

12 Visual and Verbal Memory

And Down Syndrome 26

13 Down Syndrome and Challenging Behavior 29

14 Homeschooling and Down Syndrome – “The Reluctant Learner,”

The Homeschooling Parent 31

15 Homeschooling and Down Syndrome – “The Reluctant Learner,”

The Child 33

16 Homeschool Burnout 35

17 The Homeschooling Community -

Supporting Families with Children with Special Needs 38

Appendix 41

A. Prayer for Homeschooler with Children with Special Needs 42

B. Reading Recommendations 43

C. Math Curricula Suggestions 45

D. Curriculum Resources 46

E. Software Recommendations 47

F. Resources for Speech, Language and Communication 49

G. Resources - Homeschooling and Down Syndrome 50

Chapter One

Our family began its homeschooling journey in In my research about education and Down
1992 with the birth of our daughter with Down syndrome I discovered a common theme in several
syndrome. Reagan is now almost 16 years old and books and research articles – targeted etiology-
thriving in the homeschooling environment. She is based interventions.
a well-adjusted, delightful young lady.
Children with Down syndrome face etiology-
I have faced many challenges through the years on specific (specific to Down syndrome) strengths and
our homeschooling journey but the greatest was weaknesses – different from other causes of
unlocking the key to learning for Reagan. We intellectual impairment. These strengths and
decided early in her life that the public school weaknesses have become known as the specific (or
system in our area could not meet her learning typical) learning profile of children with Down
needs and began our homeschooling journey. syndrome. Targeted etiology-based interventions
Children with Down syndrome commonly have look to those strengths and weaknesses to develop a
auditory processing challenges with impaired short- plan for intervention based on what is known about
term memory, difficulty with attention, delayed how children with Down syndrome learn.
language acquisition and articulation issues,
impaired cognition, and gross/fine motor delays - Children with Down syndrome learn differently
significant issues. than typically developing children. To think that
children with Down syndrome are just “slow
I, like most other parents who have children with learners” is to do them a great disservice. The
special needs, spent a great deal of time in research learning profile of children with Down syndrome
about my child's condition. The more I learned, the clearly defines their learning differences.
greater confidence I felt that I could parent this
child and meet her learning needs by As time goes by, more and more research points to
homeschooling her. the success that comes with targeted etiology-based
interventions – yet mainstream education has not
Homeschooling is a natural extension of what followed suit. For the most part, they have failed to
parents do to care for and nurture their child's embrace our children‟s learning differences and
growth and development - homeschooling begins at adapt classroom learning to their needs.
birth. A child with Down syndrome needs syndrome
specific instruction in skill acquisition and The impact of this knowledge I have gathered in my
development in areas that are often taken for research on our homeschool has been tremendous.
granted by parents of typically developing children Learning has occurred at a more rapid rate. Any
due to the challenges they face. frustration that comes with the work that must be
done to learn has dramatically decreased. Attention
Down syndrome is the most well researched skills grew. Difficult behaviors and avoidance type
syndrome which causes intellectual impairment. As behaviors are mostly gone as they pertain to
a result, much is known about the way children with schooling!
Down syndrome learn but it takes an information
junkie and a great deal of persistence to find it. I
confess to being an information addict which has
blessed our lives in the knowledge I have gained.

Chapter Two

Why Homeschooling

When my husband and I started our family, we had education that targets their specific learning needs
many discussions about homeschooling. Initially, it and to provide an education that will not sacrifice
piqued my interest as a rather novel idea - totally academic learning for life skills and "socialization."
foreign to me. With time, research, much prayer and Many families leave the public school system after
the birth of a child with significant special needs, I unsatisfactory academic progress for which they
was completely convinced that homeschooling was saw no other option than to educate their child at
the only path for our family. Today, I am passionate home. I even know of a few cases of abuse as a
about homeschooling my children and the result of public school placement. I moderate three
homeschooling movement. I love to share the yahoo groups which target families homeschooling
benefits of homeschooling with anyone who shows children with Down syndrome and have listened to
an interest in our lifestyle. many, many stories over the years. The system
(early intervention and/or the public school system)
I think the best way to show the benefits of has difficulty meeting the needs of our children.
homeschooling to others is to have my children out The biggest lesson I learned when we participated
in the community. Most people are quite impressed in the system was that it primarily seeks to serve
with their behavior and their ability to interact with itself – sad, but true in our experience and that of
people of all ages. many others.

In my opinion, the greatest benefit of There are good stories too - wonderful placements
homeschooling to our family is that God does not and caring professionals. We did not get that
have to be compartmentalized in the lives of my experience. We met professionals with low
children. We can learn about and uphold the expectations, who cared little for the individual they
traditions of our faith at home. Holy Scripture is a were providing services for and could not see
part of our everyday life. We pray together. We beyond her diagnosis of Down syndrome.
grow together in Christ as we make decisions and
implement them. Our Triune God is celebrated in Faith Concerns
our house and looked to when we face Why don‟t more Christians don't homeschool their
difficulties...and praised for the blessings we children? This article gives a scary picture of what
receive. children face in the public schools today:

The National Home Education Research Institute "80% of Christian families send their children to
says the key reasons for home education are the public schools where their faith is attacked. Based
transmission of beliefs and values to children, close on the study's findings, it appears that their children
family relationships, controlled and positive peer are the ones being "evangelized" by the religion of
social interaction, quality academics, alternative secular humanism. More than half of their Christian
approaches to learning and safety. I think all these teens believe Jesus sinned and only 9% hold to
factors played into our decision to homeschool our moral absolutes, while 83% of children from
children. committed Christian families attending public
schools adopt a Marxist-Socialist worldview,
Why Homeschool Children with Special Needs? reports the group."
Families are educating their children with special
needs in their own homes to provide them with an
Our hope is that by keeping my children home for
their education, that we are raising strong disciples
for Christ - placing the Lord first in their lives,
strong in their knowledge of Holy Scripture and
joyfully fulfilling the Great Commission.

Chapter Three

Homeschooling and Down Syndrome

Once we made the decision to educate our children children with Down syndrome - different from
at home, I read everything I could get my hands on typically developing children and children with
about homeschooling. other causes of developmental delays.

As we moved through our homeschooling journey, Today, there is a great deal of support for families
much of what I learned about homeschooling and homeschooling children with Down syndrome
Down syndrome I learned the hard way by working primarily found on the internet. For more
with my daughter. Initially, I didn't have Internet information:
access and therefore no access to information on
how children with Down syndrome learn or even Homeschooling and Down Syndrome
others homeschooling families with children with A family oriented list.
Down syndrome. Professionals were not really
helpful because they had little specific knowledge Home Education and Down Syndrome
about Down syndrome. A list for committed homeschooling families that
focuses on the special learning needs of children
We engaged a consultant with a Masters in Special with Down syndrome - resources, curriculum,
Education as an educational consultant. He gave us strategies for teaching etc.
suggestions for curriculum and general information
about learning in children with cognitive challenges Homeschooling Kids with Down Syndrome
- and information about academic and A list comprised of only homeschoolers with
developmental skills progression in typically children with Down syndrome. It is a closed list but
developing children. He also gave me the if you are interested just send me an e-mail.
confidence to homeschool our daughter with special
needs but did not have the answers on how to National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated
overcome the challenges we faced. It wasn't really Network (NATHHAN), a Christian support network
the fault of the professionals we worked with - it for those homeschooling children with special
takes a long time for research to trickle down to needs, also offers e-mail support for those of us
those working in the field. In fact, with Reagan, I homeschooling children with Down syndrome.
had to unlearn much of what I knew about Send me an e-mail and I'll give you the contact
homeschooling and learn with her, about her & her information.
unique needs. I now have a room (seriously) filled
with research into how children with Down
syndrome learn along with my regular
homeschooling stuff!

The fact is children with Down syndrome learn

differently. Simply put, they are wired differently.
Methods used for typically developing children may
eventually work I suppose, but to lessen frustration
all around and increase learning potential (and keep
motivation high) they need their specific learning
profile targeted for success. The learning profile is a
list of strengths and weaknesses common to

The Benefits of Homeschooling the Child with Down Syndrome and other Special Needs

 The child with special needs can receive the  The parent can pick and choose social
one-on-one teaching that will enable them to opportunities. Homeschooled children are
grow academically. This cannot be matched not limited to socializing with only their
in the public school setting. peers. They tend to socialize with children
and adults of all ages for a wide variety of
 The program can specifically target the experiences. Homeschooled children are
child‟s relative strengths and tailor the less affected by peer pressure.
child‟s education in such a way that
increases learning potential.  Character development and behavior issues
Homeschooling also allows us to teach can be dealt with by providing an
subjects not commonly offered in the public environment where limits and consequences
school system. are consistently enforced. Homeschooling
can offer atmosphere where the choices and
 The program designed for them by the consequences are articulated as necessary to
person who knows their needs intimately. make the best choice available and wrong
Your home program will best suit their choices can be discussed and dealt with
individual needs. You can create a balanced consistently.
program that does not sacrifice academic
skills for life skills.  The spiritual needs of children with special
needs can be met best in our own homes
 The child can learn at his/her own pace to where they will be exposed to the love and
allow their needs to be met properly. word of God. In a world where many of our
Concepts can be taught with the repetition children seen as "disposable" and somehow
necessary for mastery using a wide variety less worthy, they need to know that God has
of materials ensuring success appropriate to a plan for them and loves them
the child's needs and developmental age. unconditionally. God does not make
mistakes! "For you created my inmost
 The child will have the opportunity for being; you knit me together in my mother's
successful learning experiences that will womb. Praise you because I am fearfully
motivate them to develop persistence in and wonderfully made; your works are
learning difficult concepts. wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm
139:13-14, NIV.
 The child learns academic and functional
life skills in the best of all venues-real life.
Fractions are “important” when it comes  The health benefits are tremendous.
time to share a pizza! Children exposed to Early Intervention in
group settings and the public school system
are constantly exposed to every
 The child with special needs can learn where
viral/bacterial illness present in the
they are safe from peer ridicule. Many
community. Homeschooled children with
children with special needs are the object of
special needs can avoid many of these
peer ridicule because of processing
common illnesses until they are older and
difficulties, difficulty expressing
better able to tolerate them.
themselves, physical impairments or
cognitive challenges. They can make
mistakes where it is safe to do so – their own

Chapter Four

FAQs Homeschooling Children with Down Syndrome and other Special Needs
Over the years, I've been asked many questions significant special needs. There is a great deal out
about homeschooling children with special needs. I there to choose from.
thought I would post the most frequently asked
questions just in case you needed to know! The longer answer: Many known syndromes and
disorders are associated with known behavioral
Is it legal to homeschool children with Down traits called a phenotype. These traits give us a
syndrome and other special needs? profile of strengths and weaknesses that we can
target to create better learning environments. For
Homeschooling is legal across the United States – example, children with autism are known to have
even for children with special needs. The level of communication and social deficits – part of their
accountability varies state to state so it is good to phenotype. Therefore, they need specific teaching
know the law and level of accountability of the state in social skills presented primarily visually to
in which you live. impact learning.

