Toddlers, Preschoolers & Kindergartners


Toddlers, Preschoolers & Kindergartners

The most powerful influence on the developmental progress of a child with Down syndrome is their family. The second greatest impact comes from being included into the everyday life of the community. So, like all children, children with Down syndrome are influenced by the key areas of family life, inclusion with peers (siblings, neighbors, play groups, religious groups, respites, extracurricular activities, and classmates) and the quality of education they receive – in this case - Preschool

  • In the last thirty years, there have been considerable advances in our understanding of the processes of development for children with Down syndrome particularly in the areas of social learning, motor skills, cognition and language.
  • Early intervention provides the child with Down syndrome from birth to 3 with services that will maximize their foundations for development and capability.

Preschool is a transitional stage which continues this development of capabilities between Early Intervention and Elementary Education.

  • We encourage parents of preschool age children with Down syndrome to consult with parents whose children are at an age or grade level ahead as they are often valuable sources of information, resources, referrals and support. Parents and teachers should always keep in mind that children with Down syndrome have a wide range of abilities and talents, and that each child develops at his or her own particular pace. Children with Down syndrome may take longer than other children to reach developmental milestones, but many of these milestones may eventually be met. Each milestone that is reached is a cause for celebration, recognition and congratulation – a tradition that should follow them throughout their lifetime. 
  • Preschoolers with Down syndrome are capable of so much when provided with opportunity. Every effort parents, teachers, and other team members make now to plan these transitions, greatly benefit the child and lay the essential and important foundations for independence and quality of life for adulthood. 


  • Public preschools (some Head Start Programs) : Check here for a list of free preschools in Alabama.
  • Home school 
  • Private preschools : Check here for a list of private preschoools in Alabama.


  • Toilet training
  • Social skills
  • Self-help skills
  • Behavior
  • Motor skills – gross and fine
  • Speech and language skills
  • Hearing 
  • Auditory processing & Auditory memory skills
  • Visual processing & Visual memory
  • Executive Functioning – Working Memory


Several options are available for children transitioning from early intervention center programs, in most communities. 

  1. Many early intervention centers offer transition planning services and evaluations before a child's third birthday.
  2. School districts may have transition information available, and will work with your child's early intervention professional to plan appropriate support and placement in preschool classes.
  3. Support services should be provided to eligible children with Down syndrome who enroll in a mainstream preschool, families who choose to keep them at home until kindergarten, and families who choose homeschooling.
  4. Parents can investigate if their local school district’s policies provide for the continuation of receipt services after a child turns three years old.
  5. Some families chose to invite early intervention professionals familiar with their child to participate in transition IEP planning meetings at the school district
  6. Some school districts have policies about recording meetings, visiting classrooms, and other activities that parents may wish to do.
  7. Many school districts invite preschool children to a 'open house for kindergarten' that may be scheduled a full year before children will attend their first day, and some have a day or two scheduled in the early Spring of the same year when preschoolers visit kindergarten classrooms and meet teachers.


What does mainstream mean? To mainstream actually means, "to include," children with Down syndrome into the regular classroom. Mainstreaming is the active participation of children with Down syndrome alongside children who are developing within the average range of functioning. Inclusion has been required by law since 1991 and public-school systems are required to provide preschool educational services to children with Down syndrome beginning at age three. Some states extend this law to include even infants.


Five developmental categories – services:

  1. Language: 
  2. Cognitive: 
  3. Fine Motor: 
  4. Gross Motor: 
  5. Social Development: 

Instruction will also include the services from various professionals trained in working with Down syndrome, such as therapy for speech and motor skills. These services should include the preparation of specific goals for the child with Down syndrome which are set up by the teacher, a team of professionals and the parents – this is the IEP.


