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Supporting Children with Medical
and Mental Health Needs at School


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Down’s syndrome is a life-long genetic disorder which affects a baby's normal physical development and causes mild to severe learning difficulties. Down's syndrome is also known as trisomy 21.

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  • Children who are born with Down’s syndrome have an increased risk of additional health complications such as congenital heart, sight, and hearing problems. 
  • Downs syndrome occurs in about 1 in every 1,000 live births in the UK. 
  • It is not clear what causes Down’s syndrome but it seems the single biggest risk factor is the age at which a woman gives birth; the greatest risk (1 in 30) is associated with women who are 45 years of age or over.

Supporting students with Down's syndrome

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  • Individual learning support for each student with Down's syndrome will be different depending on their physical and developmental needs. 
  • Some children and young people will have an EHCP identifying their physical and learning needs. 
  • Low muscle tone can lead to difficulties controlling some body movements. 

Classroom organisation

  • Class seating plans should take account of individual needs such as hearing and sight difficulties.  
  • Advice from an occupational therapist on the correct positioning when working at a desk will help a student develop what works best for them. 


  • Access to a speech and language therapist will help teachers develop a programme tailored to the needs of the individual.   
  • When giving instructions, be clear and limit to one or two steps at a time. 
  • Signs and symbols can help with communication. 
  • Visual reminders will help with processing information.
  • It can be very helpful if peers also learn to sign.

Learning needs 

  • Some children with Down's syndrome will learn to read at the same rate as peers without Down's Syndrome. It’s very important to have equally high expectations. 
  • For some children with Down's Syndrome their reading ability will be more advanced than verbal communication skills. It’s important that differences in rates of development do not limit progress. 
  • Development of writing skills will generally follow the same pattern as other children but may be delayed.

More information

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HOPE (Hospital Organisation of Pedagogues in Europe)