Why do parents decide to homeschool their child Homeschooling children with special needs takes
with special needs? creativity in adapting what is available to the child's
relative strengths and weaknesses.
Many families I know are already firmly ensconced
in the homeschooling lifestyle when their child with How about special curricula for children with
special needs is born. Some are medically fragile. Down syndrome?
Others research homeschooling knowing their child
will face obstacles to learning that may be better Down syndrome is the most researched of all causes
targeted at home. Some come to homeschooling of intellectual disability. Much is known about the
because of difficulties they have experienced in the strengths and weaknesses of children with Down
public school system syndrome. Therefore, there are targeted
interventions known to help them learn.
Don’t you need special training to educate a Researchers are working to provide tools and
child with special needs? curriculum to aid learning – much of it targeting
early learners.
Many parents I know that have turned to
homeschooling with a degree in special education See:
say that their degree is often a hindrance! In getting Bob Jones University Press Adapted Curriculum
their degree, they are often given the big picture but (send me an e-mail for more information)
it doesn‟t help them homeschool their child with See and Learn
special needs. The parent knows their child best Numicon
and know their needs. Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County
Learning Program
Is there a special curriculum for homeschooling
children with special needs? Where do I go for information and support?

The short answer is - not really. Curriculum choices I would suggest you seek out others homeschooling
should be based on the unique needs of each child. I children with the same diagnosis as your child. It is
would encourage you to look outside the great to have face to face support so check out your
homeschooling world for those children with local homeschooling association. The internet is
also a great place to find others for support. Yahoo
Groups has a support for almost anything you can See:
think of! Just type homeschooling and ____ (fill in NACD: National Association for Child
the blank with your child‟s diagnosis) into the Development
search engine and you will most like find a group to Hope and a Future Linda Kane
provide information and support. ICAN: International Christian Association of
How do I know if my child is learning?
Note: I am not necessarily recommending the
You know your child best and you will become neurodevelopmental approach (lack of peer-
very familiar with what they know and what they reviewed research) but many parents of children
are learning as you see them implement the with Down syndrome and other special needs find
knowledge they have learned. Many families use a their services beneficial - especially in the areas of
developmental and/or academic skills inventory to reading and memory. Having not used this
help them set goals and display learning progress. approach, I really have no opinion - just awareness
of the support families get using their services.
VORT (my favorite) Do I need legal protection?
The Brigance
Legal protection is a sensitive and somewhat
Where do I start? controversial subject. Homeschoolers can become a
target of well-meaning public school authorities and
Right where you child is functioning – then build up social workers. Homeschoolers with children with
the skills he/she has. Many families use one of the special needs can be particularly vulnerable. In my
above developmental skills inventories to gauge opinion the persecution of homeschoolers is pretty
where their child is functioning and choose rare. Research the need carefully - no one wants to
curriculum that fits their learning style. Learning be caught unaware.
styles are important in children with special needs
in targeting their individual learning needs. Home School Legal Defense Association
Pacific Justice Institute
What about professionals? National Home Education Legal Defense
The Rutherford Institute
I believe professionals can be an invaluable
resource in supporting homeschooling families – if What about socialization?
they are well educated in the child‟s diagnosis,
targeted interventions….and have the child‟s best I think what most concerns most people considering
interests at heart. We have found it most beneficial homeschooling their child with special needs is not
to search the private sector for professional help. socialization (the process by which the norms and
Those within the system tend to be bogged down by standards of our society are passed from one
the system and not as interested in the individual generation to another) but socializing – the
with special needs and their family. gathering for communal activities where friendships
are formed. I have found the homeschooling
Have you heard of the neurodevelopmental community the most inclusive of communities and
approach? the opportunities for socializing are endless and not
a problem.
Many homeschoolers use neurodevelopmental
consultants to develop very specific home programs
for their children. Neurodevelopmentalists design a
program to build on the neurological framework to
support skill development. This in contrast to
mainstream approaches which are skills based.
Chapter Five

Learning and Down Syndrome

We made the decision to homeschool not long after targeted intervention (specific to the special needs
Reagan was born. Her birth and the diagnosis of of learners with Down syndrome) is where the
Down syndrome cemented our decision to future lies in education and Down syndrome and
homeschool both girls. During that first year, I read successful learning experiences for our children in
everything I could get my hands on about our homes. Research shows it to be very promising
homeschooling. and hopefully as awareness grows targeted
intervention will increase in our early intervention
Early on, much of what I learned about programs and the public school system.
homeschooling and Down syndrome I learned the
hard way -- by working with Reagan. Initially, I had Targeted intervention is basically teaching to the
no internet access and, therefore, no access to how child‟s learning style – a hallmark of
children with Down syndrome learn or even others homeschooling. In the case of children with Down
homeschooling children with Down syndrome. syndrome, this takes on greater significance.
Professionals were not really helpful because they Typically developing children most often will learn
had little specific knowledge about learning and using a variety of methods. They may be primarily
children with Down syndrome. They tended to work visual learners, primarily auditory learners or
with her based on isolated diagnoses i.e.: primarily kinesthetic learners but can adapt to a
variety of methods. Children with Down syndrome
Physical Therapy – hypotonia learn differently. Methods used for typically
Speech Therapy - delayed speech developing children often slow progress in learning
and decrease our children successful learning
No one was looking at the big picture and what experiences.
Down syndrome means to the whole child. We
couldn't blame them though - it takes a long time A good example of targeted intervention is found in
for research to trickle down to those working in the a book most parents of children with Down
field. syndrome have, Teaching Reading to Children with
Down Syndrome, by Patricia Oelwein. Her method
During those early years, I made lots of mistakes. In of teaching children with Down syndrome to read
fact, with Reagan, I had to unlearn much of what I (matching, selecting, naming) targets their specific
knew about homeschooling and learn with her, learning profile (visual learners) and utilizes
about her & her unique needs. errorless learning...and our children find success!

When I finally got internet access a whole new A learning profile is basically a list of strengths and
world was opened for me. My husband worked weaknesses developed from a set of observable
long, hard hours when the girls were younger. I behavioural traits called a phenotype. Children with
used the hours he was working after the girls were Down syndrome have a specific learning profile
in bed for the night to research. Little by little, I different from typically developing children and
amassed a great deal of information which made a children with other forms of intellectual disability.
dramatic difference in our homeschool. I now have
a room (seriously) filled with research into how The awareness of this profile and incorporating it
children with Down syndrome learn along with my into our daily lives drastically improved our
regular homeschooling stuff! successful learning experiences.

I've come to the conclusion after all these years that

Down Syndrome - The Typical Learning Profile
Children with Down syndrome (Down syndrome) of sign, gestures, the written word, drawings
often share a set of observable behavioural traits or pictures for visual cues. Learning from
known as a phenotype. These traits are different seeing is important and effective for children
than seen in typically developing children and with Down syndrome.
children with other causes of intellectual
disabilities. I like to look at the big picture or the  Children with Down syndrome have speech
whole child. These traits do not occur in isolation and language delays. They have relative
but influence each other and can cause obstacles to strengths in their receptive language skills
learning. and are typically able to understand far more
than they can say or sign. Their
Not all children with Down syndrome will show the understanding of spoken language is often
typical learning profile seen here but the majority underestimated due to these delays.
will. I must say Reagan fits this picture perfectly! Children with Down syndrome have relative
Targeting the strengths of children with Down deficits in expressive language. Expressive
syndrome will result in a more optimal learning language skills often fall behind receptive
environment. Working to strengthen the weaknesses language abilities. A high incidence of
in the profile will give the child the tools to increase hearing difficulties early in life contributes
functional competence as they grow. to speech and language delays.

Children with Down syndrome often share a set of  Many are able to effectively use gesture
observable behavioural traits (phenotype) displayed (e.g., pointing, guiding) and sign language
in the following profile. Not all children will show for communication. This should be an
the typical strengths and weaknesses listed below acceptable form of preverbal communication
but children with Down syndrome are more likely for our children with language delays. A
to share these behaviors. We can help children with small number (approximately 5%) of our
Down syndrome to learn by understanding their children with Down syndrome will be
typical developmental and learning profile and nonverbal and require some kind of
teaching to their strengths. augmentative communication.
 Children with Down syndrome have  Children with Down syndrome typically
significant cognitive challenges. As with have strong social skills (though they may
the general population, there is a wide range misread or misuse social skills at times) and
in IQ levels but most operate in the mild to enjoy learning from social interaction where
moderate range of mental retardation. IQ meaningful two-way communication and
has limited practical value and tells us little interaction takes place. Take advantage of
about functional competence. Older this strength using games and other social
children with Down syndrome have mental activities to reinforce concepts and practice
ages ranging from 4-6 years of age. Most skills.
individuals with Down syndrome do not
progress beyond the average capabilities of
 Children with Down syndrome have
the average 6-8 year old.
auditory processing and working memory
 Children with Down syndrome typically deficits making learning from listening
have relative learning strengths in the areas difficult. For this reason, it is imperative
of visual processing (the ability to make that information to be learned is paired with
sense of information taken in with the eyes) visual cues.
and visual memory (recall) skills. They
learn best when information given verbally
is paired with visual supports such as the use
 They have delays in fine and gross motor What this really tells us is that children with Down
skills. Fine motor delays may make syndrome are primarily visual learners. They have
working with manipulatives and writing great difficulty learning from listening. Therefore,
difficult. With time and practice, most all learning material must be paired with visuals
children with Down syndrome will learn to and/or sign language as a visual cue.
write legibly. Delays in gross motor skills
limit a child‟s ability to explore the Reagan has always had good language skills and
environment which further delays cognition. communicated her needs quite well so we had no
need to learn sign language. Teaching to her visual
 Children with Down syndrome frequently learning style, with frequent repetition, while
display challenging behaviors. They show keeping learning errorless were the keys for her in
higher rates of attention problems, social consolidating concepts. Homeschooling has been
withdrawal, noncompliance and compulsive such a gift to us! It has given us the ability to
behaviors. From early infancy on, escape implement what the research tells us about learning
and attention motivated challenging and Down syndrome.
behaviors involving noncompliance and
misuse of social skills are common.
Challenging behaviors result in reduced
learning and social opportunities.

Chapter Six

Individualized Education Plans

Every summer I take the time to write and event of inquiries.
Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for the
upcoming school year. Because my daughter has I create simple checklists for the skills/concepts we
Down syndrome, she does not learn at the same are working on. When a skill/concept is
pace or in the same way as typical learners. consolidated, I get the simple pleasure of dating it
and checking it off!
I find creating and IEP helps to keep me on track
and focused on meeting my child's needs in Sounds time consuming - Is it worth the effort?
thoughtful, reasoned way. A few days during the For me, it has been a huge time saver! Yes, it does
summer focusing on setting goals, breaking down initially take time and effort to create but then I
skills - creating a plan for the coming year sharpens know we have a plan and I don't have to waste time
my sense of where we have been, all that my deciding what we are going to do, look for
daughter has accomplished and where we are going. materials, give a great deal of though to breaking
down skills. It's already done!
Are IEPs required for those homeschooling
children with special needs? Also, if you are required to report hours/days
There is no legal requirement for homeschoolers to schooling to a state or local authority, time spent
create an IEP for their child with special needs. working on IEPs count as school hours.

