Jacob, a child with Down Syndrome, enjoying a family holiday and browsing in shops, like any other 5 year old child wouldJacob looking at books and watching TV at age 6 years - Down Syndrome doesn't stop normal development, but social attitudes do. - Jacob, a baby with Down Syndrome - Jacob at one year of age

Kids with Down Syndrome Or Other Disabilities and their Education:

Contents this page:

  • Introduction to schooling kids with Down Syndrome;  Kids with Down Syndrome in Special Schools – Down Syndrome Education option 1;
  • Kids with Down Syndrome being home schooled – Down Syndrome Education option 2;
  • Kids with Down Syndrome in Normal Schools – Down Syndrome Education option 3;
  • Goals for people with disability in the education system;
  • Kids with Down Syndrome in Normal Schools – Junior Primary;
  • Funding, behahaviour modification and integration in Junior Primary School;
  • So what can we say about a Down Syndrome education?;
  • Why do I say “The school is broken and needs fixing”?;
  • Down Syndrome Schools – Down Syndrome Education option 4;
  • HELP NEEDED – Can you help this school bullied teenager, who also has Down Syndrome ?

Introduction to schooling kids with Down Syndrome

One of the biggest decisions that parents of kids with Down Syndrome or other disabilities face, occurs when their child is old enough to go to school.

With trepidation more often than not, I think, the consideration of how our kid is going to be treated by other kids, as well as by their teachers, causes us a great deal of unease.

Kids with Down Syndrome in Special Schools

– Down Syndrome Education option 1

Some parents opt to send their child to a special school. There the kid has better teacher pupil ratios, the teachers have specialised training to handle kids with disability. The kids are more closely monitored, so bullying should be much less. The kids are all in the same boat, so friendships may be easier to form. They believe the kid will be happier there with less demands being placed on them and so on. Essentially the view is that the kid just can’t cope with normal school.

Kids with Down Syndrome being home schooled

– Down Syndrome Education option 2

Another option is home schooling. The parents don’t believe that their kid will do well in a normal school and, some hope that their kid will learn more through being schooled at home. The problem of bullying is almost non-existant, but so too are the opportunities to integrate with their age cohorts.

We home schooled one of our boys because he was bullied at school, I can add that my son was able to learn more and learn it faster, he also developed an inner strength by being around us, so that when he decided to go back to school, he was ahead of his class and he stood up to the bullies and stopped being bullied.

Home Schooling needn’t be expensive. When we home schooled, we looked around and found out from other parents who home schooled about schools that offered primary school by correspondence. The one we opted for was a Christian one with a strong academic perspective and graduated learning exercises. It worked well. We also found out that the public ( government run ) primary schools through out our state also offered distance education to those who could not attend school for any reason – we never needed to look, but it worked out well with what we did.

I looked around for cheap educational software and purchased quite a bit, which all our kids have used to help themselves along – in primary school and high school. You can often pick up cheap educational software, that is still popular in the shops and where it would have cost 5 to 10 times more in the shop to buy. A cheap source of help when home schooling.

Kids with Down Syndrome in Normal Schools

– Down Syndrome Education option 3

So, what did we choose for Jacob? We have chosen with much trepidation and concern to try to have him schooled in a normal school. We know he will be able to learn to read, write, do maths, Japanese …

Can it work? Yes, provided there is adequate support to help him to learn and to protect him from bullying … Joseph Hornyak, year 2004: A Down Syndrome kids gain much by participating in a normal classroom setting. By providing appropriate services in the classroom setting [ such as extra support in the classroom and playground, classroom materials designed for use with a kid with Down Syndrome and so on ], they will learn to read and learn to do many other things that the other kids do – perhaps not as good, but they will learn and continue to improve.

We don’t know how Jacob will eventually go in normal school. We know of one kid with Down Syndrome who was schooled normally in the same school as Jacob several years ago, that kid was bullied very badly by other students – we know this, as our sons would come home with horror stories about how she was teased at school in lunch or recess to the point where she would loose the plot and become violent to her abusers. In the end the kid was eventually placed into a special school, while her abusers remained in the normal school, but we don’t know exactly why she left the school. So, you can see what we are up against in just the playground alone, let alone difficulties with excursions, in classes, in sports …

Goals for people with disability in the education system:

Our goal is to maximise Jacob’s independence in the school. Empower him to function well in the school environment.

