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. In 2022 we added 18 new education webinar recordings! Some examples of the content include

  • Re-energizing Inclusion During & After the Pandemic: Creating Accessible Instructional Materials for Students with Down Syndrome
  • Teaching Children with Disabilities to Read During a Pandemic: At Home and At School
  • From Power Struggles to Powerful Partnerships: Understanding and Managing Students’ Challenging and Unsafe Behaviors
  • Addressing Common Roadblocks: Planning for Meaningful Learning Opportunities
  • Utilizing Routines to Support Independence and Skill Development
  • Developing Independence! Strategies for the Classroom
  • Planning for Meaningful Inclusion: A Protocol Driven Process
  • Identifying and Creating Accessible Curriculum Materials – Tips from Teachers
  • Let’s Get on the Same Page! Designing Effective Home-School Communication Systems

2023 Educators Forum
Tuesday, November 14, 2023
College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA

We are thrilled to announce that our Annual Educators Forum is coming back in-person for 2023! Save the date and plan to join hundreds of teachers, paraprofessionals, school administrators, parents and others on Tuesday, November 14th, 2023 at The College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester MA.

The Educators Forum includes a full-day of professional development with education specific workshops highlighting important information and resources to best support students with Down syndrome and other intellectual and developmental disabilities at school.

Breakout Sessions Topics:

  • Best Practices: Transition Planning
    Presented by Jessica Kuss, M.Ed.
  • Beyond Translation: Collaborating with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Families
    Presented by Zach Rossetti, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Special Education, Boston University and Oanh Bui, MHA , MA
  • Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS): Moving from Power and Control to Collaboration and Problem Solving
    Presented by Maile Munson, LICSW, Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) Trainer, Lives in the Balance
  • Educator Wellness and its Impact on Student Well Being
    Presented by Brie Walker, Breathe For Change Lead Trainer
  • If Writing Instruction Tastes Like Broccoli, Don’t Expect Kids to Consume Much
    Presented by David Koppenhaver, Professor Emeritus, Reading Education/Special Education, Appalachian State University
  • MAICEI and Inclusive Higher Education Opportunities in Massachusetts: Everything you need to know!
    Presented by Mary Price, MAICEI State Director
  • Making Neuropsychological Assessment Work for You
    Presented by Joseph Moldover, PsyD, ABPP
  • The (Arts and) Science(s) of Reading for Individuals with Down Syndrome and other Disabilities
    Presented by David Koppenhaver, Professor Emeritus, Reading Education/Special Education, Appalachian State University
  • Updates from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Implementation of the New Massachusetts IEP
    Presented by Russell Johnston, PhD, Deputy Commissioner and State Director of Special Education, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Supporting Speech and Language Development in Children with Down Syndrome Using Multiple Modalities
    Presented by Abbie King MS CCC-SLP/ATP, Boston Childrens Hospital, Augmentative Communication Program

2022-2023 WEBINARS:

Friends Matter! Promoting Friendship and Social Connections At School and During Summer
Friendships are personally valuable and developmentally important relationships for all people, yet friendships between individuals with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities remain infrequent. Extant research indicates that (a) opportunity barriers play a more prominent role in friendship than social skills, and (b) direct support from adults is a critical facilitator of friendships. This presentation examines opportunity barriers and direct support strategies to promote social connections at school and during the summer.

Presenter: Zach Rossetti, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Special Education, Boston University

Curriculum Modifications Made Easy!

Educators use a variety of supports, strategies, and learning adaptations to teach diverse learners. However, it can be a struggle to make grade-level curriculum accessible and achievable for students with intellectual disabilities. An educational process known as modifying curriculum can give students with intellectual disabilities greater access to the general education classroom and curriculum. During this session, Nicole will provide an overview of the role of curriculum modifications, share strategies for modifying curriculum, provide tips, as well as show numerous resources. Participants will leave with the ability and know-how to easily make curriculum modifications.

Presenter: Nicole Eredics, M.Ed., Board Certified Inclusion Specialist

Nicole Eredics has been in the field of inclusive education for 29 years. She has her M.Ed. in Special Education and is a Board Certified Inclusion Specialist. Nicole spent the first half of her career as a full inclusion elementary teacher in a fully inclusive school system. She now uses her experience to speak, train, and consult on the topic of inclusive education to various school districts and community organizations across the country. Nicole is also the author of the professional resource book for educators called, Inclusion in Action: Practical Strategies to Modify Your Curriculum. For more information, go to www.nicoleeredics.com.

Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative – Everything You Need to Know

Attend this webinar to learn about the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (MAICEI) and how it offers INCLUSIVE HIGHER EDUCATION opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Massachusetts! The presenter will give attendees a full overview of MAICEI. She will include steps on how to become a partner with the program and also how families can advocate for their student to attend the program.

Presenter- Mary Price, Director – Massachusetts MAICEI Programs

The Learning Program Boston

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!

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!