Doesn't every homeschooled child have an IEP? Domains

There is a certain amount of truth to this statement. IEP's generally include the following academic
Homeschooling does provide an environment where areas or domains: Language, Reading, Math,
each child receives and individualized education Perceptual Skills, Writing or Pre-writing Skills,
based on how they learn and allows them to learn at Fine and Gross Motor Skills.
their own pace. IEPs are intentional in thought and You can also include domains such as life skills,
purposeful in achieving individualized goals for social skills, self-help skills and/or character
areas of weakness and any deficiencies in academic development
What kind of information should be on an
Why write and work with an IEP if it's not homeschool IEP?
required? The IEP should have the following information:
Developing an IEP for children with special
learning needs is beneficial to the parent and the 1. Present skill level or present level of
child with special needs. performance. This can be documented on a
developmental inventory.
1. It allows us to plan goals for the future and ways
to meet these goals. 2. Long-term goals for any areas of weakness or
2. It allows us to break down goals into short-term deficiency. These should be reasonably
objectives (more manageable pieces)to implement accomplished over the next twelve months.
our plan for the child. Challenge your child-he/she will achieve goals.
2. It also provides for instructional direction. What Decide what your priorities are with realistic
are we going to concentrate on this day, week, expectations. Long-term goals are generalized,
month, year. The IEP allows us to address how we broad-based such as "Charlotte will increase in
going to teach skills and concepts. receptive language skills." There may be more than
3. It is documentation of your child's progress in the one long-term goal per domain or skill area. If you
meet your goals for the year, set up more goals. An skills/concepts need more repetition to cement the
IEP should be fluid, always moving forward. Do not skill/concept or look at whether or not we can move
be afraid of moving a goal that has not been reached on to a new skill/concept. I've been using the same
into the next year's IEP. master schedule/journal format since we began
formally homeschooling. Once it is set up all that
3. Short-term objectives to meet the long-term needs to be done is fill in the blanks!
goals. These should be specific, concrete, well-
defined objectives tailored to meet your child's For each day I list:
individual needs and based on their long-term goals.
These are the daily steps you take to educate your 1. Subject and resource/curriculum
child. Each objective that you meet brings you 2. Objective
closer to your long-term goal. Use these short-term 3. Brief evaluation
goals as benchmarks to show the mastery level your 4. Skill/Concept in the review cycle (unique to the
child is expected to have at certain times of the child) for the subject.
We do not necessarily stick to the schedule
4. Methods and materials to meet these goals and absolutely but it is our guideline for the day.
objectives. These could be items/games made by
the home educator, specific curriculum or other Each IEP is unique for each child to meet your
resource to implement your individualized program. child's needs but you will probably find that
children with Down Syndrome have common
5. An evaluation to measure progress. You need learning differences. No one IEP will be appropriate
to define how you will know your child is making for all children with Down syndrome. The IEP
progress. With some thought most skills can be process will help move your child toward maximum
broken down as a task analysis. Task analysis independence by keeping focus on your goals for
involves identifying a skill, determining an entry the child's academic and functional growth.
behavior, analyzing the skill and recording the
sequence of task events into small observable Developmental Inventories/Scales
components and sequencing the skill. Some skills Children with Down syndrome usually have very
can be observed and recorded in a daily journal or scattered skills – age appropriate in some domains
log. Written tests may work for the older or able and delayed in others They tend to learn best when
child. We must be careful not to compare our we build on the skills they have and target their
children with other children. Let us measure their interests.
progress as individuals. Measure your child against
their own baseline. A developmental scale or inventory easily lets us
find out where our children function and let us set
6. List of resources or curriculum used for the goals (short-term & long-term) to aid us in their
school year including resources for outside growth and development and academic skills.
therapies such as occupational therapy, speech
therapy, or physical therapy.
I have always used the developmental inventories
Schedule/Journal and curriculum available from VORT. They are
I have found it helpful to display our short-term most famous for their HELP (Hawaii Early
objectives in a a weekly schedule/journal that I Learning Profile) series. They have inventories and
work on every Sunday afternoon. Using a master curriculum for all ages and stages --- even one for
created with my word processor (to keep things children with special learning needs. The BCP
simple) it can be accomplished with little time and covers the developmental ages 1 - 14.
effort. I base our daily schedule the outcomes of my
brief daily evaluations for the previous week and on I have been very happy with VORT through the
my vision for the coming week. I ask myself what years. I mainly use it as a tool for setting goals but
have used the curriculum to break down skills for help for skill development. I have to admit I found
teaching. It is a great tool if you feel the need to the cost of The Brigance prohibitive.
write your own IEP. I like to write an IEP to keep
ME on track.

I know other families who use The Brigance. The

Brigance is a screening tool only and doesn‟t offer

Resources Resources for Goals

Home Schooling Children with Special needs by HELP Series and Assessment Strands from VORT
Sharon Hensly BCP Instructional Activities and Record Booklet
Strategies for Struggling Learners; A Guide for the from VORT
Teaching Parent (The VORT products are my favorite)
By Joe P. Sutton (ISBN: 0-96456840-3) Out of The Brigance
print but available at many libraries. You can rent this from Homeschool Legal Defense
The IEP Planner by Jim and Debby Mills Association
Helps for Special Education Teachers, Curriculum Skills Evaluation by Rebecca Avery, ISBN:
and Activities to Promote Basic Skill Development 1580958842, Out of print.
by Eileen Shaum Learning Objectives for Grades Kindergarten
Through Eight, published by Hewitt

Chapter Seven

Learning the Basics – Reading, Writing and Arithmetic

I‟ve given you lots of information on how children Reading is a relative strength for children with
with Down syndrome learn and resources for Down syndrome. Given their visual nature, they
curricula (more in the appendices) that have been often find early success in sight word reading.
know to have success. When it comes to learning, Success in reading is associated with advances in
our children‟s progress is quite dependent on our cognitive ability, vocabulary, grammar and visual
methods of teaching. Teaching to the child‟s and short-term memory. Despite those wonderful
learning strengths, using errorless learning – benefits we should teach reading for the sake of
especially in the early years - will lead you on the reading itself. Reading contributes greatly to
path to learning success. functional competence and will provide pleasure
throughout the individual‟s lifetime.
For emphasis, I‟ll repeat what has been found to be
important in working with children with Down There is a profile within the typical learning profile
syndrome: (strengths and weaknesses) for children with Down
syndrome for reading.
Visual aids in the form of pictures, drawings, text,
manipulatives, and/or sign language. Reading profile for children with Down
Hands on activities work well for young learners syndrome:
Errorless learning/teaching is essential for
successful learning experiences Strength
Language - use language they know and
Word identification
specifically teach new vocabulary
Scaffold skills - build on what they know, Weaknesses
scaffolding in new skills/concepts
Break down skills/concepts into more manageable Word attack (decoding) skills
Practice step until mastered. Comprehension
Anticipate spending more time on each I‟ll go into more detail on reading and Down
skill/concept than with a typically developing child syndrome in the next chapter.
Repetition - frequent repetition necessary for
consolidating skills
Review of skills/concepts
Positive attitude - bring a positive attitude to the Math
learning environment.
The acquisition of math skills is known to be
Application of these methods will lead you and your difficult for children with Down syndrome. They
child to growth in skill/concept development, do far better in acquiring reading skills than with
knowledge math skills. DeAnna Horstmeier, Ph.D., author of
Teaching Math to People with Down Syndrome and
Reading Other Hands-On Learners, found her adult son with
Down syndrome was more handicapped by his
Did you know that it is only within the last 20-25 deficits in math than any other factor!
years that attaining some level of reading ability has
become a goal for children with Down syndrome? So, what are we to do as homeschooling parents?
How far we have come! There is very little research available regarding

math skills and Down syndrome. Our fall back is letter a scripted plan for the letter. Every time the
the above list! child practices a letter, use the same words in the
same order to make the letter – a rehearsal strategy
Learning math requires carefully structured lessons – to guide them in writing the letter. Soon they will
with skills/concepts broken down to teach step-by- be repeating the script and writing the letter
step, demonstrated, and then practiced daily until independently!
the step or skill is mastered – and then the step or
skill/concept should go into a review cycle. I have never pushed Reagan in her writing
Repeated use will keep skills fresh and easily skills. We do it every day until I feel she has given
recalled. me her best. When she gets tired, I stop. Writing is
difficult for children with Down syndrome I want
It is very important to specifically teach the
writing to be an enjoyable activity. I give her work
language of math. The language of math can be
that is meaningful to her everyday life to keep her
very confusing. Look at how many ways we speak
interest in the skills needed as an adult.
of the answers in working addition problems – in
all, altogether, sum, and total. We need to be very If your child finds writing to be frustrating, do
intentional in our teaching to reduce confusion in consider beginning keyboarding skills early. This is
our young learners. a world of electronic data transfer so those
keyboarding skills will be quite important to our
Children with Down syndrome learn very little
incidentally – especially when it comes to math. As
math becomes meaningful and useful in everyday Back to the Basics
life, the child‟s interest will grow. They will need
plenty of opportunities to learn and ongoing Learning the basics for children with Down
meaningful practice. syndrome means sticking to the basics for longer
than with a typically developing child. It takes
Writing much longer (and many more learning trials) for the
I once read from a physical therapist that a typically child with Down syndrome to progress in
developing child has to write a letter approximately skill/concept development. Structured, daily
130 times for it to become rote. Due to fine motor instruction with lots of repetition will lift our
issues I would expect children with Down children beyond their mental age. Older children
syndrome to take much longer for letter writing to with Down syndrome generally have mental ages
become rote. Handwriting without Tears is a that range from 4-6 years of age and adults
wonderful writing program for our children with generally have the capabilities of an average of 6-8
Down syndrome. When teaching letters, give each year old.

