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. Challenges 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. In 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. Professionals from local school districts lead each group, together with volunteers from 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. DSANV became an affiliate partner of the Learning Program in 2009 when we launched our pilot program. Now in our eleventh year, we serve children ages 2-10 years, have three levels of classes, and have 45 families enrolled. We meet one Saturday morning per month at a church in Northern Virginia where individual classes last 60-90 minutes. Applications for the 2019-2020 session are no longer being accepted. Inquiries about a wait list for 2019-2020 should be directed to email: For more information on the program, and access to free downloadable program materials in both English and Spanish, please visit the Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County.

  TLP Tuition Payment

The 2019-2020 session program dates are:
  • September 28, 2019
  • October 19, 2019
  • November 16, 2019
  • January 11, 2020
  • February 8, 2020
  • March 14, 2020
  • April 18, 2020
  • May 16, 2020
  • June 6, 2020 

Eyes open up when a child with Down syndrome enters kindergarten able to read.”Dana Halle, Creator of the Learning Program

i. Down Syndrome Education International
ii. Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County

DSANV The Learning Program Graphic“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

“The old view was that Down syndrome caused equal delay across all areas of development. We now know that this is not true. Research has identified a specific profile of developmental strengths and weaknesses in children with Down syndrome. We are also learning that there is a huge capacity to positively or negatively impact development through intervention.”(Sue Buckley, Online Presentation, January 2010).

“We want our children to be embraced by the community. We want our parents to feel empowered, not overwhelmed. We want our parents to be able to work with the system, not be shut down by the system. We are here to support you.”Dana Halle, Creator of the Learning Program