Early Intervention Program
(Birth to 6 years)
These programs are designed to maximize the potential of the first six years of life when a child’s brain develops rapidly. Although there are differences in the brains and bodies of people with Down syndrome, caused by the overdose of genetic information from the extra 21st chromosome, they serve the same purposes, and develop the same sequence, as typical brains and bodies albeit with differences that prevent them from working the same way as people without Down syndrome. By intervening early, we can help children with Down syndrome meet their potential in all domains of development: fine motor skills, gross motor skills, cognitive skills, social skills, communication skills and self-care skills.
(Birth to 2 years)
All infants receive physical therapy at scheduled sessions once or twice a week by a pediatric physical therapist who also develops a home program for the caregiver to follow the rest of the time. A dedicated caregiver is crucial to the successful implementation of the program. The child must have a trusting partnership with his or her caregiver in order to thrive and learn. Caregivers must attend every session where we coach them on how they can establish this trusting partnership while practicing skills in all domains. Interaction is the basis of all learning and is the key to the success of the child. Caregivers are encouraged to practice skills during the daily routine (eating, bathing, changing, getting dressed), and while playing with the child in a fun, interactive way. Sensory experiences during all these activities provide opportunities for learning what things are, what they are for, and how they work.
(2 to 3 years)
When infants reach the age of 2, they transition into the toddler program that is in session 4 hours a day, 5 days a week. Caregivers participate in the classroom as teacher assistants and learn teaching techniques and learning activities that they can practice at home. Toddlers participate in whole group and small group activities, and each toddler receives one-on-one instruction. We focus on using gestures and words to communicate, listening and participating during story time, social interaction, playing with peers and toys, and learning and practicing eating skills. Toddlers receive physical therapy until they walk well, and all toddlers participate in activities, designed by the physical therapist, to learn and practice motor skills. We begin toilet training at this stage.
(3 to 6 years)
Preschool classes are in session 4 hours a day, 5 days a week. Each classroom is staffed by a teacher and an assistant, and the services of physical and occupational therapists and speech-language pathologist are available as indicated in the individualized education plans. Children participate in whole group, small group, and one-on-one activities. They follow illustrated classroom rules and class schedules to transition from one activity to the other and understand the sequence of events.. Communication skills are practiced during all activities, and children who are not using words learn to communicate by using hand signs. An extensive variety of skills are taught throughout the program. Cognitive skills include learning colors, working puzzles, discriminating shapes, reading their own name and counting up to 5. Fine motor skills include cutting with scissors, drawing lines and circles, and coloring within lines. Social skills include introducing oneself, greeting peers and familiar adults, taking turns, cooperating in group activities, and making friends. Gross motor skills include running, riding a tricycle, walking on balance beams, walking up steps while alternating feet, and climbing on playground equipment. Self-help skills include using a spoon and fork, drinking from a cup, brushing teeth, washing and drying hands, and using the bathroom independently.
School Academic and Functional Programs
The School Programs consist of five programs:
(1) Elementary, ages 6 to 9;
(2) Intermediate, ages 9 to 12;
(3) Secondary, ages 12-18;
(4) Community-Based Vocational Training, ages 16+;
(5) Supported Community Employment, ages 18+, for trainees who are employed in the community.
Classes meet 5 days a week, 5 hours a day.
Curriculum: What we Teach
The comprehensive curriculum applies academics to learning and performing the functional skills that are useful and meaningful to the student—skills that have a direct, practical, and current application to the student’s daily life. Attainment of these skills is relevant to the students' current environments and increases their ability to function with independence and competence.
Assessment: How we Know What to Teach
The Applied Academic/Functional Assessment is used at all levels. It is comprehensive and includes the range of skills that are functional from childhood to adulthood. Each individual student is assessed only on the skills that are relevant to him or her at the time. These are skills for which the student has an immediate and ongoing need. In addition, the student must have the ability to attain the skill, and the skill should be age-appropriate. Each student will need only one assessment form that will last throughout the student’s school career. It is an ongoing record of the student’s progress in attaining these skills.
- Applied academics include: reading, writing, and spelling; math; science; social studies; religion; and vocational training
- The functional domains include: self-management skills; social skills; communication skills; and recreational and leisure skills
This assessment is the working tool that provides information about the student’s current performance in each functional domain and each academic subject that is taught at his or her grade level. Based on this information, and the next sequential skills that are relevant to the student, the student’s educational team determines his or her goals and objectives and develops an Individualized Education Plan.
(6 to 9 years)
Children learn to function with competence in the classroom. They learn to follow the daily schedule and rules, recognize their feelings and express them using words, make choices, play board games, and use scripts to answer social questions. The reading program is personalized, and students first read about themselves and their family, with content that will help them to answer social questions. A unit about their school is next—the name of their school, their teachers, and their classmates, the schedule, the rules, and the games they play. From there, students have a book for certain units of study—this “textbook” enables them to practice and remember the content. Each student keeps a “word bank” of all the words mastered, so he or she can compose sentences with the words and look up the spelling. Students progress through the math program and use math when playing games, in physical education class, determining the number of students present and absent, setting the table, counting. Children start physical education classes conducted by a physical education specialist and designed by a physical therapist.
(9 to 12 years)
Students build on the knowledge gained in the elementary years through increasingly complex units of study. Examples include weather conditions, geographical landmarks, animal and plant classifications, food groups, and serving sizes. The students’ reading program is continued as they are exposed to a more extensive vocabulary and textbooks for each unit of study. Math expands to include counting by ones, fives, and tens, adding and subtracting using objects, telling time, and basic currency skills. Children continue to take physical education classes conducted by a physical education specialist and designed by a physical therapist.
(12 to 18 years)
The secondary curriculum expands to include biology, human anatomy, nutrition and fitness, civics, and geography among other subjects as outlined in each student’s individualized education plan. Students plan their breakfasts, prepare market orders, shop, pay for the food, and store it properly. They prepare and serve their breakfast each day, practice good table manners, wash dishes and clean up afterwards. The physical education curriculum is expanded to include aerobics, basketball, soccer, strength building, running, and calisthenics.
Community-Based Vocational Training
Vocational skills and preparation for the on-site training are included in the school curriculum. Students receive on-the-job training in businesses who are ‘Partners in Education’ with the Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz Schools for Down Syndrome. Our vocational trainers conduct the on-site training. Students in the vocational training program are trained to perform different jobs. Trainees can choose from jobs that are available to them when they graduate from school.
Supported Community Employment
Students who are employed in the community receive on-going support from our trainers until they are 21 years old. Although they have been trained and can perform their jobs with the supervision that is provided at the workplace, they need support in learning new tasks that are added to their workload, as well as help in meeting new situations and challenges as they occur.