ROME, October 19, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Preliminary results from a trial of a teaching programme designed for children with Down syndrome show significant gains in language and reading skills.

Speaking in Rome at the 3rd European Regional Congress of the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual Disabilities, researchers will today report results from the initial stages of the trial.

Professor Sue Buckley OBE, Chief Scientist at Down Syndrome Education International, comments: These preliminary findings add to a growing body of evidence that shows that evidence-based, targeted support can transform outcomes for young people with Down syndrome, enabling them to lead more independent and fulfilling lives.

The project, supported by the Big Lottery Fund, is the first large randomised controlled trial of a teaching programme designed to meet the specific needs of children with Down syndrome.

Nearly 60 children with Down syndrome attending mainstream primary schools in York and Portsmouth are participating. The children were assigned randomly to one of two groups. One group began using the teaching programme earlier than the other group, permitting a comparison of the benefits. The children's Teaching Assistants were trained to deliver the structured programme in the classroom during daily 40 minutes sessions. The researchers evaluated the children's progress over 20 weeks.

According to Professor Charles Hulme at the Centre for Reading and Language at the University of York: This novel project is the first to systematically evaluate a combined reading and language intervention programme for children with Down syndrome. The results so far are very encouraging. The robust design of the trial will allow us to make clear and unambiguous recommendations to educators about suitable methods for improving the reading and language skills of children with Down syndrome.

Down syndrome is a leading cause of developmental disability and is associated with specific cognitive delays and learning difficulties. Increasingly, research is showing that teaching methods that target this specific learning profile can lead to marked improvements in development and academic achievement. Effective teaching practices can help young people with Down syndrome achieve gains equivalent to more than two years of progress for typically developing children during their school years.

At the conference later today, Dr Kelly Burgoyne, the psychologist leading the study, will report that the children made significantly better progress after only 20 weeks. Dr Burgoyne comments: This is exciting because it shows that the programme can be effective in a short period of time. We will now continue to follow the children to see if they make further gains in their language and reading skills.

The Big Lottery Fund

The Big Lottery Fund distributes half of the National Lottery good cause funding across the UK. The Fund is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need.

Contacts Frank Buckley, CEO, Down Syndrome Education International. Email: Tel: +44(0)23-9285-5330

SOURCE: Down Syndrome Education International

CONTACT: Contacts: Frank Buckley, CEO, Down Syndrome EducationInternational, Email:; Tell (mobile):+44(0)7500-884646