University of Edinburgh

'Deaf Plus': a look at the learning implications of additional difficulties

Friday 24 February 2006

Cecille McKinnon

Down's syndrome Scotland: Accessing the Curriculum

Inhibiting factors

A child with Down's Syndrome may have:

  • Delayed motor skills - fine and gross
  • Auditory and visual impairment
  • Visual spatial delay
  • Speech and language impairment
  • Short-term auditory memory deficit
  • Shorter concentration span
  • Difficulties with consolidation and retention
  • Difficulties with generalisation, thinking and reasoning
  • Sequencing difficulties
  • Avoidance strategies
  • Low motivation and use of skills

Facilitating factors

Children with Down's Syndrome:

  • Have strong visual awareness and visual learning skills;
  • Have the ability to learn and use sign, gesture and visual support;
  • Have the ability to learn and use the written word;
  • Model baheviour and attitudes on peers and adults;
  • Learn from practical curriculum material / hands-on activities
  • Favour peer tutoring
  • Enjoy the company of their peers



  • task
  • pacing
  • timing
  • response


  • non-ambiguous
  • relevant
  • simple
  • minimum verbal


  • motivates
  • discourages perseverance
  • promotes generelisation and adaptability

Familiar - promotes

  • confidence
  • independent working
  • freedom from 1:1 tuition
  • time for preparation and planning


  • meaningful
  • worthwhile
  • purposeful
  • motivational

Visual - verbal only may be forgotten, so:

  • demonstrate
  • pictorial representation
  • support verbal with words and numerals
  • provide permanent model

Basic - one focussed aim:

  • analyse the task
  • identify and build on previously learned skills
  • break down all tasks into small, graded steps
  • set short, achievable tasks

Reinforce - reinforcement opportunities should be:

  • sufficient for obtaining fluency
  • distributed over time
  • cumulative as more skills are learned
  • varied to promote generalisation