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Reading for children with Down's Syndrome

Discussion in 'Special educational needs' started by sarahlat89, Oct 19, 2018.

  1. sarahlat89

    sarahlat89 New commenter


    Reception teacher in mainstream. I have a little girl with Down's syndrome in my class. Could anyone point me in the direction to good resources to help her learn to read/recognise letters? We use jolly phonics which she enjoys copying. She wears bifocals and has cerebral visual impairment, so I know it will be a lot of repetition and using big, bold lettering. Any advice/experience would be great.

  2. dzil

    dzil Occasional commenter

    Is she working at the same cognitive level as the rest of your class? (Apart from her corticovisual difficultly)
    What language level is she working at? What level is her oral language and comprehension?
    Does she have enough working memory to process synthetic phonics? Synthetic phonics takes a great deal of memory, especially in the early stages.
    Not trying to be difficult, just trying to get an understanding in the hope that I can offer some appropriate suggestions.
    I taught literacy in a school for children with severe learning difficulties. I found that sometimes you may need to use less conventional methods to support children in the early stages
  3. sarahlat89

    sarahlat89 New commenter

    Thanks for your reply. She has very limited language and we use makaton with her, her understanding is also very limited.
    She is extremely visual and enjoys copying, which is why jolly phonics suits her well, but I don’t believe she has retained any sounds so far.
    This first term we really focussed on her settling in and adjusting to routines etc so next term I want to move onto first steps academically. I am also unsure how to support mum and dad with reading at home and any advice would be much appreciated.
    She absolutely loves listening to stories and looking through books independently.
  4. CarrieV

    CarrieV Lead commenter

  5. dzil

    dzil Occasional commenter

    I would recommend that you download the free primary education support pack from the UK Downs Syndrome Association, particularly unit 5 on teaching reading.


    You may need to use a logographic approach, ( whole words by sight or their visual pattern.) before you progress to using phonics in order to develop her language and comprehension skills. Although I would continue with the Jolly Phonics approach as she enjoys it and she will need it to develop her reading in the future.
    Research suggests that due to hearing and articulation difficulties, many children with Downs Syndrome find using phonics to support reading difficult until about year 4, but whole word reading and developing their visual language can mean they are reading well before this with full understanding if a limited lexicon.
    I would also want to explore further exactly what effect the cerebral visual impairment means for your young charge . It usually implies that although the visual pathways are functioning, the brain is not yet able to fully interpret the visual messages. If this is the case then you may need specialist help to support her reading, as reading is a visual language which requires quite sensitive cerebral recognition and interpretation!.
    Flanks likes this.
  6. KimBolger

    KimBolger New commenter

    In my role as specialist teacher for Complex Learning Needs I have worked with a range of children with Down Syndrome of different ages and abilities. We introduced the Reading Language Intervention (RLI) as part of a project. We carried out the assessments at the start and end of a set period of time. All the pupils made progress in the various components of the programme including phonics and sight reading. Definately take a look
  7. morrisseyritual

    morrisseyritual Occasional commenter

    Tactile books with vivid illustrations are great for pupils with the focus-maintenance requirements particular to many children with Downs Syndrome.
    I obtained a few Peter Lowe Publishing books - near A4 hardbacks on fairy tales, everyday life and mythology stories - from the 1980s. The “Wizardology” and other books with felt covers from Bloomsbury are good too.
    I also found proprioceptively compromised pupils love read along books of which Dorling Kindersley do many.
  8. dzil

    dzil Occasional commenter

    Dorling kindersly books are good for browsing. Their "white space" is good for helping focus and navigate around the page without too many distractions.
    Books and tapes can be helpful too, but never as good as being read to one to one by an adult (or peer!)
    Do keep an eye on the comprehension level of books you want your pupil to read for themselves though. Remember that your little girl has lower than expected comprehension of spoken language, so reading things she can't understand will not be helpful.

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