  • Look for - A preschool that offers a welcoming and encouraging environment with many opportunities and adequate support.
  • Look for - Education that propels development to help the student with Down syndrome reach their full potential within that school year – building skill sets year upon year.
  • Look for and Expect - It's a proven fact that including children with Down syndrome in regular classroom or social settings provide benefits for all children involved.
  • Look for and Expect - From the onset there is an understanding that goals are set, periodic reviews are scheduled and an agreement reached between parents and teacher that the hopeful expectation of the IEP will reveal “amazing progress” specifically for that individual child at every stage.
  • Expect - Our local communities cannot afford to miss the opportunity to stand for inclusion for all individuals with Down syndrome into our society - beginning with the youngest ages.


  • A school and a teacher that will not underestimate the student with Down syndrome and their abilities. 
  • A school that will provide every opportunity to a child with Down syndrome that would be provided to any typical child, but monitor skill progress and provide knowledgeable and creative assistance. 
  • A school and a teacher that will offer a classroom design that does not overwhelm the student with Down syndrome. 
  • A school and a teacher that will address the needs of the student with Down syndrome by providing activities designed to strengthen skills that are personally challenging.  
  • A school and a teacher that recognize the value of using peer helpers for the child with Down syndrome because they view this method as a great way to benefit both groups of children. 
  • A school and a teacher that will seek, research, incorporate, be flexible and creative in the ways they keep the student with Down syndrome on task and in the ways progress is monitored.

    Children with Down syndrome and their families might want to attend kindergarten open house or orientation programs offered by schools in their area and consult with parents of children with Down syndrome who are already attending the school. Even at this young age the goal is to see signs of acceptance and independence because this reveals how naturally integrated the student with Down syndrome is within their school community.

TARGETS by Age 5:

Comparisons to any other child with or without Down syndrome are not beneficial. Many children with Down syndrome will have achieved some of the same developmental targets as their peers, if this is expected of them. Children with a dual diagnosis may have a different time frame for accomplishment but should still be given the same opportunities and receive attention to progress. 

  • Most will be walking, toilet trained, be able to feed themselves, and dress with minimal help. 
  • Most will feel comfortable and operate well within the mainstream classroom, regulate their own behavior and behave in a socially acceptable way. 
  • Most children will have varying degrees of delayed spoken language - BUT - they can understand more than they can say. Communication may be a steep challenge for a child with Down syndrome but they can gain great strides in a classroom that has tenacious patience, embraces creativity, and appreciates diversity.
  • Many will have some of the basic concepts and knowledge for learning number, letters, colors, math and reading. 

These achievements are possible, provided that parents have high expectations for social development and good behavior from the first year of life, the teachers likewise believe in the capability and expect progress from their students with Down syndrome and that services offer targeted support for motor development and speech and language development.



Tips for Transitioning into Elementary School
Written by: Laura Ann Oliver, Michelle Detwiler, Karra Barber

Once a child begins school, parents face letting go of the sole responsibility for their child’s learning. For even the most actively involved parent, this can prove easier said than done. Parents of children with disabilities can experience significant anxiety when it comes to allowing another person to assume such an important role in their child’s life. In spite of that, establishing open lines of communication with your child’s school, especially their classroom teacher and paraprofessionals, will help to ensure that you are kept aware of what occurs when you cannot be with your child. Maintaining this open flow of communication permits a parent to have a voice in all that is going on while your child becomes part of a new educational setting.

Since early experiences in education can have such a profound effect on how children perceive learning itself throughout their lives, it is important to make this time as positive as possible for both you and your child. Prior to the transition, gain as much knowledge as you can about what goes on at your child’s school. For a smoother transition into a new situation, such actions like observing the classroom, getting to know future teacher(s), and understanding one’s educational options, all help to ease anxious feelings of anticipation.

Prior to the First Day of School

For the families of individuals with disabilities, preparation for early childhood education needs to occur sometime long before the beginning of a school year. The tips in this section focus on areas that parents may want to consider before their child transitions to school for the first time, as well as for those transitions occurring through first grade. Careful preparation will allow both the parents and the future classroom teacher to feel a greater sense of confidence about what lies ahead. In addition, this approach provides parents and teachers with the opportunity to anticipate and sort out potential concerns before any issues actually arise. Essentially, taking a proactive attitude sets the tone for developing a strong partnership between home and school.

