About the MDSC Center on Inclusive Education (CIE)

At the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress, we are acutely aware that students with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities benefit when education professionals and family members collaborate. With a keen understanding of the importance of this collaboration, the MDSC has launched the Center on Inclusive Education (CIE) to facilitate the sharing of information and resources in effort to best support students at school.

Education Professionals

In the current educational landscape, education professionals are challenged on many levels. Standards-based instruction has altered the daily instructional practices of teachers, which in turn has a direct impact on the ways that students with disabilities are accessing the general curriculum. The pacing of instruction in the general education classroom does not always align with the specialized instruction that students with disabilities require, and, as a result of this, students are given fewer opportunities to learn alongside their typical peers. Although federal legislation protects a student’s rights to be educated in the least restrictive environment and countless research studies have proven the benefits of inclusive education for both students with disabilities and students with a typical learning profile, research has also shown that without providing adequate resources, the implementation of a successful inclusion model is near to impossible.

Addressing this critical need, the MDSC is committed to partnering with professionals as they design programs for students that will meet their individual educational needs and provide them with the opportunity to be a valued member of the classroom and full school community.

With an intense focus on increasing our impact on the current educational system, the MDSC established the Center on Inclusive Education to create and disseminate materials and tools to promote educational best practices in working with students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including Down syndrome. The MDSC Center on Inclusive Education will lead the way in transforming educational access and significantly expanding the reach and distribution of the MDSC’s best practice expertise in support of students with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Family Members

The Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress believes that informed, involved parents are the best educational advocates for their children with Down syndrome. Although educational advocacy is an incredibly important job for parents, we also recognize that, for some, it’s a very challenging one. To that end, the MDSC offers parents and educators who work with students with Down syndrome accurate resources and information necessary for developing strong educational programs that will meet the individual needs of each student.

In order for your child to receive the high quality education and supports he or she needs and deserves, it is important to build and maintain a strong, positive relationship with everyone who plays a key role in educating your child. We believe children benefit most from their education when parents and educators work together as partners, and each perspective is heard and considered.

MDSC Center on Inclusive Education Resource Materials

The MDSC Resource Library contains a myriad of resources for educators and families from local and national leaders in the field, including MDSC designed content created on timely and pertinent topics. Last year, we continued to add a wealth of education webinar recordings, including:

  • Supporting Speech and Language Development in Children with Down Syndrome Using Multiple Modalities
  • Building IEPs for the Real World
  • Friends Matter! Promoting Friendship and Social Connections At School and During Summer- Webinar
  • Creating Higher Education Opportunities for Individuals with IDD and Autism
  • Curriculum Modifications Made Easy! Webinar
  • Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (MAICEI)- Everything You Need to Know! Webinar

2023-2024 Education Webinars:

Language and Literacy-Access and Opportunities
Presented by, Caitlin Shanley, MS CCC-SLP, Speech Language Pathologist Boston Public Schools

This presentation discusses strategies to provide communication opportunities for children in the early stages of language development and beyond as well as the many ways to increase a student’s access to literacy at all ages. This discussion includes, but is not limited to, discussing early language development tips, communication logs, play, tapping into your student’s interests and motivation, low and high tech AAC use in Play and Literacy, shared reading resources, and how using AI/ChatGpt can support your student/child. Caitlin uses  examples from her classroom and also provide take home resources for families/educators to apply at home and in the classroom.

Building an Inclusive IEP through the Disability Statement and Goal Writing
Presented by, Allan S Blume, Ed.S., Special Educator, Associate Professor of Practice, Educational Consultant

This presentation provides suggestions and practices that educators can embed in their professional IEP writing and that parents might expect in an IEP. Participants will learn strategies for writing an inclusive IEP using the newly updated IEP form, with a particular focus on the impact of the disability statement, determining goal focus areas, formatting goals, and establishing accommodations and modifications. This presentation also informs educators and parents how current practices can crosswalk between the old and new documents.

Access Granted: Increasing Independence and Accessibility for Individuals with Down syndrome
Presented by, Arianna Coles, M.OT, Registered Occupational Therapist

This presentation will use the developmental progression of skills as an outline for supporting children and young adults with Down syndrome with developing independence with their activities of daily living. We will discuss sensory processing as the foundation for all skill development, building on this to learn about how gross and fine motor skills are established, to be followed by the more complex self-care and life skills. Strategies for supporting accessibility and function within each of these stages will be considered, with the goal of providing supporters and caregivers with practical tools to support the needs of their loved ones and supported individuals with Down syndrome.

2024 Educators Forum

Save the Date! The MDSC Educators Forum will return in-person on Wednesday, November 13th, 2024 at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA.

Join over 200 general and special educators, administrators, paraprofessionals, support professionals, and families from around the state for a full-day of presentations led by experts in the field of educating students with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities. Workshops will highlight the goals, challenges and solutions to ongoing issues facing education professionals, as they work to provide meaningful inclusive educational opportunities for students with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities, in all educational settings.

Stay tuned for more information!

Learning Program Boston

Registration for the 2024-2025 program year will open in August. Stay tuned for more information!

