Reading Programs for Children with Down Syndrome

Studies have shown that children with Down syndrome CAN learn to read at an early ageAND that reading can become strength in their learning [Read more…]

New Research indicates Children with Down Syndrome need more therapy

Young children with Down Syndrome need more speech therapy. New research funded by the National Institutes of Health indicates that children with Down Syndrome may need more early intervention in vocabulary acquisition than other intellectually disabled peers.  In the study by Paul  J. Yoder & Tiffany G. Woynaroski, from Vanderbilt University, and Marc E. Fey & Steven F. Warren from University of Kansas, the children with Down syndrome had a greater delay in vocabulary acquisition than other children with Intellectual Disability not due to Down syndrome. While the authors were not able to prove that the children with DS could ‘catch up’, the study did show that the children with DS did benefit from five hours of intervention over one hour.

Spotlight on typing

Many school districts as they adopt the Common Core Curriculum are introducing individual technology to the classroom, like Ipads and laptops. Redondo Beach USD is bringing in Chromebooks and LA Unified will replace their Ipad program with Chromebooks next year. Many of these programs require kids to learn to type, and so now there is a new skill that is required to access the curriculum in these schools.

We know that technology can improve access to the curriculum for our kids but the Chromebooks are limited in what can be loaded on them. Is this individual technology capable of being individualized for kids with special needs? Whether Chromebooks or Ipads, it all depends on the apps that are available in the app store. This is a useful video about Chromebook apps for students with special needs. There are several voice or speech-to-text programs that allow students to ‘write’ by speaking to the Chromebook.

I realized a couple of years ago that HANDwriting was always going to be a chore for Magnus. It was never going to be an easy way to keep track of things or communicate with a friend for him. So I got a lot of advice. The best advice came from Terry Brown as always. She said Magnus needed to express himself in writing. I was also advised by Lila Schob at Club 21 to find alternative ways of writing – letter blocks, stamping, cut out bits of paper. My thought was what better alternative than typing?

Like walking and talking, writing is a major life skill which is hard for our kids to learn because it involves both intellectual and motor challenges. Writing is VERY important because like reading it gives you access to learning and like talking, it gives you access to communication. Look in any 2nd – 5th grade classroom – the way that the kids demonstrate their learning is through writing.

I started to ask about typing. Many people said that Magnus’ fine motor skills were not sufficiently developed to learn typing. I started trying out kids typing programs and I have tried so many I thought it would be good to share my reviews with you.

Looking at all these problems I can see why our OT and teachers were reluctant to teach Magnus typing. Because most typing programs teach TYPING, not writing. The focus is on getting the right finger to the right key. Let me ask you – do you type this way? I don’t and I was taught it at school. No way are our kids going to learn anything that involves typing gfg jkj 20 times!

Read Write Type from Talking Fingers (online subscription is $35 for 5 years, $55 for 2 students)  is a great program that teaches phonetics and putting words together as well as teaching. It’s a fun game and kept Magnus at the computer for 30 minutes. His little brother who is 4 completed the whole demo in one sitting. There is a free demo.

We also liked Keyboarding without Tears (1 year license is $6.50 per student) . Access also gives you the program on an ipad app. This is a great program if your kids have been doing Handwriting Without Tears as it still focuses on the letter shapes, and is more forgiving than the HWT app Wet Dry Try (and try and try again until you are in tears). Free demo . 

Our school also introduced us to a program called Clicker 6, which is not a typing program per se but is a writing program. It is revolutionary and we have really enjoyed using it but it would be good to have some parent training on creating grids for the stories. It is too expensive to buy at home but the ipad app can be used as a standalone program. We have been using Clicker Connect ($30.99) and are still hoping to explore the other 3 available apps.

Mickey Mouse was not a success here. $10.99 for a download (whole family can use it!) Even though my kids love Mickey Mouse and watch the Club House endlessly, they will not listen to Mickey if he is telling them to type fgf jkj. Sorry Disney.

