Teaching English to students with Down’s syndrome

According to the Scottish Down’s Syndrome Association, Down’s syndrome is the most common form of learning disability. It is caused by the presence of an extra chromosome.

Children with Down’s syndrome vary as widely in their development and progress as typically developing children. Regarding development, Vygotsky defined human beings as complex and multifaceted. In this context, we should not focus on whether a student has a disability or not.

We all have different timings when it comes to developing. Although it is true that people with Down’s syndrome may take longer to reach a certain stage of development  and stay there for longer, I have experienced the contrary. I once had a student who had better results than the so-called “normal” ones.

However, there are certain factors that are typical of many children with Down’s syndrome, and being aware of which they are is important in order to include these students. Therefore, I have brought some contributions from the Down’s Syndrome Association and the Scottish Down’s Syndrome Association.




Strong visual awareness and visual learning skills including:

■ Ability to learn and use sign.

gesture and visual support.

■ Ability to learn and use the written word.

■ Modelling behaviour and attitudes on peers and adults.

■ Learning from practical curriculum material and hands-on activities.




■ Delayed motor skills – fine and gross.

■ Auditory and visual impairment.

■ Speech and language impairment.

■ Short-term auditory memory deficit.

■ Shorter concentration span.

■ Difficulties with consolidation and retention.

■ Difficulties with generalisation, thinking and reasoning.

■ Sequencing difficulties.

■ Avoidance strategies.


It is important to highlight, though, that these do not necessarily apply to all people with Down’s syndrome.


Part of the information found here was taken from these websites:

Down’s Syndrome Association www.downs-syndrome.org.uk

Scottish Down’s Syndrome Association www.sdsa.org.uk

Antonio Coutelo

Antonio Coutelo - Graduated in Portuguese and English Languages by the Catholic University of Pernambuco (2009), holds an MSc degree in Language from the Catholic University of Pernambuco (2012) and is now pursuing his doctoral degree. He currently lectures at the Catholic University of Pernambuco and researches the following subjects: foreign language, English, deaf, teaching-learning and Brazilian Sign Language.

  • Luke Baxter
    Luke Baxter
    Posted at 12:48h, 26 setembro Responder

    Dear Antonio,
    Thank you very much for this post. As the father of a daughter with Down’s syndrome, it is good to know that good teachers are bearing in mind the kind of struggles someone with DS might have.

    • Antonio Coutelo
      Antonio Coutelo
      Posted at 12:54h, 26 setembro Responder

      Dear Luke,
      Thank you very much for the feedback.
      I hope my posts inspire other teachers.

  • Paola
    Posted at 11:58h, 31 março Responder

    Hi! I am doing some research because Im teaching a group of students that is mixed. Would you divide the group or how would you work? Im asking because this is my first time. I teach English by the way.


  • Marcel a Cuomo
    Posted at 13:08h, 25 agosto Responder

    I teach English as a foreign language and Iam interested in teaching to Down’s sindrome People. Where can I get more info? Thanks

  • Marcel a Cuomo
    Posted at 13:09h, 25 agosto Responder

    I teach English as a foreign language in Argentina Iam interested in teaching to Down’s sindrome People. Where can I get more info? Thanks

  • Erika
    Posted at 13:58h, 04 setembro Responder

    Hello. I’m teaching English in 5th grade as a foreign language. I have a student with DS. How do I teach him English. I want to find atractive and interesting activities for him. Thank you

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