Chapter Eight

Reading and Down Syndrome – Early Learners

Teaching Reading Early (0-3)
The technique is easy and only takes a few minutes
Did you know reading and children with Down a day. There is no need to buy expensive programs
syndrome is a controversial subject? Sounds pretty – all you need is a bold marker and poster board.
benign doesn't it? Families tend to fall into two
groups - those who teach reading early and those The following method is familiar to those who use
who wait until a more typical time in a child's life - the neurodevelopmental approach and excerpted
the elementary school years. I thought I might share from Teach Your Baby to Read by Glenn Doman.
what I've learned about reading and Down
syndrome and explore the different options. Length of play (reading flashcards) is very short. At
first it is played 3 times a day. All sessions must end
Much of our time during infant and toddler years as before the child wants to stop. This way the child
parents of children with Down syndrome is will enjoy the sessions and want to play the reading
generally focused on health issues. Approximately game and the parent is nurturing vs. destroying the
45-50 percent of our children are born with heart child's natural desire to learn.
defects. About another 7 percent are born with
gastrointestinal defects. Many present with feeding Materials
issues. Respiratory issues are prevalent due to
lowered immune response. Most of our energies as Stiff white cardboard (poster board) – ready made
parents during those early years are focused on note cards are just too small.
getting our children beyond these health issues to a Words should be lettered w/felt tip maker – red is
healthier place for our children. recommended..
Printing should be neat, clear, and have consistent
During the infant/toddler years the focus of most plain lettering style, large letters (5 in by 4 in with
professionals and parents is on the most obvious 1/2 in between letters.
delays – delays in gross motor skills. Our children Margins should be at least 1/2 in. all around.
are normally delayed in reaching the typical Printing should be lower-case letters unless the
milestones of the infant/toddler years. They sit at an word is a proper noun.
average age of 11 months and walk on average at 26
months. The First Step (Visual Differentiation)

Speech Therapists during the infancy and toddler First words:

years are focused on feeding skills and/or sign Pick 15 words of high interest or familiar, start
language skills. How many parents are counseled to w/mommy, daddy, names of family members, pets,
begin teaching reading? favorite foods, objects in the house, favorite
I really want to encourage every parent who has a
child with Down syndrome to consider beginning to Sessions
teach their child to read during late infancy and the
toddler years. Because our children are so visual Pick a place with little/no distractions.
they easily learn to read words syndrome that are Work only when the child is in a good mood.
meaningful (words they can say or sign) to them. In Hold up the word mommy, say "This says
the long run, teaching reading early eases their entry mommy." Give the child no ore description and do
into the world of literacy and gives them a great not elaborate. Hold up the next card, daddy, and
head start! repeat the process. Show 3 other words. Do not ask
your child to repeat the words. After the fifth word,
give your child a hug & kiss with lots of praise. Another early reading tool for birth to age 3 – Love
Repeat session 3 times/day, at least 1/2 hour apart. and Learning
Sessions should last no more than 3 minutes.
Always end the session before the child is ready to Though it is convenient to have ready made
end it. curriculum for reading, the cost of these programs is
a bit out of reach for many families - especially
How hard does this sound! Doman's book will give during economic downturns as we are experiencing
your greater detail on how to proceed with this now. Doman‟s reading method is cheap, easy to use
method. Several people have developed materials and successful!
using Doman‟s method to assist the parent in
teaching their children to read including

Chapter Nine

Reading and Down Syndrome – Primary Years

Elementary School Age with each word from beginning to end. Struggling
will lead to distaste for reading and most likely lead
As I‟ve said earlier, I did not have internet access to avoidance and behavioural issues and we don‟t
when my daughter with Down syndrome was in her want to go there! Nurturing a love of learning and
infant/toddler years. I did not have access to keeping them successful will keep them coming
information about early reading and Down back for more.
syndrome so we began teaching reading when Miss
R was about 5. Teaching Reading to Children with Another thing I might mention related to reading are
Down Syndrome by Patricia Oelwein was my first those reading readiness skills. Most are related to
purchase from the Woodbine House series Topics in auditory processing issues – a definite weakness for
Down Syndrome. This book was the first book to most of our kiddos with Down syndrome. Most of
give me insight into how children with Down our children will learn to read without them!
syndrome learn and began my quest for more
information specific to learning and children with Back to my learning profile and children with Down
Down syndrome syndrome -- research suggests a distinct profile of
areas of strengths & weaknesses within literacy
As most of you know, Teaching Reading to skills in children with Down syndrome. This profile
Children with Down Syndrome, uses a combined includes stronger word identification skill, poorer
approach - sight words moving into phonics in the word attack skills and poorer comprehension.
form of word families. The games used in the books Obstacles for sure but not something we can‟t work
are interesting and fun – a perfect method for older on throughout their education!
children. This method uses errorless learning so our
children not only have fun but they are successful. Again, I‟m not suggesting that phonics are
unimportant, as our children get older they will use
Homeschooling moms tend to be purists – phonics those skills to help them identify words hey may not
is the only way for their kids! I had one mother say know. Every strategy we teach them will be
she was purposefully not teaching her child with important to their functional competence as adults.
Down syndrome sight words – which made me very Just be sure to keep moving forward where they are
sad. I want to suggest that perhaps we put our pride successful – for most children sight word reading -
behind us when teaching our little ones with Down while teaching phonics!
syndrome to read. Don‟t get me wrong, I‟m not
suggesting that we don‟t teach phonics to our An excellent sight word reading program used by
children with Down syndrome. I am saying that we many homeschooling moms (and the public
need to consider that our children with Down education system) is the Edmark Reading Program.
syndrome have auditory processing issues – they Edmark uses errorless learning to teach children
have difficulty with remembering and sequencing with special needs to read – guaranteed success for
sounds vs. remembering what they can see. most children with Down syndrome. The software
Children with Down syndrome tend to have version makes a homeschooling mom's life so much
difficulty blending sounds because they often have easier! For more reading curricula suggestions see
short-term memory difficulties. Word families this.
remove that difficulty because they learn words in
chunks (visual) vs. blending letter sound by letter A great overview of teaching reading from
sound through the whole word. In other words, they DownsEd is found here. While you there, take a
struggle to read a word instead of a smooth path look at their See and Learn materials.

Chapter Ten
Motivation and Errorless Learning
One of the most often missed keys to overcoming are too easy or too hard – from the misuse of social
obstacles to learning in children with Down skills (taking advantage of the extra chromosome
syndrome is the use of errorless learning. There was cuteness factor) to acting out behaviorally.
a period in Reagan‟s life when I was looking for
ways to lift her out of the preschool stage. I call it Given our children‟s frequent exposure to failure
an era because it seemed to go on forever! This key they commonly have decreased motivation when
discovery, the errorless learning technique, lifted us learning new skills and concepts. Decreased
beyond the preschool era into the elementary phase! motivation, along with inefficient learning
processes (perhaps related to cognitive abilities and
I would like to talk about errorless learning and the auditory processing difficulties) in children with
connection to motivation issues, how they impact Down syndrome, contributes significantly to
each other and what we can do to create a more obstacles to learning in our children.
optimal learning environment for learners with
Down syndrome. So what is a parent (especially a homeschooling
parent) to do? In our experience, we began to look
Motivation for ways to guarantee successful learning
experiences which make for more efficient learning.
Reagan is, like most children with Down syndrome, How can we keep our children motivated? Give
extremely sensitive to failure. She hates to fail. them positive, successful experiences! Success
Period. As an adolescent, she has better tools to feeds motivation!
meet failure with and works to persevere on most
tasks but it hasn‟t always been this easy.
Errorless Learning
I often questioned my contribution to this problem
as we moved through the early learning years. As I Errorless learning offers our children success
looked back, even to infancy, there was little I could learning experiences without failure. It is defined as
have done to prevent this sensitivity to failure. Let‟s teaching new tasks by guiding the child through
look for a moment at our infants/toddlers with each step of learning a skill or concept correctly, not
Down syndrome. allowing them to fail. As the child becomes more
capable, the prompt or cue can be reduced until it is
Even very young children with Down syndrome not needed.
meet many experiences with failure. Decreased
muscle tone, common in children with Down The key to errorless learning is errorless teaching.
syndrome, results in ineffectual movement. Speech Errorless teaching uses the same language – a script
and language delays, along with articulation - with each lesson and repeating the process several
difficulties result in ineffectual attempts at times (as long as it takes) following the same steps,
communication. Did you know that self-evaluation in the same order, using the same words while using
of competence occurs in early stages of some sort of visual input (picture or possibly sign
development before the child can express language) to incorporate what is most often our
themselves verbally? children with Down syndrome learning strength.

So, I guess it is really no surprise when we see our Hopefully, this method will develop a strong base
children develop strategies to avoid failure. Patricia for higher levels of learning such as problem
Oelwein writes in her book, Teaching Reading to solving with a trial and error approach. One thing I
Children with Down Syndrome, (pp. 23 – 25 ) as to have learned along this homeschooling journey is
the lengths our children will go to avoid tasks that that allowing Reagan to make a mistake encouraged
her to repeat the mistake and then incorporate the
mistake or error into her knowledge base. If you reach a point where the child is frustrated or
unsuccessful, bring the lesson back to a successful
The most familiar errorless learning technique is the place before ending the session.
matching, selecting, & naming technique taught in
Teaching Reading by Pat Oelwin. Children with Sincere, appropriate praise is important to children.
Down syndrome are guided throughout the process
of learning new words without failure. Very Modeling is important to many the
successful and very exciting for the young reader! child how to complete the task. For example, hand
washing has many steps and will need much
Suggestions regarding the use of the strategy of practice for many of our children to complete
errorless learning: independently. Sometimes physical support is
necessary...hand over hand for skill development.
Be sure to have the child's attention...some children
need training to attend. Don‟t forget to fade the support, prompts and cues
with success.
Use language that is understood by the child.
Develop a script to use when delivering lessons. Patience, patience, and more patience is needed for
Teach any unfamiliar language using errorless teaching our children with special needs. If I child
teaching/learning. does not appear to be getting it then often times it is
not their fault...or the teachers! So many factors can
Target skills you want to teach. There are several impede the learning process...memory issues,
developmental skills lists that will help decide what processing issues. Sometimes their development is
your child needs to know when. Take into just not at the right place for learning a concept and
consideration the child's interests. can be returned to at a later date. I have been
amazed when returning to a concept that I put aside
It is important to break down even the basics into for lack of progress only to find that somehow
small steps. Teaching the plus sign for addition something clicked and Reagan has incorporated the
requires the teacher to name the sign and the child concept!
to match, select, then name it such. Children with
short-term memory problems - where errorless Errorless learning can be used with very young
learning is most needed - need practice at every learners to the more sophisticated of learners. It can
step. be applied to most concrete learning. Some
examples would be:
A key to learning for those children who have
developmental delay, learning difficulties, attention Learning colors
problems, is to work only as long as it is fun and Learning letters
interesting. Once they reach a level of fatigue or Learning letter sounds
boredom it is time to switch gears and move onto Sight words
something else. Math concepts
Learning numbers
Always keep learning sessions positive. The parent Money Skills
or teacher‟s attitude is extremely important. No Telling time
matter how many times you have taught the lesson "Wh" questions
or what you mood is at the moment, keep the lesson
positive and uplifting. Our attitudes are quite The list can go on & on....
apparent to our children and impact
learning....especially children with Down syndrome. Example of errorless teaching
As you may know, they are very sensitive to our One simple example - when introducing shapes
moods and feelings. show the child a picture of a circle, use whatever
script you develop to teach such as “This is a circle. the concept will be incorporated and you will hear
A circle has no corners.” Present the same visual your words repeated back to you!
and script for as many times as necessary and soon

Chapter Eleven

Routines (The Groove)

The groove is so important to individuals with homeschooling household. Without a routine in our
Down syndrome that the groove is addressed in home, little would get done.
Down Syndrome: Visions for the 21st Century,
edited by Cohen, Nadel and Madnick, p. 228 Routines are important to typically developing
children too!
"A groove is simply defined as a set pattern or
routine in one‟s actions or thoughts. In the general Routines are important for all of us!
population, this tendency may be considered
obsessive-compulsive disorder but in the individual A few suggestions for families homeschooling a
with Down syndrome, it provides them with child with Down syndrome regarding routines and
structure and order. The groove allows people with motivating the child to work within the routine:
processing disorders (common in Down syndrome)
to have more control over their lives." Develop a routine and stick to it.
It is important that your child knows what to expect
When I first discovered the presence and every day. Soon you‟ll find that your child will
importance of grooves in my research about people remind you what is left to be done.
with Down syndrome, I noted the fine art of the
groove in my daughter‟s life. The groove allows her Devote yourself to the routine.
and her very set routine to accomplish the activities Most of the distractions to our day came from the
of daily living, her school work and recreational telephone. Train yourself to avoid those distractions
time in a set order where she doesn‟t have to think until what you need to accomplish as far as school
about it. is complete.

