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To ask if any parents of Downs Syndrome children can help me?

(13 Posts)
TheKrakenSmith Thu 03-Nov-16 11:54:16

Really only posting here for traffic.
I teach in a language centre in Asia, and I have recently been instructed to start one to one tutoring a student with Downs syndrome. She's ten but cannot communicate, as I don't speak her language and she doesn't speak mine, really. She can read, and write, but doesn't seem to attach any meaning to the words, so she can say, eye and write eye but she cannot point to her eye and make that connection.
Unfortunately, her mother won't discuss it beyond telling me the diagnosis, I am not allowed to ask anymore questions. My student frequently gets frustrated during classes because she can't communicate with me, and obviously it's difficult for me to.
So, can anyone with experience in this give me any tips? I'm desperate! Obviously slightly different because it's ESOL, but she's still just a child and I'm really struggling to manage her behaviour and teach her.
Just a note, I cannot stop the lessons, I'm not permitted to tell a student they can't return, and she was assigned to me because both my brothers have learning difficulties and I am ASD, so apparently this qualifies as 'training'

WiMoChi Thu 03-Nov-16 13:07:38

No advice but a shameless bump for you and to say I think you not giving up and trying to find a solution is quite wonderful.

Hope you get some answers and find a way forward soon x

TheKrakenSmith Thu 03-Nov-16 14:26:02

WiMo thanks, she's a brilliant girl, but I know she gets frustrated and upset at both of us, and I want to help her learn better.

Chimpfield Thu 03-Nov-16 14:28:23

Could you incorporate use pictures of the words you are trying to teach her - try googling Boadmaker Symbols - with any level of learning difference, and it sounds as if she has one, it will take a lot longer for the information to process - try making the lessons into a game?

TheKrakenSmith Thu 03-Nov-16 14:29:37

chimp pictures do help and I'll look up those symbols, however I can't really make a game, or I'm struggling to, because she can't understand my instructions.

Artandco Thu 03-Nov-16 14:31:18

Have you co sidered starting with pictures? So a picture of an eye with the word, get her to write it, repeat, and place the eye on a drawn body on paper in correct location.

Draw with her. A house, the windows, door etc. As you draw the house, get her to repeat the drawing of her own each time. Before adding other things and labelling each time

Artandco Thu 03-Nov-16 14:32:17

Do games she already knows or songs ie head shoulders knees and toes is fairly universal and easy to teach by gestures

TheKrakenSmith Thu 03-Nov-16 14:35:23

Great suggestions! I'm meant to follow materials we have, but I can probably get away with going off piste with this student.
It's hard finding games that she already knows. Songs could be good, but I can't communicate enough to ask questions. She literally cannot respond to how are you, she only really gets pointing, letters, say and read. That's sort of the limit.

Foxyloxy1plus1 Thu 03-Nov-16 14:37:00

Definitely something visual I'd have thought. The Picture Exchange type system might be helpful. Maybe use pictures to play matching games, particularly with nouns like house, flowers, book, etc. It'll take a while and you'll hVe to do it over and over to show her, but I think the only way through will be visual.

Amalfimamma Thu 03-Nov-16 14:37:08


Not a mother to a DS child but am an ESOL teacher and have worked with DS and SN in the past.

First of all I would say to ignore her age and treat her as a YL.

Use flashcards, preschool touch and hear books, have a read up on the Precision Teaching, method to see if that can help, use loads of preschool songs and use every possibile and imaginable prop, worksheet, and website available.

Treat her as a 3 year old, not because she's DS but because it'll stop her becoming frustrated (and therefore refusing the language) and you becoming resentful and/or frustrated as it can reflect in your teaching.

horizontilting Thu 03-Nov-16 14:37:35

Have been in a similar situation, OP. There needs to be an interpreter as the student's current level of English is too low for her to understand enough to benefit from a native speaker. In the SE Asian country I taught in there was often a perception that native English speaker = the best tuition possible, with no allowances made for the lack of a common language making teaching anything difficult at the v early stages!

If the school won't designate a teacher who speaks the child's first language:

Ask for an interpreter to sit in - either one of the other staff who speak both English and the child's native language. Or, if funding for 2 teachers for one child is an issue with this, a more advanced student (older college-aged student) can work well. Ideally someone who can work with the child and let you know what their level of understanding is in their native language - v difficult for you to assess without a native speaker.

Hopefully your managers would support this way ahead.

Sometimes there is pressure on a child to learn English for visa purposes - there are countries, such as Australia, where it's v difficult to gain a visa if someone in the family is unlikely to gain independence. I say this not to make you feel under any pressure but just so you're aware there may be complicated reasons for the parent's refusal to discuss the issue (anxiety). All you can do is ask for backup from a native speaker at this early stage of her trying to learn English - a child with no SN would still need a tutor who speaks their language until they reach a certain level, after all.

Best of luck.

quirkychick Thu 03-Nov-16 14:41:21

Have you had a look at the Down's Ed International website, they have loads of downloadable resources (not free but very well researched). Most are based on pictures, as a lot of children and adults with Down's Syndrome respond very well to visual cues. A bit rubbish of the mother to not give you more information, Down's Syndrome has a huge spectrum and people with it are very varied.

My daughter responds very well to music, too. So singing helps her remember words. Lots and lots of repetition, give her (a lot of) time to respond to anything you say as it will take longer to process. We sign, so gestures/words/pictures all help.

TheKrakenSmith Thu 03-Nov-16 14:59:52

Thank you so much everyone!!
Couple of things, interpreter isn't a possibility. I'm straight up not allowed to do that. My managers are happy because she's completing tracing worksheets but I'm pretty sure that's because she knows to go over the dotted lines. I feel like I could give her quadratic equations, as long as she had dots to follow she'd do the work.
Interesting to know she won't be upset/patronised to be given YL work. It's hard to tell where she's at in terms of emotional maturity so that is reassuring.
I had no idea visual cues would work so well, that's definitely something I can focus more on, so thank you for that. She enjoys phonics, and I think that's because she likes the sound. She also loves alphablocks.
I'm trying really hard not to get frustrated but I'm getting almost no support from managers.
And I don't blame the mum, it's just the attitude to learning difficulties / mental health problems here. She was thrilled we agreed to take her, so she's super supportive of whatever I do, but thoroughly unwilling to discuss the students needs. I get told that whatever I do is great, she just needs to be exposed to English. I don't think immigration is a thought, from what I can gather.
This is all super helpful though!

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