Teacher needing help supporting a pupil with Down Syndrome

“I need some help to support a new pupil to my class who has Down Syndrome. What should I focus on?”

This is a common question we get asked a lot from teachers. It happens mostly before the new school year, but as many families move house throughout the school year, we often get it mid-term. Often, a teacher may be getting a new pupil into her class that has additional needs, which she, and perhaps the school itself, are not fully ready to cater for.

There are resources and options available to schools, but very often getting access to these can take time, during which the pupil, teacher, and parents are left with ‘best can do’ at the time. (Good communication, co-operation and patience between the parents and teacher are key to making things work)

Based on this gap between getting access to resources eventually to help a pupil, vs getting the right type of information and tips to help them NOW, we have hand picked some courses on our online training system specifically for teachers (or SNAs) who need to support a child with Down Syndrome.
(Think Netflix for special education courses).

FIRST STEP: Check their communication system
Ask the parents if their son or daughter is a Lámh user, or if a SLT has prescribed a low-tech or high teach communication aid. (THAT’s the starting point).

o If they are a Lámh user, please register on one of our Lamh Module One courses. It is best if the child’s SNA also gets certified in Lamh Module One also so that the main adult communication partners of the child are proficient.

o If the child’s SLT has advised them to use another type of communication device, it is useful to understand what AAC is. For this, take our AAC101 class.

o If it is a preschool, Junior Infants, or the child has genuine difficulty advocating for their basic needs to others, as the parents to prepare (or you help them create) a Communication Passport for them. (The Communication Passport course is free to all, so you can share it with parents)

o If the pupil is a young child or has communication issues, take the Communicating Pain course. This will give you the tips and techniques to help communicate with a person who does not yet have the communication tools to let you know they are hurting.

After this step, you will have the plan to be able to communicate with them in the way they find the best.

NEXT STEPS: Take these courses, in this order. (Or pick a-la carte as your needs dictate during the year).

Down Syndrome 101

This training course will cover:
• What is Down Syndrome
• The scope and range of Down Syndrome
• Co-morbidity and what it means
• Early intervention
• Typical accommodations to support a pupil with Down Syndrome in school
• Techniques that help generally

Communication Passports

If there is ever a ‘Silver Bullet’ item, when done well, that can help family members, teachers, SNAs and carers to work together to ensure a child is given the best chance – this is it. If you have not needed to create one for your pupil yet, bookmark the link for future use.

AAC 101

This overview of AAC devices will help you learn the different types of systems.

You will learn about the pros and cons to both the Light and High tech systems.
You will learn that no one system may suit, and to realise the importance of the student’s autonomy.
You will also cover the considerations that should be used for ACC.

It will also give pointers on how you can help and assist an individual who is learning to use their AAC device.

Behaviour 101

Once you understand how behaviour works, and how you filter other people’s actions, it helps you in turn, to better understand them.
Once understanding has started, then helping the other person becomes easier.

How you interact with a child (regardless of the circumstances, events at the time, or if they have additional needs or not) has a major impact on them, and how they will see, and engage with you in future.

Our wonderful presenter, Jacci, from Jacci Jones Coaching calls the steps needed to understand all this, an ‘Exploration of Behaviour’.

In this course, Jacci helps us explore the main aspects of behaviour through the following steps:

  • Ages and Stages of Development
  • Self Esteem
  • Drivers of Behaviour
  • L.E.A.V.E. Approach
  • 3 Principles

We would strongly recommend anyone who is interested in this topic, or as pre-requisite for viewing a follow on topic such as “Challenging Behaviour in the classroom”.

The following courses you can pick a-la carte, depending on the age of the child, their specific needs at that time, etc.

For PRESCHOOL – Primary school.
(You will need to use your knowledge of the pupil and their ability and maturity level to guage if the below approaches could help them).


What is Attention, and how can we help kids ‘tune in’?

This short module explains what attention is, what factors can eat up a child’s ‘attention’ space, and what you can do to help kids tune in.

Communicating Pain

Being able to successfully communicate the source of, and even cause of, pain is vitally important in a young child or a person with communication issues. Take this course if the pupil you are supporting is not easily able to communicate to you when they are hurt or having discomfort.

Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation. We all need it. How do you encourage it with someone who has difficulties? This can be a big ask for adults, but in structured environments, such as schools and preschools, we expect it from young kids.

Creating, Teaching and Using Visuals

How to create, and use visuals PROPERLY to help the child in your class, person in your service, or loved one at home, communicate with others – AND reduce anxiety and frustration. (For everyone!)

This course which is created and delivered by a Senior Speech & Language Therapist (SLP in the USA) covers the steps required to create and support someone who cannot speak for themselves, by using Visual aids.Although this may seem straight-forward, doing it properly involves a lot of ‘Light-Bulb’ moments and insights which are not normally apparent.

Restorative Practice

Joe Power is the Restorative Practices Development Officer for Limerick and is an accredited RP trainer.

He has worked in the area full-time for the last number of years. He has experience delivering training in both primary and secondary school settings and has demonstrated restorative circle practice within classes in both.

He has also delivered training to pre-school and third level settings, as well as to youth services and residential care centres (he previously worked 18 years in that field).

He has previously worked for Le Cheile Restorative Justice program in Limerick with young offenders, and also employs the principles and practices with his own children and his own life on a daily basis.

He has written extensively about restorative practice, it’s implementation and the barriers that sometimes exist in his website blog http://www.restorativepracticeslimerick.ie/blog. This is his first On Demand training on RP.

If, after completing the course, you would like Joe’s assistance in helping and coaching your group or school through the steps to implement and embrace RP fully, please contact him at:

Mindfulness 101

Presented in a light-hearted, direct style, the purpose of this course is to share the information on mindfulness, and then for you to decide for yourself how you want to use it in your life.

It will give you an understanding of what mindfulness is, and how you use it.
So you can use mindfulness yourself.
So you can teach others.

What is mindfulness?
Evidence base
Core features of mindfulness
Thoughts vs facts
Controlling your auto-pilot.
Unhelpful thinking styles.
Guided meditations

Managing Stress and Work life balance

You can’t pour from an empty cup.

This course covers how awareness of how we think and feel about events that happen to us contribute to our levels of stress. It is aimed to get you thinking, and reflecting on how you perceive stressful situations, with the view to using this to help you manage these events.

The course topics cover:

Ego States
What are Ego States. How they contribute to good communication, or create conflict and stress

Life Script
What is a Life Script. How does it impact how we react and approach things. How can we change the script?

Drama Triangle
The Drama Triangle. What it is. How we move through it, and how it can mean it can create stressful situations for you (but perhaps not for someone else).

There are other courses which you can take as needed, which you can find here if you wish. However the above are the key ones which we have recommended in the past, and which teachers and SNAs in this position have found most useful. You can also get access to these for 1 year by getting one of our Down Syndrome Pack subscriptions (below).

A 25% discount is automatically applied if you get 2 licenses, 30% for 3, etc.

This is to encourage the pupil’s TEACHER, SNAs and any other key communication partners in the school to get access to the learning so that they can help make the child’s school experience as memorable and enjoyable for them as possible.

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