Downs Syndrome and Inclusion

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Evidence suggests that a very significant proportion of children with Down syndrome could be placed successfully in a mainstream school. Research data, although still somewhat limited,[1] indicates that such placements lead to academic as well as social gains and increase the chances of the child making local friendships that extend beyond the school day. These facts have lead increasing numbers of parents to seek an inclusive placement for their child. In some parts of the country[2] over 80% of primary and 50% of secondary aged children are already included, although the picture is very different elsewhere.[3] In all too many Local Education Authorities, parents still have to put up a fight to secure an adequately funded place in their local school. From the current sample of 315 parents who have succeeded in gaining a mainstream place for their child, 29% report difficulties with either the Local Education Authority or the school itself. While a majority of children with Down syndrome are able to take part in at least some activities with little additional support, maximum benefit will only be obtained if the child has access to a classroom assistant or support teacher for much of their time in school. Further, tasks will need to be modified and adapted to ensure that they are relevant and appropriate.[4] While there clearly are students for whom only minimal support is required throughout the day, the practice is not generally recommended. All children benefit from some time without direct supervision, enabling them to gain in independence and mix socially with their peer group. On the other hand, it is not possible for a busy class teacher to deliver an appropriately flexible and differentiated curriculum on their own, without disadvantaging the rest of the class. A nationwide survey recently carried out by the author indicates that the majority of children with Down syndrome in mainstream schools are supported by a learning support assistant for between 20...
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