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|The Learning Program|
Inspired by 30 years of research conducted by Down Syndrome Education International, The Learning Program was developed by the Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County (DSFOC) in 2004 to teach parents to be effective first teachers for their children with Down syndrome. Today we know more than ever about the cognitive profile of individuals with Down syndrome. Strengths include visual learning, reading, and social skills. Weaknesses often include speech and language, and verbal short-term memory. The Learning Program is an innovative program that delivers evidence-based educational support to children, parents and teachers with the goal of improving the overall development and academic success of children with Down syndrome using the results of this research.
At DSANV's monthly classroom sessions, instruction and materials are shared with parents, while in the children's classroom, children work on literacy, math, fine motor, and communication skills in small groups. A professional from our local school districts leads each group, together with volunteers from the school districts, local special education degree programs, and our Northern Virginia community. For the youngest age group, ages 2-4 years, parents and children remain together for small-group instruction at each of the three professionally-led learning stations.
"We have taught many children with Down syndrome to read from 2 years of age and we are quite convinced that it is the single most effective way to help children overcome the learning difficulties associated with Down syndrome. All the early readers we know have made exceptional progress through school and into teenage life. All these children have been taught reading and language side by side by their parents in their preschool years. It is not difficult to teach children with Down syndrome language through reading, and most children would succeed and benefit if those around them had confidence in the value of reading and worked consistently in small steps." - Sue Buckley and Gillian Bird