Obviously, the funding agents of the school will want to try to minimise funding to the least amount possible – regretably a fact of life. To achieve this they may try pointing out all the problems the kid will have coping with school – use this to argue that the kid could not cope with a full day of school … At this point, the need is to challenge their attitude by turning every element of opposition into grounds for additional support. Vigilance of what’s going on is so important I think.

The nitty gritty. Top needs: Support in playground. Jacob needs one worker assigned just to him, until we know what goes on there. Integrating him with his classmates is going to be vital, if he is to enjoy going to school. Also, the school has to enforce, with the cooperation of the Down Syndrome Society, a procedure to deal expediently with bullying of those with Down Syndrome: If a kid makes fun of a Down Syndrome kid, or bullies them, the entire class that the ‘bully’ belongs to is immediately educated on Down Syndrome, to try and minimise the prejudice by building up understanding and acceptance.

Toileting support to maintain toilet training and help out with accidents if they occur.  Most Down Syndrome children wont be toilet trained until about half way through their primary school education.

Educational needs: One to one support until we know how he is coping in the class room.

Full time education to begin with. No one can say his disability will prevent him from coping with a full day of school, as it is not, as yet, a fact.

Our argument: He’s school ready. He’s been in Kindergarten for 18 months, there is no more money for support in the Kindergarten. Therefore, we have to have a solution to make school a success.

We are not going to let them make us feel guilty, with arguments that they only have so much money and it has to be spread around. If you notice, on this site we have Documents of Revolution, social revolution. We need to understand that our kids have rights too. One of those rights is the right to partake in a normal education. Intelligence tests were originally made for one purpose, to deny kids with intellectual disability, lower IQ, the right to partake in a normal education system – Intelligence tests were designed first and foremost as tools of discrimination .

We didn’t ask to have a kid with a disability, it happened. Would you accept the argument from a hospital that due to financial cutbacks, your ‘normal’ kid who was just hit by car and lays dying has no right to see a doctor for treatment? Would you stand up and say “My kid has the right to live?” See my position?

Kids with Down Syndrome in Normal Schools – Junior Primary

Funding, behahaviour modification and integration in Junior Primary School

These are the three big issues that I see you may encounter in educating your kid with Down Syndrome or other disability in a normal primary school. There is a strong emphasis on Down Syndrome kids developing on task behaviour and requiring less supervision, so as to reduce the funding costs of their education while in the school system. This is a good thing, as they are therefore normally developing in a way that enhances their integration and independence within the school. The problem is when things go wrong.

If your kid with Down Syndrome is typical of kids with Down Syndrome, then they will likely have problems with their speech in Junior primary school – by the way, being in normal school has greatly enhanced Jacob’s speech – and they will therefore tend to retalliate through biting, hitting, scratching when they are hurt or disrespected by others. It is important to realise that such misbehaviour is an interaction process, that is more often than not caused by other kids interacting with them, for example, by taking something off them.

Even so, the behaviour is inappropriate and needs to be addressed, as does the behaviour of the other kids concerned. For now, I will focus just on the kid with Down Syndrome. When these behaviours of your son or daughter with Down Syndrome start to raise themselves, the appropriate course of action is to encourage behaviour modification.

Behaviour modification works very well with those with Down Syndrome. If your school has this in place and running and supports it in every way, your kid is likely to outgrow those misbehaviours. If on the other hand the school has very little going into behaviour modification for your kid, you are possibly at the beginning of your kid’s integration break down within the school. Essentially the school is broken and needs fixing.

If the school gets more funding for your kid, is funding being diverted to more supervision or is it to develop and implement a suitable modification program? If it’s the latter you are looking OK, if it’s the former, you may need to seriously start asking the hard questions and contacting advocates that may help you, because if it is extra supervision with out behaviour modification, then when the funding is eventually reduced, your kid with Down Syndrome may find themselves on the fast track out the school door.

Supervision doesn’t necesarily correct behaviour, it may just contain it while the supervision is there. Part of the behaviour modification within schools needs to include teaching appropriate ways of responding to bullies and accidents in the playground, otherwise your kid may end up extremely abused by other students – your kid may cop the blame too, if they retaliate against the abuse directly. Schools and school teachers can be very legalistic and without compassion and understanding, if your child has such a teacher or is in such a school, you may need to choose a better school, as the school is broken and needs fixing.

The old attitude that bullying strengthens character has resulted in an enormous payout to one chap who had his whole life destroyed because the teachers failed to act to protect him in the school yard. So don’t accept the character building argument at all, the law courts don’t.

