PORTSMOUTH, England, October 20 /PRNewswire/ --

- With Photo

Down Syndrome Education International has been awarded a grant by the Big Lottery Fund to test a structured language and reading teaching programme in UK primary schools. This targeted teaching approach offers new opportunities for young people with Down syndrome to further improve their language and reading skills.

The Big Lottery Fund has awarded a GBP481,000 grant to investigate the effectiveness of a focused and practical classroom intervention. The study, lasting 4 years, will be conducted by Down Syndrome Education International working in partnership with the Centre for Reading and Language, at the Department of Psychology at the University of York.

Most children who have Down syndrome are taught in typical primary schools throughout the UK. They have some specific learning needs that are additional to those of typical children and benefit from teaching adaptations that are targeted to meet these needs.

Reacting to news of the grant, Professor Sue Buckley OBE, Director of Science and Research at Down Syndrome Education International, said This is a vitally important piece of research that promises to help many thousands of young people with Down syndrome. Language and literacy skills are so important for living and learning. Practical scientific research - like this project - helps us to discover the children's potential and to identify how to offer them the most effective learning opportunities. We will trial approaches to reading and language instruction that are tailored to meet the specific needs of children who have Down syndrome. By carefully evaluating these approaches, we hope to clearly show that they are both highly effective and easy to implement.

The research study will utilise a randomised controlled trial to rigorously assess outcomes from a structured language and reading teaching programme designed to meet the specific needs of pupils who have Down syndrome. The programme will be delivered by the pupils' Teaching Assistants. Teaching Assistants provide important support for children with Down syndrome in UK schools and are in an excellent position to deliver additional learning opportunities. By designing a targeted teaching approach that can be implemented by existing staff using regular classroom resources, it is hoped that not only will robust evidence be provided by the study, but also that adoption by schools will be simple, quick and widespread.

Professor Charles Hulme at the Centre for Reading and Language at the University of York said Existing evidence suggests that an integrated approach to teaching reading and language skills might be particularly effective for children with Down syndrome. We will trial a teaching approach that combines a structured reading instruction programme with an oral language programme. We expect this approach to be highly beneficial to these children's reading skills, and to also directly benefit their oral language skills. We have already seen considerable success from these approaches with other children experiencing difficulties progressing with reading.

Approximately 15,000 pupils with Down syndrome are expected to benefit from this research over the next 10 years in the UK alone and a further 150,000 worldwide.

Down Syndrome Education International

Down Syndrome Education International (DownsEd) works to improve education for young people with Down syndrome through scientific research and evidence-based information and support services. In the early 1980s, DownsEd pioneered early reading techniques to improve language learning for children who have Down syndrome. For 30 years, the charity has advanced scientific research investigating language, cognition, memory and speech development, literacy, numeracy, and education, leading to practical results that improve the lives of people living with Down syndrome today. The charity works with families, teachers and therapists, researchers and support organisations in over 170 countries, helping over 100,000 people with Down syndrome to achieve more every year.

Web site: http://www.downsed.org/

The Centre for Reading and Language

The Centre for Reading and Language is a research group housed within the Henry Wellcome building for Psychology at the University of York. The Psychology Department is one of only four UK Psychology departments to have achieved the top 5-star rating in the 2001 research assessment exercise. It has achieved the distinction of having its research graded as being of the highest possible quality in every one of the government rating exercises to date. The Centre for Reading and Language aims to conduct high quality research into the nature and causes of reading and language difficulties. It also aims to translate research findings into practical solutions for educational problems.

Web site: http://www.york.ac.uk/res/crl/

Further information

About Down syndrome - a guide for media professionals: http://www.downsed.org/media/guide/

Note to Editors:

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Sue Buckley, Director of Science and Research, Down Syndrome Education International. Email: press@downsed.org

Sue Buckley, Director of Science and Research, Down Syndrome Education International. Email: sue.buckley@downsed.org | Tel: +44(0)23-9289-3885