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If you’re the parent, teacher, or therapist of a young child with Down syndrome, you should know that Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), the evidence-based, gold-standard method for teaching children with autism, is an equally effective strategy for teaching children with Down syndrome! In Off to a Good Start: A Behaviorally Based Model for Teaching Children with Down Syndrome, a two-book set, the authors share the compelling research about the benefits of using ABA methods with children with Down syndrome, describe ABA principles and procedures, and provide the ABA-based curriculum they’ve used for nearly 20 years to successfully teach infants through kindergarteners with Down syndrome. With these books, readers will learn ABA practices for teaching children the all-important foundational skills in motor, social-communication, cognitive, and self-care development.
Once readers understand the ABA principles outlined in Book 1, it’s time to implement the teaching strategies! Book 2: Teaching Programs shows readers how to teach hundreds of essential skills using proven discrete-trial methods with prompts and reinforcement rather than the more informal ways that people typically teach children with Down syndrome. It covers:
- background information on how the teaching programs are structured, how to progress through them, and how to use the included planning and tracking forms
- how to organize materials and yourself, and work teaching into your day
- general information on enhancing the learning environment and helping your child learn throughout the day (e.g., positioning your baby, keeping the environment stimulating, being responsive, ensuring that reinforcement is actually reinforcing, using visual schedules and token systems)
- comprenhensive information on teaching specific skills to children in four age groups—infants & toddlers, early childhood, preschool, and kindergarten; within each age group, skills are divided into motor, social-communication, cognitve, and self-help development, and organized into teaching programs with specific steps to teach each skill
- using prompts and reinforcement to shape desired behavior and skills
- how to minimize behavior which interferes with learning such as distracting parents/teachers with attention-seeking cute behavior, escaping from demands, or tuning out; using behavior modification tools—functional behavior assessment and positive behavior support—to manage behavior as the child gets older
- how to access community resources and opportunities including early intervention, parent groups, inclusive recreational activities, scoping out preschool and kindergarten programs, understanding special education rights, and communicating with teachers and group leaders about ways to include your child
Check out Book 1: Foundations for Learning to learn about (or reacquaint yourself with) using ABA principles and procedures to teach children with Down syndrome.
Written by Kathleen M. Feeley, Ph.D. & Emily A. Jones, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Kathleen M. Feeley is Professor in the College of Education, Information, and Technology and the founding Director of the Center for Community Inclusion at Long Island University. Dr. Feeley has dedicated her career to examining interventions that enable children with disabilities to be successful alongside their typical peers.
Emily A. Jones, Licensed Behavior Analyst, New York, is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, Queens College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York. In Dr. Jones’ research she examines interventions to improve outcomes for children with developmental disabilities and their families.