The groove is so common in individuals with Down Make a visual for the child to refer to as the day
syndrome it is also mentioned in Mental Wellness progresses.
in Adults with Down Syndrome: A Guide to Initially, I would just use a daily schedule. As the
Emotional and Behavioural Strengths and child understand the rhythm of the day, move on to
Challenges by Dennis McGuire and Brian Chicoine, weekly and monthly schedules.
has devoted a whole chapter to these characteristic
behaviors. Do not wait until your child is older to Prepare the child well ahead of time of any
get this very important book. It speaks to many changes.
issues common to children/teens/adults with Down Again, the groove. Changes in routine may cause
syndrome, such as challenging behaviors, autism, anxiety in the child with Down syndrome. There
self-talk, memory issues and much more. will much less anxiety if any changes in the daily
routine are talked about and placed in the weekly
The groove - routine and structure are important to schedule.
individuals with Down syndrome. The groove
allows them greater freedom and independence School is not a choice.
within the known routines. Reagan has never known that she has a choice as far
as doing her school work. It is something that
Individuals with Down syndrome thrive with a set happens every day. She does have choices about the
routine. less important things in her life but reading, writing
and arithmetic are to be done daily.
Routine and structure are also important to the

Plan ahead. into smaller steps to build on. As the skills/concepts
Every Sunday I take the time to plan out our week. I are practiced and consolidated, add another step.
plan and I gather materials so that when it comes
time to start our day, I‟m not running all over trying Consider rewards
to find things while my child loses interest. I know you‟re thinking food but I am not! Sincere,
appropriate praise will be genuinely appreciated and
Speaking of planning will go far in keeping with the flow of the day and
Plan all those necessary errands and the child's willingness to participate.
physical/dental/therapy appointments after school
hours. Use that wonderful parent – child relationship as a
reward for you both. How about a little cuddle time
Make fun a priority on the couch with mom and a good book? Our
The daily routine should consist of things the child visual learners all love a little computer time or a
enjoys inside the work day. Choose the right high DVD for a good school day and a job well done.
interest materials to make learning fun.
Speaking of rewards.
Learning should be meaningful. Sprinkle rewards throughout the day as necessary.
To keep the child engaged, learning should target More frequent rewards may increase motivation to
the child's interests and build on what they know. stay with the scheduled day.
New skills and concepts should be broken down

Chapter Twelve
Visual and Verbal Memory and Down Syndrome

Growing Memory Skills in Young Learners with Down Syndrome

Children with Down syndrome are well-know for

their relative strengths in visual memory and their
deficits in auditory (verbal) processing skills. Visual Memory Activities
Auditory processing is a complex issue for our
children with Down syndrome. In this post, I‟m Visual Memory is a relative strength in children
going to concentrate on the short-term auditory with Down syndrome. This channel is not
memory aspect of our children‟s difficulty in completely intact so working to strengthen visual
auditory processing. It is something tangible we can memory is important.
work on in our everyday interactions with our
children. Concentration Games
You will need two sets of color cards: make a
Let‟s take a moment to define what we are talking sequence of two color cards (red-blue). Have the
about: child look at these for a few seconds. Then turn the
cards over. Given some other cards, she must pick
Visual Memory refers to remembering what you out the two that are hidden. Increase to three and
see more colors as she is ready. Variations: Play with
objects, number cards, letter cards, picture cards, or
Auditory Memory refers to remembering what block shapes
you hear. Another variation of the above game: Use one set of
color cards. Make a sequence of two colors (ie. red-
blue). Allow your child to look at these a few
Activities to Strengthen Processing Skills seconds. Then turn the cards over. She must then
touch each card and tell you orally what the card
Activities for young children should be fun and color is before turning it over to check. Again this
engaging. When choosing activities, start with the can be played with objects, number cards, letter
lowest level of difficulty to gage your child's skill cards, picture cards, or block shapes.
level. We want our children to be successful with
the following memory skill builders or “games.” Games marketed under the trade name Memory
- or make your own. This games involves pairs of
As you begin memory training, your child may need pictures-shapes, letters, colors, animals etc. The
cues to be successful in completing tasks. They may cards are placed face down. Pick a card and try to
need to learn the game so give them plenty of remember where its match is located. Start with just
practice learning the games. Build to higher levels, a few pairs and build as skills allow.
increasing in complexity, as your child finds
success. What's missing? Place 2-3 objects or pictures in
front of your child. Have him/her look at the group
Remember, that sincere appropriate praise is a and name each object. Have the child close his/her
great motivator! eyes, remove one object. Identify the missing
object. Increase the level of difficulty as your child's

skill level improves.
Given three pictures, you verbally tell the child
Identify what is missing from known objects drawn what order to put them in.
on paper. For example, draw a face without a nose Tell the child to clap his/her hands. Then give her
and ask what is missing. two commands to do (clap and jump) Work up to
giving her a sequence of three things to do.
Sequencing & pattern activities. Reproduce
patterns of colors, shapes, pictures. Continue a If the child can draw, tell him/her to draw items.
pattern after several sets are given. Keep them simple at first: a red ball, a green square
and so on. Increase in complexity over time. The
Hide the peanut or some other treat. Hide a peanut child will have to hold the instructions in their
under a cup. Use a set of two or three cups and your memory as they complete the task.
child must find the peanut after you slowly move
them around. Repeat a series of sounds: Clap, Clap increasing in
number with success, ie. Clap, Clap.....Clap
Recreate drawings from memory. At the beach or
create your own "sand box" with sand or salt poured Create an obstacle course in your house or
into a flat container. Draw a simple picture, letter, outside! Describe the way you want your child to go
shape, wipe it away, and have your child recreate through the course in 1, 2, or 3 parts depending on
the drawing. his/her developmental level. For example, go
around the chair, jump over the pillow, crawl under
Auditory Memory Activities the table.

Children with Down syndrome have deficits in Act out simple stories/nursery rhymes. Read a
short-term memory. They have a difficulty simple story or nursery rhyme and act it out or have
remembering what they hear which leads to delays him/her tell it back to you sequentially. You may
in talking, processing spoken language, for reading have to break the story down after reading it to your
and math. (1) child until his skills increase.

These activities should help to strengthen verbal Play the shopping game. Ask the shopkeeper (your
short-term memory skills. child) for a series of food items. Begin with one or
two and work higher as he/she progresses. Let them
Repeat a sequence of two numbers given verbally, help you remember your list when you visit the
one per second. Have the child repeat what you say. grocery store.
Increase to three and more as he/she is able.
Variation this can be played with names of people, Treasure Hunt. Have your child retrieve a series of
animals, toys, verb words, and letters. "treasures" from another room.

Note: When my daughter was young we found Sequence activities of daily living. Repeat the
repeating numbers to be confusing to her. She had activities of the day or an activity with several parts
difficulty ordering numbers in the proper sequence and have your child "help" you with what comes
for what seemed to be a long time. We only played next. This will seem quite natural when relaying the
auditory memory games with the variations found days events to daddy over dinner.
Helping around the house. When preparing dinner
Verbal Commands. Place some toys in another have your child get a list of needed items i.e. salt,
room. Tell the child to get the doll. The child has to pepper, napkins, for the table. Repeat the series as
hold the command in her memory and bring back needed to encourage success.
the doll. If she can do one toy, tell her two toys to
bring back. Repeating sentences. Start with simple phrases and
increase length of utterances. For example, red ball
or brown chair. As skills improve-The big ball is For more information:
red. The brown chair is hard. If your child hears 1. Down Syndrome Issues and Information,
well, make it fun and whisper. Memory Development for Individuals
withDownSyndrome by Sue Buckley and Gillian
Teaching organizational skills will also help with Bird
memory skills. In the early years teach sorting by
color, shape, & size. As they sort according to 2. Early Communication Skills for Children with
classification i.e. food groups, function, etc. Don't Down Syndrome by Libby Kumin
forget oddity tasks...what doesn't belong to a certain


Note on long-term memory: Individuals with Down syndrome retain information

that is meaningful (autobiographical memories) and
It is interesting to note that the long-term memory what is drawn directly from their life – both stored
of individuals with Down syndrome is relatively in long-term memory.
unaffected. Once skills/concepts reach the long-
term memory they are rarely lost. At issue for children with Down syndrome is the
instability in learning and getting concepts from
short –term memory into long-term memory.

