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Information – Education
Children with Down syndrome can learn the same things that typically developing children learn, both formal school learning and the wealth of informal learning that goes on whilst at school. Having an intellectual disability means that learning everything takes a bit longer. It is harder for most children with Down syndrome to grasp new concepts than it is for their classmates, and it can take more effort to retain new knowledge and skills and also to be able to apply them in different situations and contexts.
While all children with Down syndrome face challenges in their learning, there are many things that can be done to support success and our education support team is here to help.
Studies indicate that appropriate education delivered in inclusive settings offer the best opportunities for children with Down syndrome. Inclusion in typical classrooms is more likely to produce significant gains in expressive language skills and academic success, predominantly in literacy. The implication for parents is that they should seek inclusive, welcoming education placements for their children from preschool years.
However, the benefits require successful inclusion from committed schools. Unfortunately inclusive placements are not always easily or readily available or there may be barriers which prevent successful inclusion. Although all children have a right to be educated in an inclusive setting, difficulties can sometimes mean that families decide not to pursue this option.
Whether a child is in mainstream or special school setting, maintaining high expectations of both academic achievement and behaviour will help ensure that a student has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. Like all of us, people with Down syndrome tend to conform to the expectations of those around them, and if there is no expectation of success, they are unlikely to be successful.
The School System in WA
While we would all like to make the “right” decision and stick with it, remember that it is always possible to change schools. Be guided by your child, and how you feel their schooling is progressing.
Schools offer a variety of assistance for children with special needs. This assistance may directly support your child, or indirectly support your child by assisting the teacher. Government Schools use a programme called Schools Plus to calculate the support and resources allocated to each child with special needs within a school. Therapy Support will continue throughout your child’s schooling, although a change in therapy provider will occur when your child enters Year One.
Most children with Down syndrome are able to attend their local school. As good planning takes time it is best to begin the enrolment process 12 months before your child is ready to start school. All children with a disability are entitled to attend their local school.
Catholic Education Office of WA http://internet.ceo.wa.edu.au/Pages/default.aspx
Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia http://www.ais.wa.edu.au
Special Education / Education Support
These schools offer structured and specialised programmes for children with a disability. There are generally three types of Special Education available in Western Australia :
Education support units are found within mainstream schools and are under the control of the principal of that school. They generally cater for students with the lowest level of support requirements and who integrate with the mainstream students for some of their educational program.
Education support centres are smaller facilities that are located on site at a mainstream school but operate independently with separate administration. Students may be integrated into the mainstream school for some programs.
Education support schools are dedicated to the education of students with disabilities. They generally cater for students with the greatest level of disability and support requirements, however most education support schools now provide Early Intervention programs for 3-5 year olds where children can attend full time or part-time and spend the rest of the week in a mainstream school. They may also have satellite classes which integrate children into a nearby mainstream school.
Education Support schools may also offer programmes for 0-4 year olds if demand exists and funding is available.
To search for education support schools you can use the advanced search page of the Department of Education website. Just select ‘Education Support Schools/Centres’ from the ‘School Type’ drop-down box.
You may also consider home schooling to be the best educational option for your child. The School Education Act (1999) requires parents who choose to educate their child at home to apply to District Office to be registered as a home educator.
Home Based Learning Network of WA www.hbln.org.au/
Home Schooling and Down Syndrome by Jaime Baxter
How to Home School a Child with Down Syndrome by Tiesha Whatley