Educator Conference

November 5th, 2015

Spotlight on Classroom integration presented by Wendy Selnes

How to Teach Reading to Children with Down Syndrome (and other children experiencing language and reading difficulties) using the Reading and Language Intervention Program
Presented by Karen Swanson & Gina Cole

For more information please head over to our Educator Conference page

Thank You Educators

We deeply appreciate the important role you play in enhancing the educational experiences of students with Down syndrome. Education is a crucial component of any child’s life. One of the major areas of focus for the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota is supporting educational professionals who work with our children.

Our Association is a resource for you ~ our membership includes families as well as medical, educational and developmental professionals with deep insights into and broad experiences with the developmental challenges of Down syndrome.

We maintain a Resource Lending Library offering video and audio tapes from national conferences, books and other materials addressing a wide range of topics related to Down syndrome. If you would like to know more, please give us a call at 800-511-3696 or email We are located in St. Paul, MN and our staff welcomes your inquiries.

We applaud your efforts on behalf of our children.

Kathleen Forney

Kathleen Forney
Executive Director

Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota Literacy Initiative

Far too often we are hearing from teachers who are looking for specific, research based programs to teach reading to their students with Down syndrome. Earlier this year, we notified all of you that we were hoping to have Dr. Sue Buckley, an acclaimed international expert in teaching reading to students with Down syndrome, conduct a training session on her program. Dr. Buckley completed a pilot program in a school in Central Texas this past year with very impressive results. Due to a short turn around time, we were not able to work this into Dr. Buckley’s schedule this past summer.

We at the Association continue to pursue this initiative.

Down Syndrome Education’s Reading and Language Intervention for Children with Down Syndrome has been shown, in multiple trials to significantly enhance the reading and language abilities of students with Down syndrome. Importantly, it also provides equal or better results with virtually all students, regardless of ability or developmental delay.

Please take a moment to take a look at the website to learn more about the program.

We will be providing updates on this initiative first thing in the morning.

Improving educational outcomes for children with Down syndrome

We invite you to consider implementing a new approach to teaching reading and language. Down Syndrome Education International, based in the UK, developed and evaluated RLI – a Reading and Language Intervention for children with Down syndrome with experts in literacy and language at the University of York, UK.

RLI is an evidence-based program designed to teach reading and language skills to children with Down syndrome. RLI incorporates best practice in structured activities delivered in fast-paced daily teaching sessions. It was evaluated in a randomized controlled trial and found to improve rates of progress compared to ordinary teaching. The primary findings of the trial were reported in a paper published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. A Handbook and DVD resources were published in 2012 to allow schools to take up the program and some 1400 Handbooks have been sold worldwide. The team have developed training and a team of accredited RLI trainers is growing in the UK and USA to support schools in their locations.

RLI provides individualized reading and language instruction designed to meet the particular learning needs of students with Down syndrome. It is based on interventions that have been shown to be beneficial for other children experiencing language and reading difficulties, and incorporates the principles of best practice for all children.

It consists of a Reading Strand and a Language Strand which can be delivered at the same time or separate times in the school day. Both strands can be linked with curriculum topics and IEP targets. Content is individualized for each student. RLI was shown to be effective in the UK when delivered by teaching assistants with RLI training and ongoing support.

A small pilot study in San Antonio Texas has shown that RLI can be implemented just as effectively in the public school system in the USA as in the UK and improve children’s reading and language progress. A number of school districts across Texas and elsewhere in the US are implementing the program. More than 450 Handbooks have been purchased in the US.

The program is designed for 5-10 year olds and you can read more information at Younger children, 5 and 6 year olds at the start of the intervention made the fastest reading progress in the UK trial highlighting the need for quality literacy teaching for student with Down syndrome from Kindergarten and Grade 1.

In the UK trial and the Texas trial, 20% of the children were reading at their age level at the end despite their language and cognitive delays. In addition to age, rates of progress were influenced by language comprehension at the start and by the intensity of the intervention i.e. the number of teaching sessions received.

We are offering a 2 day training for educators delivered by Professor Sue Buckley, the grant holder and one of the lead researchers on this project. She is a world renowned expert in the development and education of children with Down syndrome. While here, she will also train RLI trainers so that we have a local source of expertise to support schools to implement RLI. It is being used effectively with other children with intellectual disabilities in the US and UK.

The 2 day training covers the RLI program in detail, taking educators through all the components and activities for both the Reading and Language Strands, how to assess starting points and to record progress. It also identifies the planning and support that needs to be in place at school and class level to deliver RLI effectively. Attendance certificates will be given to delegates who can do some extra work to demonstrate learning and competence in delivering RLI to gain an accreditation as an RLI educator.

Professor Sue Buckley OBE, CPsychol, CSci, AFBPsS is a chartered psychologist with over 40 years experience of working with children with Down syndrome in early intervention and education services. She has conducted research into the reasons for their learning difficulties in order to develop more effective teaching approaches since 1980.

She has published widely for teachers, parents and researchers. She was the Founder of Down Syndrome Education International and you can learn more about the work of DSEI and DSEUSA at  Sue is recognized as an excellent speaker and trainer and is in constant demand worldwide. One of her 3 adult children is an adopted daughter with Down syndrome who lives in the community with a partner with Down syndrome.

External resource for Educators

Questions about communication?  Great speech and language resources can be found here:

The Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota, along with other Down syndrome organizations across the country, partnered with the National Down Syndrome Congress to produce powerpoint presentations on various topics of interest to those supporting individuals with Down syndrome.  Click here to view presentations on Down Syndrome & the Educational Challenge and Supporting People with Down Syndrome for some great resources.

We encourage our parents to download and complete the booklet “A Book About Me” as a resource to share with their teachers.  This is a great way to learn about your student…who he/she is, their likes, dislikes … a terrific picture of the person that you just won’t get on an IEP.

While Disability Solutions is no longer being produced, there are some fabulous resources on line for teachers.  Two of our favorites:

Paraprofessionals in the classroom: What Role Do They Play

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