Chapter Thirteen

Down Syndrome and Challenging Behaviors

If you are a parent with a child with Down In my research, I found that children with Down
syndrome, you might know our kiddos show higher syndrome respond better to positive behavior
rates of challenging behaviors than their typically supports which encourage appropriate behaviors.
developing peers. Challenging behaviors common Little things like sincere praise, positive attention to
to children with Down syndrome include appropriate behaviors, and rewards made a huge
wandering, attention difficulties, inappropriate difference in effecting changes in behavior.
social behaviors, noncompliance, and compulsive
behavior. My parenting patterns had to change to effect
changes in Reagan‟s behavior. I had to be much
Did you know that many children with Down more creative in parenting this child to make our
syndrome do not respond to typical parenting home environment more conducive to learning and
styles? As parents, we often use negative her behavior outside the home socially acceptable
consequences (time-out, spanking, punishment) for so that learning and social opportunities were more
inappropriate behavior. In many cases, using available to her.
negative consequences with the child with Down
syndrome can exacerbate behavior issues! I learned about looking at behavior in the context in
which it occurs. I learned about A-B-C
Reagan was one of these kids. Like many children (Antecedents – Behavior – Consequences) patterns
with Down syndrome, she has quite the delightful to look for ways to effect changes in behavior.
personality. She is kind, thoughtful and affectionate
most of the time. She is right there when someone is I learned that ridding a child with Down of problem
in need to offer her love and support. I don't think behaviors often takes more learning trials than it
she has a malicious bone in her body but we have would with a typically developing child.
faced many challenging behaviors. Challenging
behaviors in children with Down syndrome tend to I learned that you must teach the child exactly what
be complex in nature - related to you expect. Most young children with Down
processing/language difficulties, fear of syndrome learn little incidentally (by example) -
failure/motivation, cognitive issues, lack of choices, appropriate behavior must be explicitly taught and
etc. modeled. Skill building vs. trial and error which can
lead to frustration and even embarrassment!
For Reagan, the most challenging behaviors stem
from her highly stubborn nature. I think every The younger child may benefit from a pictorial
parent of a child with Down syndrome deals with guide to refer to when placed in known difficult
what appears to be an exaggerated stubborn streak. situations as a reminder of what is expected. In the
Negative consequences did nothing to change her school age child, social stories are often used to
patterns of behavior. teach social skills to children with special needs but
can be adapted to address challenging behaviors in
As a homeschooling parent, I took our discipline the child with Down syndrome. They are easy to
issues very seriously. After all, without control of create on a word processor and can be tailored to
challenging behaviors and discipline (on all parts) the unique needs of the child.
we cannot effectively educate our children at home.
Reducing challenging behaviors had to become a I also ran across a book that I recommend to every
priority if we were to continue on our parent with a child with special needs, Steps to
homeschooling journey. Independence, Teaching Everyday Skills to
Children with Special needs, by Bruce L. Baker and
Alan Brightman. This book not only speaks to skill with immediately and consistently. As she has
development but has several chapters devoted to matured and her language comprehension increases,
behavior and positive behavioural support. The we can discuss various choices she has as she
book does not specifically target children with problem solves and the consequences of her actions.
Down syndrome but I have found it to be an She gets plenty of time out in the community - more
invaluable resource! opportunities for working on developing proper
behavior and social skills. At times it has been
At 14, Reagan understands negative consequences exhausting - especially in the early years - but
and I use them effectively as necessary. In the real definitely well-worth every ounce of effort! She is
world there are negative consequences for growing into a lovely young lady.
inappropriate behaviors so she finds them at home
too. I think maturity has made a huge difference in Reagan, like most of us, is still a work in progress.
her ability to understand the consequences of her We continue to work on appropriate behaviors and
behaviors and increase her compliance. social skills in the home and around the community.
It is said that good behavior and social skills are the
Educating Reagan at home has been quite beneficial keys to success for adults with Down syndrome so
in ridding her of challenging behaviors. She is in an we continue working to become the best we can be!
environment where behavior issues can be dealt

Chapter Fourteen

Homeschooling and Down Syndrome – “The Reluctant Learner”

The Homeschooling Parent
Children with Down syndrome aren‟t really Educate Yourself
reluctant learners but it may seem that way - Be educated and informed. My archives hold a great
especially in the early years of their lives. What deal of information on homeschooling and Down
may appear to be reluctance or resistance is just the syndrome. The sidebar to the right has many useful
way they try to deal with the complexities of life links. The Riverbend Down Syndrome Support
with Down syndrome and the obstacles they face in website is full of research related to how children
learning. with Down syndrome learn and also quite a bit of
information on homeschooling children with Down
Over the years I've had quite a few questions on this syndrome.
issue. I would like to share a few tricks of the trade.
Little things that have helped me that might help Commitment
you. Some are quite obvious but some thought We all go through a research phase when
given to the obvious may garner some new insights considering homeschooling our children with Down
as to the importance of what is obvious and how it syndrome. It is usually a time filled with anxiety –
plays into the homeschooling environment. very normal! We wonder if we are capable of this
huge responsibility. You are! Once the decision is
Children First made to choose the homeschooling option, commit
Children with Down syndrome are children first. yourself fully to it. Our children will sense if we are
Children are fun and like to have fun. They are silly just experimenting and not fully committed.
and playful so why not play along! My experience
with a child with Down syndrome is that there is Our Approach
more fun with the extra chromosome! The learning Are we approaching homeschooling our child based
environment should be filled with interesting and on their needs? When I was in the research phase, I
engaging materials that help make learning FUN! feel in love with a literature based method of
homeschooling. Soon I found out that approach
The Parent would not be best for Reagan. She does not learn
As homeschooling parents, we may be well from listening due to auditory processing
overwhelmed by the obstacles to learning our issues.
children with Down syndrome face. I‟m here to tell
you its all about baby steps. – your own and the So I switched my thinking and approach to best suit
child‟s. Homeschooling a child with Down her learning needs. As you know, children with
syndrome is not that hard – it just takes time and Down syndrome are visual learners. All information
effort to learn how the child learns, what obstacles given verbally should be paired with a visual –
they face and then implement what you have gesture, sign, flashcards, picture cues, the written
learned into the child‟s learning environment. You word etc.
will learn together to make your home the best
learning environment for your child!

Our Attitude underdeveloped gifts waiting to blossom!
Our attitude is so important to the learning
environment. Our attitudes are contagious! If we Patience
approach our day and school hours with a positive Doesn't every parent pray for more patience?
outlook and enthusiasm our children will too! Homeschooling a child with Down syndrome
requires patience. Learning often takes longer and
I am by nature a quiet, reserved person. Though I do requires many more learning trials than with
tend to look at life with a positive outlook, Reagan typically developing children. Just remember that as
demands more of me. She has turned me into a you tire of teaching a skill/concept they are just
rather loud and boisterous cheerleader! We feed off beginning to get it. The joy that follows when a new
of each other in our excitement and love for skill is accomplished or a new concept is
learning. consolidated is glorious!

The Parent – Child Relationship Creativity

A warm, loving relationship between the parent and Don‟t let your perceived lack of creativity stop you
child is essential in the homeschooling from considering homeschooling! I don‟t consider
environment. Nurture this and many of your battles myself the creative type but am surprised over and
are won! Children with Down syndrome tend to be over again by what is delivered to me (from above)
very sensitive to the feelings of others. Reagan is no that which is needed to get a concept across! New
different. She wants to please me avenues of delivering more abstract material appear
with perfect timing.
Latent Gifts?
Homeschooling moms might discover a few latent Next, I'll focus on the "reluctant" learner with Down
gifts! Homeschooling may develop some syndrome.

Chapter Fifteen
Homeschooling & Down Sydrome – “The Reluctant Learner”
The Child
In trying to discern what difficulties there might be Attention
in the learning environment which might result in
reluctance or resistance, I always ask myself or Are attention deficits a contributing factor?
might ask you the following questions: Attention deficits are common in young learners
with Ds. Incrementally increasing time and
Health attention to task is worth the time and effort inside
and outside of formal schooling is well worth the
Are they feeling well? A child who is not feeling time and effort.
well is not receptive to learning. A child who does
not get sufficient sleep will not be receptive to Is it hard for the child to sit still for learning?
learning. Alternate seat work with fine and gross motor
activities. Keep any seat work meaningful. Lessons
Are their eyes and ears healthy? Vision and should be fairly short and fast paced. Keep the fun
hearing problems are common with Down factor high!
syndrome and a great impediment to learning.
Attention to these potential problems is needed with Combining physical movement with learning can be
annual (minimum) physical exams. quite helpful and enjoyable.
A friend of mine did “ball school” when her son
Motivation with Down syndrome was young. He practiced sight
word reading while bouncing a ball. This markedly
Is motivation a factor? Children with Down increased his ability to learn new words.
syndrome are known to have motivational issues
when compared to typically developing children of Learning Profile
the same age. From the time that our children with
Down syndrome are born, they work hard to learn Children with Down syndrome have a known
the skills they need – harder and longer than profile of strengths and weaknesses to consider in
typically developing children. They are familiar the homeschooling environment.
with failure and need to be supported in learning
with errorless teaching/learning to feel successful. Am I teaching to my child’s learning strengths?
Children with Down syndrome are primarily visual
Is the child bored? Young learners with Down learners. Therefore, material presented should be
syndrome thrive on material given at a fast pace in accompanied by a visual aid.
an engaging manner. Keep it FUN!
What about processing deficits? Children with
Is the work provided close to the child’s Down syndrome frequently have auditory
developmental level? Working closely to his/her processing difficulties. This makes learning by
developmental level will make her feel successful listening difficult. Again, visual cues are of the
and involved...and motivate her to come back for utmost importance.
Am I using language the child understands? As
parents, we have a greater understanding of the

words our children understand. We know they takes on interest. Is the curriculum a good fit?
understand far more than they can express. New Concept oriented materials with a hands-on, visual
vocabulary should be specifically taught and clearly approach works best for the early learner with
defined. Down syndrome.

The Learning Environment Challenging Behaviors

Are their any distractions? Is the house free from Are behaviors getting in the way of learning?
noises from the television, radio or adults or other Often times, challenging or inappropriate behaviors
children talking? Children with Down syndrome are are clues that you need to switch gears. Change the
easily distracted by noise and even visual stimuli. subject. Change the venue. Go for a walk but keep
the child engaged!
The Learning Table
Normal childhood naughtiness or the avoidance
Learning does not necessarily happen at a table. In behaviors (cute but socially inappropriate
fact, much does not but I will refer to lesson time as behaviors) common to children with Down
work done at the table. syndrome can disrupt the learning environment.
Think about positive behavioural approaches vs. the
Is the work meaningful? Am I building on what more common parenting approaches which include
the child knows – scaffolding new skills on top of punishments that are ineffective.
what has been consolidated?
Sometimes behavior challenges are of a more
Is what they are working on to easy or to hard? serious nature. If so, those behaviors can be the
Early learners with Down syndrome should be greatest obstacle to learning a child with Down
working close to where they are functioning on the syndrome faces. If necessary, seek professional
developmental scale you are using – again, building support.
on skills they already have.
Previous Learning Experiences
Am I breaking down the task/concept in to
smaller bits so that the child can understand the What previous learning experiences has the child
task/concept? With many concepts/skills, we have had? Has the child been removed from the system
had to break them down into smaller steps and recently? Was their previous learning environment
spend extra time on them. Breaking down traumatic? You wouldn‟t believe the stories I‟ve
skills/concepts gives meaning to the task as each heard from families who have removed their child
step is mastered. from the public school system.

Am I providing enough repetition for the The general rule of thumb for homeschooling
mastery of skills and concepts? Frequent input families is that the child will need a month for every
and plenty of review are the keys to consolidation year in the system or adjust (some say recover) to
of learning. homeschooling. I think it is safe to say a child with
cognitive impairments will take longer.
Am I giving them enough practice at new skills
and concepts? Often a wide variety of materials,
rotated throughout the week to reinforce new In Closing
skills/concepts are necessary to consolidate
learning. What seems to be reluctance or resistance on the
part of the learner with Down syndrome can be the
Am I taking into consideration the child’s result of many complex issues – none of which are
interests? In bringing the child‟s interests into the insurmountable. Persistence on you part will pay
learning environment, the most mundane of tasks huge dividends!

Chapter Sixteen

Homeschool Burnout
If you are considering homeschooling, we might as Homeschooling Children with Special needs
well discuss burnout. Late January and February
bring me to a place where I feel totally uninspired – Taking the responsibility for homeschooling a child
also known as burnout. I know I‟m not alone. Many with special needs may intensify our feelings of
homeschooling moms experience a sense of burnout burnout. After all, this is a huge responsibility – our
this time of year. efforts will impact our child's future functional
competence. We don‟t have a system to rely on or
What is homeschool burnout? blame.

