Monday 29 December 2014

Mainstream school will help our children become independent

Two mums, whose children have Down Syndrome, speak about how important interaction with peers is to their development...

Linda Daly

Published 18/08/2014 | 14:56

Adam Cowzer and Amy Conroy, aged five, pictured at the launch of Marks & Spencer’s partnership with Down Syndrome Ireland (DSI) for the back to school period. Down Syndrome Ireland collection boxes are situated at till points in selected M&S stores in the children’s department until the end of August, raising money towards DSI’s education programme

Adam Cowzer and Amy Conroy will be going into senior infants in mainstream school in September. Both five, the children attend schools in Lusk and Rush respectively.

Amy’s mum, Sinéad Conroy, says she made the choice to send Amy to mainstream school because she has mild Down Syndrome.

“I just want Amy to be independent. I think [mainstream education] is very important, and would love for her to stay up with the curriculum, to be independent and to [continue to] socialise with the other children. I would be so happy if that happened.”

Amy’s entrance into mainstream school has gone brilliantly, according to Conroy.

“Her classmates adore her. She’s like the queen. She arrives in and the whole school knows her. They have a great buddy system in the class. Every day somebody goes to the sensory room with Amy. The kids love it.”

Children with mild Down Syndrome aren’t entitled to resource hours. However, Amy’s school does provide her with a few hours each week.

“She gets help from the play side, and with her writing skills and reading. She gets about three hours a week and absolutely loves going there.”

Because he has mild/moderate Down Syndrome, Adam wasn’t eligible for resource hours either when he started school, but mum Jillian Doyle fought for them before he started school. A couple of months after starting he received the hours on account of his hearing loss.

“The main reason I wanted Adam to go to mainstream was because he copies and learns a lot from his peers. It will make a difference to his life to see what normal social interaction with other children is,” says Doyle.

Rush National School, which Adam attends, has made a huge difference to his progress. He started school with fewer than 10 words, and uses Lamh sign language and picture exchange communication system (PECS) to communicate. His teacher, resource teacher, SNA and even the principal have learned signing, and have taught it to the children in Adam’s class.

“It’s brilliant the way the teachers invest so much time and effort into Adam, and it’s paid off hugely,” says Doyle.

The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) has published a guide for parents and guardians of children and young people with special educational needs on choosing a school. It is available at www.ncse.ie.

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