We know children with Down syndrome can succeed when given the opportunity and with the right support. Portsmouth Down Syndrome Association provides a wide range of specialist services supporting development and education and offers training to assist families and professionals to provide effective support for children and their families from the point of diagnosis.
We think it is important to provide a network of support for not only the child, but the whole family unit. Many families with a child with a disability can feel isolated, and so it can be very beneficial for our members to come together and socialise. We organise outings, social gatherings and seasonal parties which are very popular with members and well supported, where our families can have fun, play and learn together and make friends.
We have found that advancements in screening have led to an increase in pre-natal diagnoses and a subsequent increase in the number of families and professionals contacting us at this time, as well as postnatally. We have established strong links with maternity units and health professionals across the region, and new parents will be given a Portsmouth DSA Parent Welcome Pack and referred to our charity as a source of support and information, where our Parent and Community Liaison Team are always on hand to offer advice and support.
Termly training is also included in the School Outreach Programme and covers a wide range of relevant topics, delivered by a variety of UK experts. We promote good relations between school staff and parents, and they will often train alongside each other. All training is relevant and based on up-to-date, evidence-based research which helps staff and parents to meet the educational and social needs of their children. These regular sessions will also enable local school staff and parents to meet, share ideas and provide a support network for each other.
We work with midwives, nurses, paediatricians, GPs, portage workers and other related health professionals to ensure they are the training and information they need to effectively support families and colleagues.
“PDSA provides wonderful personal and practical advice to children and their families, right from the point of diagnosis. As a group of paediatricians, we have also benefited from some fantastic teaching provided by the charity. Forging a closer link between medical staff and the PDSA will undoubtedly enhance the experience for young people with Downs syndrome.” JH, Paediatric Registrar, Wessex
‘‘The PDSA guidelines are a great resource to help the neonatal team support the families in those wonderful and challenging first few days of life. 35 neonatal nursery nurses from the Thames Valley and Wessex Neonatal Network had the privilege of listening to PDSA representatives in a recent conference run by the Neonatal unit in Portsmouth. This session touched us all and had a very positive influence in the way we think about children with Down syndrome.’’ SH, Practice Educator, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit QAH
Our drama sessions have continued to be popular with our young people and provide an excellent opportunity for socialising. Benefits of the sessions include learning to speak and move more confidently, better spatial awareness, improved self-esteem and confidence, and improved listening and memory skills. The sessions also provide the opportunity to practise life skills like conversation and rehearse life situations. Many of our children have speech and language difficulties so our sessions are especially geared to allow them to participate and succeed, without the need for maximum speech output. Individuals can express themselves through movement and dance, as well as being given small and achievable vocal targets. Our children are good visual learners, so the use of props, demonstration and repeated instructions broken down into small achievable tasks allows the children to experience success. We follow the Trinity College Arts Award programme, in conjunction with the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth, which enables our children to work towards a recognised national drama award.
The sessions are delivered by a qualified senior drama teacher, with extensive experience of working with individuals with disabilities, including Down syndrome.
We hold information and coffee mornings where parents can receive and share advice and up-to-date information about all aspects of Down syndrome. New parents are very welcome to join us, and it’s a great opportunity to meet other families and share experiences. Members are also able to borrow resources from our lending library at the centre. Please contact us to find out more.
Portsmouth Down Syndrome Association offers a range of progressive educational services for members, starting with our Early Development Groups for babies and pre-school children. These sessions have proved invaluable to families over the years, teaching children a wide range of skills to help them meet their developmental milestones and to provide a firm foundation for further learning at school. Research has proven that early intervention can lead to dramatically improved outcomes for children with Down syndrome. Reading can be strength for children with Down syndrome, and it is beneficial to start in their pre-school years. Our groups provide structured activities on a regular basis and aim to introduce and improve skills including not only phonics and early reading, but also speech and language, auditory and memory, number work, cognitive, social, and fine motor skill development. The programme is delivered by qualified professionals with expertise in the field of Down syndrome, and specialist resources are utilised such as See and Learn materials (DSEI), and Numicon equipment. Parents are encouraged to continue activities with their children at home to increase effectiveness. The sessions not only benefit the children who take part, but also parents can learn new about effective methods and resources which will support their child’s development and education. Groups are small, consisting of two to four children to maximize learning.
Portsmouth DSA provides regular Communication Therapy for school age children delivered by qualified Speech and Language Therapists with expertise in Down syndrome. The groups consist of three or four children aged 4 to 11 with a focus on improving interaction and communication skills, with targets and activities set for families to practise at home throughout the month. Research based interventional strategies are used to support all areas of development, and aim to improve speaking and listening, language, reading and social skills.
Our SCGs have been developed especially with the differing needs of our teenagers in mind. These groups are larger and more informal than our Communication Groups, and the young people play a more active role, setting up the room and selecting the topics covered in the sessions which develop speech, language, conversation, relationship and social skills. The groups are delivered by trained specialist co-workers and qualified and experienced Speech and Language Therapists. Our teenagers enjoy attending the sessions and sharing their news. We are aware that a strong friendship network is especially important for our young people, and the groups provide a scaffolded environment to develop these friendships. We also organise monthly outings where our teenagers can put their skills into practice and have fun with friends.
Research tells us that children with Down syndrome perform better in an inclusive learning environment and best benefit from being included in mainstream education, where they can succeed with appropriate support. Portsmouth DSA’s specialist School Outreach Service supports the successful inclusion of our young people in over 100 mainstream and special schools, nurseries and colleges in Portsmouth, Hampshire and beyond. This advisory service is delivered by experts in the field, and offers a comprehensive package covering all aspects of education, development, assessment, RSE and inclusion. The young person is visited regularly in school, and staff receive advice in all areas of development including successful differentiation, teaching strategies & alternative accreditations and exam pathways. On hand advice and support is available throughout the year, and a professional report is provided at each visit, and to support the child’s educational needs in their Annual Review.
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