Perhaps life is not quite so enjoyable. In fact, you We often find ourselves comparing out children
might find all your emotions rather muted. with others with a similar diagnosis in our own
Irritability is common. Also feeling exhausted, community whether it be in our homeschooling
overwhelmed, discouraged or possibly even community or perhaps even a child in the school
depressed are known symptoms. Symptoms will system. Are they doing better? Did I make the right
vary with each individual. The key is to be aware of choice? Would my child be better off in the system
the likelihood of its occurrence before it impacts the with all its supports?
family and your homeschool.
Burnout - What can we do?
What contributes to this sense of burnout?
Burnout is a nasty place to be. The remedies:
For us northerners who face shorter, cloudy days,
bitter cold, ice and snow, the weather plays a big 1. Anticipate burnout.
part in our feelings of isolation from others. It is just
a reality that social gatherings and field trips Burnout is common in homeschooling moms.
decrease because of the weather. Anticipate it and you‟ve almost won the battle!

We‟ve got half of the school year under our belts. 2. Take a good look at your priorities.
Most of the homeschooling moms I know see this
time as a time that we question what we have Be sure that you are in fact keeping them in the
chosen to do with our children. We question our right order.
goals and the effectiveness our role as -Am I spending enough time with God in prayer
homeschooling mothers. We question the and with His Word?
effectiveness of our choices. We ask ourselves -Am I giving enough time to my husband? In giving
questions and ruminate beyond the necessary and you will receive.
useful point. Are we doing enough? Are we meeting -Are my children‟s basic and educational neeDown
our goals? Do we need to make changes? syndrome being met?

Most homeschooling mothers have high 3. After reassessing priorities, choose carefully
expectations for themselves. They often find there is where you get involved outside the home.
never enough time in the day for all they want to
accomplish – with school, parenting, discipline, It is common for others to think just because you
laundry, cooking, cleaning etc. Homeschooling is a homeschool you are available to meet their needs
very task-oriented lifestyle lending itself to burnout. and the needs of the community during school
hours. Practice saying no or I'm sorry I just can't do
it -- without explanations.
emotionally spiritually ready for learning? If that is
4. Quit second guessing God. the case, then learning will occur. They may not
learn all that is on your agenda for the day but they
Most of us who are called to homeschool are led will be open to the experiences and opportunities
there by a loving Father. If He leads us here, He provided.
will provide all that we need to accomplish His -Wake up with a thankful heart. Thank God for the
goals for us and our family. opportunities that He will place before you as the
day unfolds.
5. Remember why you homeschool. -Pray for your children and ask God to bless your
day together.
Keep your goals for your children close and in the -Thank God for them and the joy they bring – even
proper perspective. Are you homeschooling to when they are bickering.
instill proper morals and values? Are you -Verbalize all you find in the day to be thankful for.
homeschooling because you believe you and your Soon you will find your children doing the same
family are contributing to the need for more strong and the joy is multiplied!
soldiers for Christ? Do you think you can provide a
better education for your children than the system 9. Learn to live with dust bunnies.
can provide? Do you have a child with special
needs who thrives in your homeschool One of the hardest things for me as a
environment? Worthy goals - keep your eye on the homeschooling mom was letting go of my need for
prize! I've graduated one well-rounded young lady a clean, tidy house all the time. I am a recovering
who, with her natural gifts, will contribute greatly neat freak. I am a recovering neat freak living with
where ever she is planted. It was worth every people who don‟t see what the fuss is about. They
second! are right of course.

6. Take good care of you. 10. Schedule flexibility.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to take That's right - if you are the obsessive-compulsive
care of yourself. Eat right, exercise and get proper type like me who has a daily schedule, put a little
sleep. Your world will be a better place. flexibility in your schedule. Leave time for
spontaneity and discover the joys!
7. Don’t compare your children
11. Delight in the little things.
Don't compare them with each other, family
members or those in the community - especially if A cup of hot tea or hot chocolate with instructions
they have special needs. This is probably one of that mama is taking a few minutes of time out and
THE most destructive thing any parent can do. take it. My homeschooling friend, Amy, puts on her
Compare them only to themselves. Are they red tennis shoes every morning because they bring
working towards goals that are reasonable and her a sense of delight – every day.
obtainable? Are they making progress? Sometimes
it is essential to look at the baby steps they might be 12. Make time for the things you enjoy and that
taking toward a long sought after goal to find refresh you.
success. Find it and celebrate it!
Whether it be a good book or a hobby - do it.

8. Work at changing your thought patterns. 13. Make a list of things to look forward to

-If you are often finding yourself discouraged and -Schedule a date night with hubby – even if it has to
down, try to focus on your blessings. Are you be in your own home.
children healthy, clean, fed – physically, -How about a game night with the kids?
-An occasional mom‟s night out with friends. Real 15. Explore curriculum choices.
life friends are important.
-A special dinner once a week with all your favorite Most of us have homeschooling conventions on the
foods. horizon. Take the time to get excited about next
year, investigate new options/curriculum choices
and make plans on where you want to spend your
14. Make a list of projects to take on. time in the vendor hall.

I usually have a winter project because we spend 16. Seek out the homeschooling community on
more time at home. Even if it is just a closet or a the internet for support.
few drawers, it is something outside the daily
routine. It makes me feel productive in a different There are so many wonderful places to find support
way. Involve the kids and it will be more fun! I on the internet - way to many to list but you might
don‟t know if the kids will find my winter project try The Swap, The Homeschool Lounge, Heart of
fun – stripping the kitchen wall paper – but you the Matter Online when you can't meet with your
never know. local homeschoolers for support and fellowship. I
doubt you can find a homeschooler that has not
experienced burnout. Let others share their ideas to
get through this season.

Chapter Seventeen
The Homeschooling Community - Supporting Homeschoolers with Children
with Special Needs
Matthew 25: 31-46

In every homeschooling community you will find

homeschoolers educating children with special Individuals with special needs are an often
needs. You may not see a lot of them but they do marginalized segment of society. They are often
exist. excluded because they look and/or act differently.
Much of society doesn‟t value those with significant
Why don’t you see them? needs and/or cognitive challenges. In fact, many
with known genetic syndromes are aborted in utero.
They may not be comfortable bringing their child Babies created in His image disposed of as useless
with special needs to events and gatherings due to tissue!
social, behavioral and/or physical issues.
Let the homeschooling community be different.
They may be using all their available energy to Embrace those with special needs and their families
meet the needs of their family and their child with as Jesus would!
special needs.
What you, as an individual, can do:
They may not feel their children are accepted as In every homeschooling community you will find
fully participating members of the community. many who would love to support those
homeschooling children with special needs but
Does the homeschooling community have a aren‟t sure what they can do.
responsibility to nurture and support those
homeschooling children with special needs? 1. Acknowledge we are dealing with more than
the typical homeschooling family.
The homeschooling community is primarily made
up of Christian families. Jesus welcomed – even We acknowledge that every child is special but we
healed - many people with special needs. He gave do deal with challenges beyond the typical family
them His time and attention. Why should the which impact our lives, our marriages, our typically
Christian homeschooling community be any developing children and our relationships in the
different? community. Often times, we work endlessly to find
ways to meet the needs of our child with special
Many of these families are already a part of the needs and spend many more hours per day meeting
homeschooling community. Their children with that child‟s needs to helping him/her reach beyond
special needs should be welcomed into the their challenges.
community as every other child is welcomed.
2. Keep a mental list of those you meet in the
homeschooling community with children with
special needs. deal about befriending those who really are more
like them than different and valuing all of God's
When you meet someone who homeschools a child creation.
with special needs, ask them if they know someone
you are acquainted with who also homeschools a 7. Include the family openly and lovingly in
child with special needs. Networking with others homeschooling group activities.
for an acquaintance can lead to invaluable support.
Your kindness will be deeply appreciated.
3. Do not be afraid to approach the family.
8. Allow us the opportunity to educate your co-
Many people just don‟t know what to say or do. Let op, field trip group, and/or social group on the
us lead the way for you. As you get to know the special needs of our child.
family, you will probably be surprised by the
blessings they know as a parent of a child with This may help others feel more comfortable with
special needs. our children. We hope they will be valued for who
they are and not their diagnosis…and included as
You will discover that our lives are more than our fully as possible.
child's diagnosis. We, as a family, are just like your
family. Beyond the challenges we face, are the same 9. Mentoring opportunities.
dreams and hopes for our children...and we share
many of the same problems. Older typically developing children can be of great
4. Don’t be afraid to inquire about our child’s assistance to the family homeschooling a child with
special needs special needs during group activities. Having an
older buddy guide them through those activities has
Most families are quite willing to share – they live many mutual benefits.
with those special needs day in and day out.
10. Do remember the siblings.
5. Do not be afraid of the child with special
At times, people forget about the devoted siblings.
Growing up alongside a child with special needs
They may look different or act differently but they comes with many blessings but sometimes they
are always children first. The nonverbal child will need to be acknowledged for who they are
appreciate a smile, a light touch and friendly individually. No one really wants to be known only
conversation – just like every other child. Some as the sibling of the child with special needs.
children will have „invisible‟ special needs and are
11. Invite the parents out or over for an
also in need of your support and understanding.
occasional social activity.
6. Educate your children about our special
We need to just be grownups sometimes and away
blessings and encourage friendships.
from our daily responsibilities.
It is important for children with special needs to
have friendships with typically developing children.
Children with special needs learn a great deal from
12. If you are so called, offer respite care on
peer relationships. There peers will learn a great
An hour or two on occasion will provide typically, frequent visits to physicians and/or
refreshment for the overwhelmed parent. Perhaps therapists, dealing with behavioral challenges and
you have a teen willing to be trained in meeting the meeting the needs of the rest of their family. This is
family‟s needs. Helping with some light household the time when support is needed most.
tasks or entertaining a toddler will be huge for a Some other suggestions:
family dealing with a child with special needs.
 Acknowledge that families homeschooling
13. Do not feel sorry for us. children with special needs exist – then ask
how you can support them.
We don‟t need sympathy when, for the most part,  Have special needs resources in your local
homeschooling library or keep of list of
we are abundantly blessed! Most often we just need
print resources for referral.
fellowship but there are episodic times of grieving  Have links to special needs resources on the
for those raising children with special needs. internet on your homeschooling
association‟s website.
14. Empathy is genuinely needed at times.  Also include links to local, state and national
support groups for those homeschooling
Offer your ear and an open heart when we do children with special needs.
struggle. Sometimes we just might need someone to  Seek out those who homeschool children
listen. Even if you can‟t truly understand, a with special needs as mentors for those
inquiring about homeschooling their child
compassionate heart might be all that is needed.
with special needs.
15. Pray for our families as you feel led.  Print an occasional article about
We all need prayer but our families may have homeschooling children with special needs
different specific needs. in your newsletters.
What can the greater homeschooling community  Think about convention support. There are
do? many speakers available to support the
homeschooling and special needs
This needs to be a ministry to an often marginalized
group of families. A little extra effort to support our
families will go a long way. Even the small things I promise you will be blessed in giving a little or a
mean so much. lot. When you reflect God‟s love for all of His
creation – especially to those with special needs –
Don‟t expect those homeschooling children with you will discover a heart more inclined to love as
special needs to have the time and energy to give to Jesus calls us to love. Bless and be blessed!
the greater community on a regular basis. They are
too often overwhelmed by what they have been
called to do – especially in the early years where
they are dealing with their child‟s diagnosis,
seeking answers to why their child isn‟t developing


Appendix A

Prayer for Homeschoolers with Children with Special Needs

We thank you Father for placing your special stumble, and occasionally fail, seeking your will.
children within our care and for trusting us despite
our human failings. We seek your will in training up For comfort for those who are grieving the loss of a
our children to Your glory. You created our "normal" child and those who struggle with
children with special needs in your image. You depression or feel overwhelmed as they see Your
reveal yourself to us through your creation and your will for their families.
Word. Let us study all you reveal with a discerning
mind, seeking wisdom with a grateful heart that That we may freely give you our sorrow, anger and
allows us to know you and your plan for our lives. grief.