The Learning Program Boston is a parent-focused educational intervention program for sharing instructional strategies, resources and activities to improve academic outcomes for students with Down syndrome at home and at school. An affiliate-partner of the Learning Program™, a nationally-recognized model for parent-focused intervention developed by the Down Syndrome Foundation (Orange County, CA) this program is grounded on evidence-based approaches to teaching students with Down syndrome established by world-recognized leaders in cognitive research.

Help your child develop foundational reading, writing and math skills; our parent-focused intervention is grounded on evidence-based approaches to teaching children with Down syndrome between the ages 3-12! Parent workshops track the academic calendar, beginning in September and run through the end of May. Each workshop meets one Saturday a month on Zoom for 90 minutes. In addition, families are invited to two in-person Curriculum Days, which is an opportunity for parents to bring their child to practice and implement all they have learned!

Want to see a preview of what the program entails? Click the link below for information on our 2023-24 program year!

Please contact Carlyn Foreman, MDSC Education Director with any questions at cforeman@mdsc.org

Education Task Force

The Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress Education Task Force formed in 2009 to increase communication and collaboration between Massachusetts’ educators and the parents of students with Down syndrome. Comprised of education professionals, the task force provides quality information and ongoing support to Massachusetts educators and their students with Down syndrome. The group’s top priority is ensuring that students with Down syndrome receive the most meaningful learning opportunities possible.

Members guide the creation of education materials for the Center on Inclusive Education, including the production of a comprehensive Education Manual for teaching students with Down syndrome. The Educators Manual, which has been updated and published as a second edition, is a research-based resource guide that includes information, strategies and best practices for educating students with Down syndrome in inclusive classrooms and schools. The task force members provide the perspective of teachers “in the trenches” and, because of this, work hard to develop a speaker program for our conferences that will meet the needs of teachers working in schools.

In addition, the task force is continually seeking new and innovative ways to provide information to teachers in an engaging, accessible way that takes into consideration the great demands that are already being placed upon teachers’ time. On behalf of the MDSC Education Task Force, we want to thank all those who have already provided their leadership and steadfast commitment to helping students with Down syndrome reach their full potential. We are highly respectful of the hard work of teachers and look forward to future collaborations and productive partnerships.

Meaningful Inclusion Manual

Ed Manual Cover

Looking for summer reading?

The MDSC’s resource guide for educators – “Meaningful Inclusion for Students with Down Syndrome” -, a long-term project by the Education Task Force, provides a comprehensive look at the complex learning profile of students with Down syndrome, as well as providing information around best practices and educational considerations that are based upon research-proven best practices.

The second edition, which is available as a hard copy or digitally, includes current research and sections on grades 7-12 in almost every chapter and considers whether or not the suggestions are applicable to other states and other countries.

From the introduction of the second edition:

More students with Down syndrome are included in general education classrooms K-12 every day. Everyone learns when everyone learns together. Special education laws that fully recognize the benefits of an inclusive education for all students. Educators and parents are seeing first-hand that the inclusive classroom can provide a successful learning environment in which all students thrive and succeed. In fact, research in Britain has shown that students with Down syndrome achieve higher success when they are educated with general education students. (Bird & Buckley, 2001). Not too long ago many educators believed that individuals with Down syndrome could not learn to read, write, or do mathematics. Regrettably, these students were not given the opportunity to learn. Fortunately, times have changed, and doors have opened. With higher expectations, access to the general education curriculum, interaction with general education students, and appropriate supports, students with Down syndrome have demonstrated that they will make significant progress. Today, many students with Down syndrome pursue post-secondary education, meaningful employment and independent living opportunities. Inclusion is easiest when educators rely on each other and actively collaborate with the entire educational team – parents, general and special education teachers, administrators, and related support professionals. Efficient communication and collaboration between the student’s educators makes inclusion work. Some teachers may initially be apprehensive about including students with Down syndrome into their general education classrooms. Experience shows, however, that most teachers have the skills to understand the individual needs of students with Down syndrome and are able to teach them effectively and reflectively. We encourage you to take what you already know, understand the “typical” learning profile of a student with Down syndrome, combine it with the information and resources in our guide, and create a useful, individual program for your own student(s). As Michael Giangreco, PhD, University of Vermont, says, “A big part of successful inclusion is a matter of applying the knowledge and skills you already possess to a new situation.” We expect that there may be difficulties, but we also expect that the rewards will greatly outnumber and outshine the challenges.

Massachusetts-Based Education Resource Parent Program

At MDSC, we understand the importance of peer-to-peer support and the value of personal connections, especially for parents as they work to advocate on behalf of their child at school. When a family from Massachusetts reaches out to the MDSC seeking resources and guidance related to education, they are paired with a trained Education Resource Parent Volunteer who will then connect with the family and provide personal support and applicable resources – including MDSC fact sheets and webinar materials – in collaboration with the Education Director. Initial training is provided for each volunteer on best practices in education and peer-to-peer support. For more information about the program or to be connected to a trained Education Resource Parent Volunteer, email Carlyn Foreman , MDSC Education Director, at education@mdsc.org.

“Our education resource parent from the MDSC listened attentively to our situation and was able to provide quality feedback and guidance at the same time offering up valuable advice and questions to ask administration given the challenges we are currently facing within our school. An invaluable resource when you’re planning your child’s education!”

– Robyn Granfors, mom to Claire

If you would like to receive education updates on all our program offerings, please email Carlyn Foreman at education@mdsc.org to be added to our mailing list!