So what can we say about a Down Syndrome education?

Is it Down Syndrome Education Option1, 2 or 3? 

In a good supportive school, option 3 appears the best.

After we moved Jacob to his new school, he was very happy and is learning really well.  His teacher and support workers are very supportive of him and his special needs.  Jacob also has lots of friends his own age, with and without disabilities there.

One year after moving over to his new school, one of the workers that has worked with him for several years, stated how much changing schools had benefited Jacob – more happier, more co-operative and more obedient particularly stood out to her.

If you had no alternative school to the broken schools, then option 2 may be the better way to go.  Although this Down Syndrome education option has some big draw backs – so much time needed to teach, to find resources, having to find alternative ways to build age peer relationships – but at least the child isn’t being segregated off from the world if it’s done right.

The Down Syndrome education option 1 is barbaric and has no real place in a civilized society.  However, if you don’t have the time and the schools your child can attend are broken, then this may be the best option for you.  Don’t feel guilty, I imagine very few parents have the time nor the access to resources to pursue option 2.

Why do I say “The school is broken and needs fixing”?

It’s an answer that many don’t pick up on. They may here words like the “child’s school placement has broken down”, “Your child should be in special education, where they can help him more” … which really puts the blame, intentionally or not, on the child with Down Syndrome.

By saying “The school is broken and needs fixing”, I am putting the responsibility back on to the school where it belongs; they have failed to meet the needs of the child in the education system.

The child has not failed, the school has failed.  The school needs to perform better, so that the child can do well.  IT IS NOT THE OTHER WAY ROUND!

OK, there is a Down Syndrome Education Option 4:

Down Syndrome Schools.

Down Syndrome schools are few and far between.  Down Syndrome schools, as the name implies, are schools set up purely for those with Down Syndrome.  The Down Syndrome schools are normally highly specialized in Down Syndrome teaching and take into account the other common disabilities that go hand in hand with Down Syndrome, such as hypotonia and visual problems.  Sometimes the Down Syndrome school will work in with other schools, so that the child with Down Syndrome attends the Down Syndrome school part time and a normal school part time.

Where do I see Down Syndrome Schools?  Well, that’s a hard one.  Down Syndrome education in normal schools often entails periods of training in small groups or one on one for limited times each day away from the classroom, but still in the school near the classroom.  Many children receive this type of “special attention” in normal schools, so it’s not overly a Down Syndrome issue.  Down Syndrome schools are a removal from the normal school, which is segregation, but when done on part time basis with the remainder in a normal school, it becomes a hot topic for debate.

HELP NEEDED – Can you help this school bullied teenager, who also has Down Syndrome ?


I stumbled across your website and thought you may be able to help us. We have a teenager with down syndrome. He has been attending “normal” school for many years and had been doing good and appeared excited and happy to go to school everyday. This year he started high school and has been doing well with grades but we are having some serious issues with him being picked on by his fellow classmates and peers.

[The parent then descibes a series of deliberate acts of assault, acts of degradation and humiliation, with the school apparently failing to fulfill it’s duty of care.  I am leaving these incidents out so as not to identify the parent or student, but it is a living hell for their teenager and for them].

We are thinking of placing him into a strictly special education school and have made a appointment with a psychiatrist. Have you ever had problems like this with your child? Do you think a special education environment would be right for him and what do drs do for down syndrome patients who are depressed?

If you can offer any advice to us at all we would be very appreciative.

Thank you




This is terrible. There are lots I could say, but the bottom line is that your son appears to be badly bullied, the school does not appear to be addressing the issues of the perpetrators who are doing these things to your son. Your son appears to be now reacting to the violence and degradation he is being subjected to in the school.


A one on one support worker while he is in the school to protect him from the perpetrators, at least in the short term, then followed by the gradual withdrawal of the support worker when you feel the situation has been controlled.

Raise the issue with your local DS association and get their feedback.

Teach appropriate social skills to foster better integration.

Change schools – find out which high schools in your area have good anti bullying policies that are enforced and also have good working relationships with the intellectually disabled – your DS association may be very helpful in this regard.

The issues you have raised are so extremely important that I will post this on my web site with identifying information REMOVED and invite others to offer suggestions. Perhaps someone else has been there before and found a way to deal with it, or perhaps can offer a few words of support.

Hope this all helps.

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