Specifically we pray... For others who offer an ear, a shoulder, or a

discerning heart traveling alongside us in
We always remember to put you first in our lives friendship.
and lead our children to do the same.
For professionals that lend a helping hand in the
For patience when we are frustrated. way of therapies as we educate our children at
home. Let us remember that you alone gave them
For enthusiasm when teaching the same concept the gifts they use to guide us. Give us a discerning
repeatedly. heart and mind to lead us towards those who are
homeschool friendly.
For creativity in teaching concepts which are
difficult. For our typical children - that they may come to
understand Your will for them as it relates to their
For hope and strength when learning seems to be at "special" sibling.
a standstill - knowing that it will occur in your time.
Help us to see the baby steps and rejoice in them. For our spouses as they journey with us - may we
find our hope and strength in You.
For positive attitudes when behavior problems
overwhelm us. As we seek your will for our precious children and
ourselves, we ask for wisdom, strength, courage and
For wisdom and discernment when making discernment. Help us to always see Your loving
decisions for our children. arms beyond our early shortsightedness.

For courage to encourage independence as our Bless our homes, our lives, our homeschool
children make their way in the world. gracious Lord. Let your will be done in our lives.
May all we say and do glorify you - Father, Son and
May we see you in your special gift to us as we Holy Spirit.


Appendix B
Reading Recommendations
These recommendations were compiled based on
parent opinions from several e-mail lists and
research into how children with Down syndrome Essential Skills
learn to read. Feel free to e-mail me with any Sight words and phonicsEdmark Reading Program
questions or suggestions. Level One and Level Two
Sight word reading curriculum for children with
Reading for Children with Special Needs/Visual
Learners/Down Syndrome special needs.
Flash Series
Early Readers
Bob Books Reading Curriculum for Children with Special
Early sight word readers Needs
Rittenhouse Publications Edmark Reading Program
Color-coded word families Reading (sight word) curriculum for children with
Dick and Jane Series special needs.
Sight word books with repetition of frequently used Reading Milestones
Wilbooks Reading Curriculum Designed for Children with
Inexpensive readers with repetition Down Syndrome
See and Learn
Readers for Children with Special Needs From The Down Syndrome Educational Trust –
Greenhouse Publications Online program in pilot phase.
Interactive sight word readers Cataphonics
Special Reads for Special Needs Phonics program developed by a mother to a child
Sight word readers with Down syndrome
Down Home Learning Special Reads for Special Needs
Sight word readers taught on 3 levels - created by a Sight word readers created by a parent with a child
parent of a child with Down syndrome. with Down syndrome.
Love and Learning Down Home Learning
Sight word program – video/DVD Sight word readers taught on 3 levels. Created by a
parent of a child with Down syndrome.
Developing Child
Love and Learning
A flash card sight word program for early learners
Sight word program – video/DVD
Flashcards from Geddes Productions
Special Offspring Series
Flashcard program that can be customized
Developed by a parent with a child with Down

POPS Resources
Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County
Online literacy and math activities to download. Video/DVD Reinforcement
eReadingPro LeapFrog
Your Baby Can Read

Developed for Typical Learners, Used with Cueing - Another Visual Aide
Success in Some Children with Down Syndrome Visual Phonics
Hooked on Phonics Cued Speech
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons Tucker Signing Strategies
Phonics based
Your Baby Can Read Other recommendations for visual learners
Sight word program Fletcher‟s Place
Thrass Picture Me Reading
Jolly Phonics
Reading Reflex Resources
For teaching children with Down syndrome to read:
Online Reading Programs How to Teach Your Baby to Read by Glenn Doman
Starfall Successful method for children up to 3 years of age
Early reading based on word families Teaching Reading to Children with Down
Syndrome by Patricia Oelwein
Online Picture Symbols - Visual Aides in Reading program for children of typical school age
Reading The Development of Literacy Skills in Children
Do 2 Learn with Down Syndrome: Implications for Intervention
A wealth of picture symbols Margaret Snowling, Hannah Nash and Lisa
Beyond Autism, PECs, pictures, icons pages Henderson
A compilation of sites for picture symbols

Picture Symbol Software

Writing With Symbols
Picture It

Appendix C

Math Curricula Suggestions

Math skills are difficult for most children with Down syndrome. A great place to start in your research about
number skills and Down syndrome is found in Down Syndrome Issues and Information - Number Skills
Development. It is now online and free!

The following list is a compilation of resources used by parents with success for children with Down syndrome.
Feel free to e-mail me with any questions or suggestions.

Math Resources

Finger Math Math-U-See

Also known as Chisenbop or Chisan-Bop Developed by a father who has a son with Down
The Complete Book of Fingermath, Edwin M. syndrome
Lieberthal, Fingermath International, ISBN:
0070376808. Shiller Math
Tutorial Montesorri- based learning
Teacher intensive – long learning profile but
successful. Software Reinforcement for Learning

TouchMath Math Master

Kumon Math Essential Skills

If you have a Kumon Center near you, take
advantage of their expertise! Video/DVD

Teaching Math to People with Down Syndrome and Mathtacular

Other Hands-On Learners K level math concepts
Book One and Book Two
By DeAnna Horstmeier, Ph.D. Backyard Math with Zac
First grade math concepts
Recommended by The Down Syndrome Dr. Finkle‟s Math
Educational Trust. Can be purchased through their DVDs and CDRs
store in the USA.
Online Math Activities to Download
Mastering Mathematics
Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County

Appendix D

Curriculum Resources
This list came about from a need to find solutions to my daughter‟s learning problems. I needed to search
outside the world of homeschooling and delve into special education materials. I have included a few
homeschooling companies that have useful materials for children with special needs.

Curriculum Resources
Bob Jones University Press
Adapted curriculum for children with Down Resources for Information
syndrome at the K4 & K5 levels of learning.
Send me an email for further information. Special Needs Project
Remedia Publications Brookes Publishing
PCI Education Woodbine House
Attainment Company
Bright Apple Special Education Educational Materials, Manipulatives
Steck-Vaughn Educational Insights
Handwriting Without Tears
Writing Program Bargain Hunting
Mastery Publications Don't forget to check for bargains! I've found some
Math, language, writing programs great bargains below.
Different Roads to Learning
Curriculum, flashcards, software, games mainly
targeting children w/autism but good for all visual Book Closeouts

Appendix E

Software Recommendations
As we all know, children with Down syndrome are primarily visual learners. Software can be a fun way to
make learning meaningful and reinforce skills. This list is just a starting point and complied from
recommendations by parents with children with Down syndrome.

Software Recommendations
Edmark Software - now at Riverdeep Birdrock Software/DVDs
Affordable software,
Reading software
The Learning Company Love & Learning
Reading Software
Laureate Learning Systems
Educational Software for children with special Developing Child
needs. Very pricey but some programs may help A flash card sight word program for early learners
pay the costs. They are willing to send a software
demo. Flashcards from Geddes Productions
Dorling Kindersley Picture/word flashcards - can be customized
Educational software
Essential Skills
LinguiSystems Wide variety of educational software
New line of software for speech, language and
communication issues. Edmark Reading Program
Reading (sight word) curriculum for children with
IntelliTools special needs.
For children with special needs.
Lexia Learning
Different Roads to Learning Phonemic awareness, phonics and decoding skills
Targets children with autism but good for all visual
learners. Flash Series
Sight words and more!
Variety of software for children with special needs Math Software

Earobics Math Master

Help for auditory processing Learn basic counting skills, addition and subtraction

All-In-One-Language-Fun Touch Money

No longer available from the distributor but can be
occasionally found on ebay Picture Math

Here is a good place to check out reviews for Be sure to shop for bargains! Often times a good
software before you purchase: Software Reviews bargain can be found on eBay.

Appendix F

Resources for Speech, Language and Communication

Speech, language, communication and auditory processing issues are almost universal in children with Down
syndrome. As a homeschooling mom with a child with Ds, I'm very interested in learning all I can about how to
help my daughter deal with these issues.

While we do use a professional speech therapist, I supplement what our therapist does with resources I've found
with the companies below and thought I would share.

Speech, Language and Communication Super Duper Publications

Janelle Publications
Pro-Ed, Speech, Language & Hearing Catalog
ECL Publications
Great Ideas For Teaching
Laureate Learning Systems

Appendix G
Resources - Homeschooling and Down Syndrome

These resources will educate the homeschooling

parent about Down syndrome, their unique learning Gross Motor Skills in Children with Down
needs to deliver targeted interventions, and take the Syndrome by Patricia C. Winders, P.T
mystery out of therapies.
Fine Motor Skills for Children with Down
Syndrome by Maryanne Bruni, BScOT
Teaching Math to People with Down Syndrome and
The Riverbend Down Syndrome Association Other Hands-On Learners by DeAnna Horstmeier,
A wealth of information about how children with Ph.D. Book 1 and Book 2
Ds learn and a homeschooling folder.
Teaching Reading to Children with Down
The Down Syndrome Educational Trust Syndrome by Patrica Oelwein
Publishes research about Down syndrome from
around the world. Mental Wellness in Adults with Down Syndrome
by Dennis McGuire, Ph.D. & Brian Chicoine, M.D.
Books and other Materials (not just about adults)

Down Syndrome Issues and Information My ebook Homeschooling Children with Down
Syndrome compiles much of the information and
Effective Teaching Strategies for Successful research available - one stop shopping and it's free!
Inclusion: A Focus on Down Syndrome, published
by the PREP Program

The Source for Down Syndrome Written by

Catherine I. Chamberlain & Robin M. Strode

Early Communications Skills for Children with

Down Syndrome by Libby Kumin, Ph.D.

Classroom Language Skills for Children with Down

Syndrome by Libby Kumin, Ph.D.

Helping Children with Down Syndrome

Comminicate Better by Libby Kumin, Ph.D., CCC-
SLP (ages 6-14)