BBC Dance Mat has the big advantage of being TOTALLY free, thanks to the UK tax payer. My older son aged 11 enjoyed it and got a lot out of it but it was too complicated and tedious for Magnus.

Type to Learn 4 was recommended by our school OT, but the home license costs $40, so I didn’t buy it. They claim that 97% of school districts own it so if you are looking to buy the same one as they have at school, this is it until chromebooks.

Chromebooks can access web based programs like Read Write Type, and have their own typing program for elementary school children called Typing Club . Fjf fjf fjf – Very boring! But its free! All you need to do is download the Chrome browser on your PC and you can try all the apps that will be on the chromebook for free. There are other typing apps including typing kung fu, typing scout and typing tutor.

Assistive Augmentative Technology – AAC, talkers, writers and ipads

Are you interested in using technology to help your child communicate?   AAC ranges from expensive dedicated devices used to assist and teach communication to simple apps you can put on your phone.  But many school districts will avoid discussing it because they believe it is expensive and because they lack training in working with the devices.

The Assistive Technology Exchange Center in Orange County provide assistive technology assessment and training services to anyone with a disability (they are part of Goodwill OC).  Check out their website.

Also in OC TASK has a Tech Centre where you can learn about assistive technology and try out computer hardware, software, and adaptive equipment.  (They are opening one in South Gate – watch this space!)

Why do all the useful conferences happen at the same time?  The 9th Annual Assistive Technology Institute Conference

will take place on February 2nd in Costa Mesa the very same day as the annually awesome Club 21 Tools for the Journey conference on Inclusion in Pasadena.

We can’t be in two places at once but if you are interested in using technology, particularly AAC and iPad this is the conference for you.  Check out their website for the list of speakers and vendors attending.


Webinar on using an iPad as an AAC device.

This webinar from Apraxia Kids might be useful especially for those interested in using an iPad as an AAC device.

Drumming for Development: How Drumming Helps Children with Special Needs

Drumming for Development: How Drumming Helps Children with Special Needs

Using drums for a child’s social, emotional, motor, and cognitive development

Supporting Feeding & Oral Development in Young Children

Support Feeding & Oral Development in young children with Down Syndrome, Congenital Heart Disease and Feeding difficulties.



Learning to bite and chew foods efficiently is influenced by the sensory properties of the food and it’s placement in the mouth. As with any new skill, progress is determined by the specific challenges presented by the food and the degree of success achieved by the learner. The challenge for the parent or therapist is to select foods that offer a “just right” challenge and a high degree of success for the child who is developing these skills. When the challenge is too great, the child will revert to familiar movement patterns that may be inappropriate for handling the food, or be at risk of gagging, choking, or aspirating un- chewed pieces. Fear and low levels of success will convince the child that learning to chew is dangerous or not worth the effort involved. Limits in food choices and textures result, creating overall limits in the child’s ability to function freely in society.


From Milk to Table Foods: A Parent’s Guide to Introducing Food Textures

Learning to eat foods, from the first bites of baby cereal to regular table foods, is a long process. For children with Down syndrome, learning to coordinate tongue and mouth movements from the first bites of baby cereal to eating table foods takes longer and can cause parents concern.

Disability Solutions 3-3

Strategies to address challenging behaviour in young children with Down syndrome

Children with Down syndrome are at an increased risk for engaging in challenging behaviour that may present problems within community, leisure, and educational settings, and, in many instances, precludes them from accessing these environments. Factors contributing to the occurrence of challenging behaviours include characteristics associated with the Down syndrome behavioural phenotype, increased incidence of illness and sleep disorders, and the way in which individuals in their environment respond to their behaviours. In this paper we describe the use of behaviourally based intervention strategies to address some of the specific challenges often seen in young children with Down syndrome. Through a series of case studies, the effectiveness of evidence-based interventions addressing challenging behaviour is demonstrated.

Strategies to address challenging behaviour in young children with Down syndrome