For most children, their early educational experiences have a profound effect on the rest of their education. This means that positive early experience establishes a solid foundation for learning, as well as for success in the future. In fact, it has been found that both parents and teachers believe that the way a child feels about their school has a major influence on a how the child transitions into a new school environment. As a result, parents play an essential role in encouraging their children to maintain positive beliefs regarding school.

Tips for Transitioning to Early Childhood Education

  1. Be enthusiastic about going to school. Remind your child of all the “new and exciting things” that they will do. To aid in preparation, ask your child’s future teacher to tell you about some of the lessons they will be doing in the classroom, especially during the first few weeks of school. While children may function at different cognitive levels, in general, they recognize enthusiasm and positivity coming from their parents. When a child transitions from home to school for the first time, even greater emphasis and enthusiasm should be placed on explaining what he/she may expect. The surroundings and procedures of a school are a completely new experience, thus greater preparation and maintaining a positive attitude is vital for parents.
  2. Visit the school. Take the opportunity to meet with teachers, administrators, and other school staff, such as the nurse. This orientation helps you get know more about the philosophy and practices that are encouraged in the new educational setting.
  3. Observe your child’s future classroom and teacher(s). This gives you the chance to witness how the teacher runs the class. Also, this can be a good time to consider if the given classroom environment creates any accessibility issues for your child’s specific disability.
  4. Write a brief statement of things you would like the teacher or school to know about your child.
  5. Arrange for your child to meet his new teacher before school begins. Prior introductions help relieve some anticipation about starting the school year with an unfamiliar person. In addition, the teacher may also want to observe your child in his or her current learning environment to help better prepare future lessons to accommodate your child’s needs.

Schools in Session

The first day has arrived. You are confident that you have done your best to prepare yourself and your child. But what can you do now to make the transition easier for your child?

The following are some additional tips for the first few days or weeks of school:

  1. New routines and environments can be exhausting for many children. That’s why is so important to try to make sure that your child gets enough sleep, especially that first week of school. Setting a consistent bedtime can help ease the strain.
  2. Prepare a healthy breakfast to help get the first days off to a good start. Feeling hungry can be distracting, especially for very young children. They will be able to better focus on what is going on in the classroom if their stomachs are full.
  3. Time to say goodbye. Try to keep it brief. This can be a difficult moment for both parents and child. Remember that your child can sense how you’re feeling, so keep a positive and enthusiastic attitude. Also, establishing some sort of special goodbye routine, for instance a hug and a high-five, can make the separation far less stressful.
  4. As the year progresses, attempt to maintain morning routines. Develop an order to getting ready and leaving for school. Consistency helps a child to adjust by increasing a child’s sense of security.
  5. Stay proactive by attending parent-teacher conferences and other important meetings. Also, make an effort to attend school activities that are open to parents. Your involvement can make your child happy and lets the teacher know by your actions that your child’s education is extremely important to you.
  6. Stay in contact with the teacher throughout the year to help your child prepare for major changes or transitions that may occur at school. If possible, try to avoid presenting any major changes at home while the child simultaneously experiences transitions in school.

The End of the School Year

Finally, you and your child have developed a positive relationship with the classroom teacher. However, it will eventually be time to move on to new educational challenges. Throughout the early years of education, the end of a school year often means that you and your child will need to be prepared to transition once again. The current classroom teacher can be a valuable resource in determining what steps will need to be taken. Saying goodbye to the current teacher may be difficult for your child, so allowing the teacher to be an active part of the transition process may help provide some ease in the inevitable separation. In order to get ready for the next school year, you may need to follow many of the same practices you did at the beginning of the current year. Remember, being well prepared and establishing an open line of communication with your child’s school and teachers gives your child the opportunity to navigate transitions with confidence.