Insights from Existing Research Evidence

Literature Review

Existing research evidence indicates the possibility of placing children with Down’s syndrome into mainstream schools. Furthermore, research evidence (Cunningham et al., 1998), even though scarce, shows that placing the children in mainstream education may lead to positive academic outcomes and increase their chances of socially interacting with their ‘normal’ counterparts, thereby making useful friendships that extend beyond normal school interaction. Consequently, according to Van et al. (2014), these pieces of evidence have led to an increase in the number of children with Down’s syndrome seeking placement in mainstream schools.

Earlier evidence by Lorenz (1995) indicates that in some parts of the United Kingdom, there was an 80% and 50% inclusion of children with Down’s syndrome in secondary and primary schools respectively, even though this could not have been the case elsewhere. However, research also reveals how parents in many other areas have put an effort to gain placement of their Down’s syndrome-affected children into mainstream schools. In fact, Lorenz (1999) estimated that out of the 315 parents who have gained access to mainstream schools for their Down’s syndrome-affected children, 29% have reported how they experience many challenges with the school staff of the local education authorities.


Children with Down’s syndrome can take part in some activities with minimum support. However, Van & Gillon (2014) argues that they can only achieve maximum benefits when they are provided by classroom assistants or when they are accompanied by support teachers for a better part of their learning times. Furthermore, Lorenz (1998) suggests that teachers would need to modify some tasks and adopt them to the needs of the affected children.

Whereas there is clear evidence that the children would require some level of support throughout the day within the classroom setting, that practice is largely discouraged. According to De Graaf & Van Hove (2015), all children would benefit from periodic non-supervision because it allows them to interact freely and socially interact with their peers. However, it may be impossible for the teacher to deliver a balanced curriculum without disadvantaging the other group of students.

In another nationwide survey, it emerged that children with Down’s syndrome in the UK’s mainstream schools have learning assistants supporting them for 20-27 hours per week (Lorenz, 1999). The survey showed that 58% (in primary schools) and 61% (in secondary schools) of the children represented in the survey had the greatest support during assembly, dinner, and break times. The survey also revealed that 25% and 18% of the children in primary and secondary schools respectively were involved in active lessons such as music, drama, and physical education. Worryingly though, 2-3% of the children were unsupported during their academic lessons. This empirical evidence from the survey data confirm the views of other parents that the Local Education Authority support their children receive only tend to respond to the school’s anxieties and local policy rather than responding to the specific needs of the affected children. Hence, according to Porter (2018), most Local Education Authorities operate under a non-customised policy, thereby exposing children with Down’s syndrome to a standardized education system with no targeted support or assistance. Consequently, those with no special needs tend to be over-supported, and this hinders their independent learning (Schwab et al., 2016). Contrariwise, those in need of more support may be transferred to a more specialized setting against their parents’ wishes, yet such problems could have been overcome.

Surprisingly, there is a similar picture of support in both primary and secondary schools despite the population differences in the country. Burgoyne (2012) observed that children with Down’s syndrome could find placements in mainstream schools if their parents or family members persistently sought opportunities from local schools. Besides, according to Dolva et al. (2010), only the able children can get placement in Local Education Authorities.

Teamwork towards Inclusivity

Existing literary material has highlighted some empirical evidence on how to effectively include children with Down’s syndrome in mainstream education while achieving the optimum positive educational outcomes. For example, Eredics (2018) argues that teamwork and coordination is a vital aspect of inclusive education, and that to effectively support children with Down’s syndrome in an inclusive class, teachers should work together in ensuring that withdrawal is minimized while giving the children as much access to normal education as possible.

The theme of teamwork is also highlighted in the literature by Kumin (2012), who asserts that teachers should encourage the children to be as independent as possible and to enhance their cooperation with other children in the classroom. Ideally, positive results would only be achievable if teachers coordinate with their support staff, and when they develop some sort of flexibility that helps them address the needs of the children (Lorenz, 1998). As Lorenz (1996) also asserts, an alert support assistant who continually prompts the children or gives an immediate response to the child’s needs may inhibit the child’s independence. This justifies the need for flexibility.

An ideal scenario, therefore, is where the assistant only intervenes when there is a problem and regularly engages with other students who may be in need of help. While parents may become irritated when they find that the time dedicated to their child’s support is spent on another child, this approach may be more beneficial in the long-term than when the child is accorded continual support (Masoudi & Queen’s University, 2008). In such a scenario, the teacher would be free to have direct interaction with the child while giving the child an opportunity to interact with their peers too.

De Graaf & Van Hove (2015) observed that in some UK secondary schools, younger students with Down’s syndrome are increasingly receiving support by being assigned more than one assistant. This is especially more effective when there is proper communication among the support staff, and when each support staff is placed within their specialty of practice. According to Van et al. (2014), despite still being uncommon, this approach may be advantageous in avoiding an unnatural close relationship that sometimes develops between the child and care assistant and helps in avoiding stress for children whose support assistants could leave.

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Van Wouwe, J.,P., Helma B M van, G., Verkerk, P. H., Paula, v. D., & Fekkes, M. (2014). Mainstream and special school attendance among a dutch cohort of children with down syndrome. PLoS One, 9(3) doi:

Van Bysterveldt, A., & Gillon, G. (2014). A descriptive study examining phonological awareness and literacy development in children with down syndrome. Folia Phoniatrica Et Logopaedica, 66(1-2), 48-57. doi:

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  • de Graaf, G., & van Hove, G. (2015). Learning to read in regular and special schools: A follow-up study of students with down syndrome. Life Span and Disability, 18(1), 7-39. Retrieved from
  • Porter, J. (2018). Entering aladdin's cave: Developing an app for children with down syndrome. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 34(4), 429-439. doi:

    Schwab, S., Huber, C., & Gebhardt, M. (2016). Social acceptance of students with down syndrome and students without disability. Educational Psychology, 36(8), 1501-1515. doi:

    Burgoyne, K. (2012). A reading and language intervention for children with down syndrome: Teacher's handbook.

    Dolva A., Hemmingsson H., Gustavsson A., & Borell L. (2010) Children with Down syndrome in mainstream schools: peer interaction in activities, European Journal of Special Needs Education · August 2010.

    Eredics, N. (2018). Inclusion in action: Practical strategies to modify your curriculum.

    Kumin, L. (2012). Early communication skills for children with down syndrome: A guide for parents and professionals. Bethesda, MD: Woodbinehouse.

    Masoudi, N., & Queen's University of Belfast. (2008). Inclusive Education for Pupils with Downs Syndrome in Northern Ireland: Indicative Cases and Current Issues. Queen's University Belfast.

    Webster, A., and Carter M. (2007). Social relationships and friendships of children with

    developmental disabilities: Implications for inclusive settings. A systematic review.

    Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability 32, no. 3: 200–213.

    Cunningham, C. Trends and outcomes in educational placements for children with Down syndrome. European Journal of Special Needs Education. 13 (3), 225-237.

    Lorenz, S. (1995) The placement of children with Down's syndrome: a survey of one northern Local Education Authority. British Journal of Special Education. 22(1), 16-20.

    Lorenz, S. (1999) Making inclusion work for children with Down syndrome. Down Syndrome News and Update, 1(4), 175-180. doi:10.3104/practice.149

    Lorenz, S (1998) Children with Down's Syndrome. London. David Fulton, London, England.

    Lorenz, S. (1998) The Support Assistant's Survival Guide. Manchester Stephanie Lorenz.

    Lorenz, S. (1996) Supporting Support Assistants. Manchester. Stephanie Lorenz.

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