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Homeschooling Your Child With Down Syndrome

Momto4 recently left a comment on a February post from this blog:

I had my daughter in public school, she is 6 in kindergarten and has down syndrome. They haven't a CLUE what they are doing. I was very disappointed in their lack of teaching. I will be homeschooling her and it will be interesting as I have never done such a feat. Is there anywhere one could go to help start off in kindergarten for my little girl? Is the curriculum the same? So many many questions. I do know this, anything is better than what we have now.

Since there might be other parents with this same problem, I thought I'd post my response here, where they can find it easily.

Momto4, I admire you for taking matters into your hands once you became unhappy with your daughter's schooling experience. Pro-active parents are the best asset a child with a disability can have.

Every child with Down syndrome has unique abilities and unique needs, and that's why I did not use a specific curriculum with my son with Ds, who is now 15. Having homeschooled three older children, I could see that my son was not at or near grade level in scholastic subjects at age 6. I decided instead to test him (using a test I rented for a very reasonable cost from HSLDA). There weren't any surprises in the test results because I'd been working with him since he was 3 or 4, but you might find such testing very useful for you and your daughter. It will give you an idea of where to concentrate your efforts.

Anyway, after testing him, I continued working with him as I had since he was small, using my own IEP to chart the path we'd need to follow at his speed. We read many, many books, he practiced his printing every day, and we played lots of board games that stressed the different skills he needed.

For example, he had real problems grasping numbers conceptually. He could recite numbers but did not understand what they meant. We played the game "Trouble" once or twice a day and that helped him understand what "six" meant, because that's the best number to get in that game. BTW, I frequently found the best educational games (sold in teacher stores) discounted at TJMaxx and Marshalls. For my son, educational games where he learns by using his hands instead of just sitting and listening are a real blessing.

My son is speech-delayed, like many children (especially boys) with Ds. I sat in on his sessions with the speech therapist and imitated what she did with him at home on a regular basis. We could not afford thrice-weekly sessions, which had been recommended, but at least this way he was getting daily speech practice. One of the most effective methods of working on speech sounds with him was something the therapist taught me: he'd say a word or sound and I'd reward him with a puzzle piece. So he had to make 100 sounds to get all the pieces of a 100-piece puzzle, and then we'd work on the puzzle together. (We still do this at least once a week, because he really enjoys it.)

In addition to working on his letters, number concepts and speech, we did lots of artwork, including working with crayons, paint, stampers and clay. He loved this, and it was a nice break from the "school" work. We also got him out in nature by going on bike rides (we used a third wheel attachment on my husband's bike because our son loved to run off and we didn't want to teach him to ride a bike on his own, thus helping him get away from us more quickly!) Visits to parks, zoos and the aquarium also widened his horizons.

One more thing we did as part of his "school" was to teach him how to work around the house. He'd seen the older kids doing their chores and wanted to be like them, so this wasn't hard. In fact, he's been a very eager helper. He also likes to work with his dad in his workshop. (I can still picture him at around age five or so driving nails into a piece of wood with great intensity.)

You've asked for specific materials that will tell you what to do with your daughter. There have been several books that helped me learn how to work with my son, and I will list them in a subsequent post. In the meantime, I've asked another blogger who homeschools a daughter with Ds to answer your question. You'll find her post here.

The bottom line, Momto4, is that you are really doing something wonderful for your daughter. Homeschooling her will mean she will get much more one-on-one instruction, or "face time" as I like to call it. Not only is that much better for her, but it will help you learn more about how she learns. She'll also be able to avoid the negative effects of school socialization, such as picking up bad habits and being bullied because of her disability. And, of course, the bottom line is that you know her better than any teacher can know her, so she's getting a teacher who knows her well and wants the very best for her. I think your daughter is very fortunate to have you for a mom.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like Book List for Homeschooling a Child with Down syndrome

© 2008 Barbara Frank


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