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Five Instructional Strategies for Children with Down syndrome

IMG_4153Children with Down syndrome are capable learners who are excited and eager to learn. They just need to be given the opportunity to excel. They may learn at a slower pace, but are more than capable of learning. They are strong visual learners. This means that they understand what they see better than what they hear.

Children with Down syndrome have specific points associated with their learning development:
1. They are visual learners.
2. They understand a lot more than they can say.
3. They are able to follow classroom rules and routines.
4. They need help to remember instructions – use shorter phrases or visual clues.
5. Teacher’s expectations of behavior, attitude and ability should be high.
6. Children with Down syndrome can learn. However, we need to make compromises so that their educational needs can be met in the classroom. Since they are visual learners, teaching reading to students with Down syndrome should be characterized by a strong emphasis on visual learning. Visual demonstrations, pictures and illustrations can also be successfully used to assist in providing effective instruction in other subject areas of the curriculum. Lessons in phonics should be included in the curriculum for the learner with Down syndrome.

The use of manipulatives can be beneficial in the development of number concepts. The use of physical demonstrations and activities are important when teaching math concepts.

Students with Down syndrome generally demonstrate good social skills, which can be utilized to increase learning and teaching opportunities. When speaking to a student with Down syndrome, it is important to speak directly to them using clear language and short sentences. You should allow adequate time for the child to process what you have said and respond. Positive reinforcements should be used for students with Down syndrome to boost their self-esteem and positive learning experience. This should be done both at home and school.


  1. Michelle Quinn on March 27, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Thanks for this excellent short list of instructional strategies. As an SLP who supervises graduate students in a university clinic setting, some of whom serve preschoolers with Down Syndrome, it is validating to know what techniques are shown to work well in other settings. Thanks for sharing!

    • disha daga on August 28, 2014 at 4:27 am

      Thank u so much for sharing this.. being a mother of a downs baby I always worried about his education and his future.this will definitely help me..

  2. Jennifer Riley on January 30, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    My daughter is in 5ht grade but is 13. The school district does not seem to understand the importance of consistency and after the winter break she had difficulty with her behavior being aggressive towards her friends. The school decided to switch her from one ONE on ONE TA to 3 different TAs in a day and things are really getting unpredictable she tests boundaries. I also have the children who are use to seeing her with one TA, asking why they are changing things at school and they feel less safe. Do you have any advise as my daughter has a behavior plan with strategies listed in her IEP but the school seems to ignore them. We are meeting with Administrators on 2/3/15 and we have facts to review – every year they change her TA, we have behavior issues and they refuse to allow us to state that she needs ONE consistent TA in her IEP. Do you have any advise? Our daughter is very high functioning and she is the highest of the 6 other children in the classroom where she receives CORE SUPPORT so each year it is a struggle for us to get the expectations to be higher than the others. We refuse to send her on the “shopping, banking and movie” field trips that the others attend because we tell them school is for learning to read, write and do math – not for life skills at this stage of the game. Our daughter reads at nearly a 4th grade level so we have high expectations and school is for academics not life skills. An IEP is just that – an individual education plan and we should not have to lower our expectations just because the rest of the case load is less able – each family has its own strungles/goals. We would love some help with this ongoing battle!

    • J. Litton on August 6, 2016 at 2:10 pm

      Scholing is to prepare students for life, therefore, it is life skills training. Field trips are authentic learning showing students how the skills learned in school are used in life outside of school. Therefore, the importance of field trips connected to what is being learned in school. Therefore, academics equals life skills training. Reading, writing, math is all used in your life outside of school, therefore, again, life skills training.

    • Jessica Graves on August 10, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      I hate to say this, but bring an advocate or lawyer to the IEP meeting with you. Both if possible, it sends a message that you will not allow your child’s education to suffer for the sake of making it easier for them.

      • Jim Stevens on October 16, 2017 at 1:28 pm

        I would be careful with this advice. Often times those who bring this kind of intimidation create a hostile relationship that isn’t beneficial for the student. My advice would be to have a strong relationship with those involved in the students education.

    • Griselda Rendon on September 1, 2016 at 6:21 am

      Hi Jennifer, my name is Griselda I have a daughter with down syndrome too she will be 12 in october. My daughter she is really high functioning too, but I’m really concern about how school is not giving her the right tools for her to grow academecly.please I need your advice I really need it, I haven’t been able to sleep just to think about what else I should do. Please help!!

    • Maryam Thomas on March 6, 2018 at 6:54 pm

      Did you guys do a reading program? how did you teach your child to read? Ours is going to 4th grade and is still at CVS reading.

  3. Cree Nutrition on April 26, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    Thanks for finally talking about >Five Instructional
    Strategies for Children with Down syndrome – Quad Cities –
    Down syndrome achievement center <Loved it!

  4. Aimee Hidrogo on September 6, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    What are ways I can do to help my kids at work that have down-syndrome to do better in school, home, life?

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