Working w Child w Down Syndrome

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-30-2003
Working w Child w Down Syndrome
Tue, 05-04-2004 - 11:09pm


I work at an after school care and recently have been given the role of looking after a child with down syndrome. She is 7.

The problem is, I am finding her behaviour very challenging, I really need help.

The other day I was trying to get her to go somewhere we had to go, but she kept running off. I ended up chasing her all around the whole school. I tried speaking to her, using different strategies but in the end I had to get someone who has worked with her for nearly two years to come and get her which she did with ease.

For me this was devestating, I felt that I had failed.

I understand it is probably my own attitude, strategies that need to change but I do not know how.

Can anybody help me? I am so willing to establish a good relationship with her while maintaining good discipline. How do I do this? What are good strategies that I can use? How can I get her to respect me and listen to my authority/instruction?

I am a training teacher and at this stage I feel like a failure and want to quit, please help me.

Please help me.


iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2003
Wed, 05-05-2004 - 7:34am


Sure glad you joined us here!



iVillage Member
Registered: 10-21-2003
Wed, 05-05-2004 - 12:55pm
Hi Nikki, My daughter doesn't have down syndrome but she does require a one on one aide. Have you asked her former aide what he/she did to help calm her down, or what *tricks* they had to keep the discipline? Also have you asked her parents what seems to work at home? Since you are just training, it CAN be very overwhelming when you deal with a special needs child one on one. The best policy is to ask the others who have spent time with her. When my daughter went to school, I went the first couple of days just to be there for her case she had a question. Which she had lots of and she's been doing this for years, but each child is different. Asking for help/advice is NOT FAILING, never feel this way, I know as a parent I would appreciate someone asking for help rather than trying to muddle through on their own. SOmetimes it takes a while for the child to adjust to a new daughter is very laid back, but she still tests the water everytime someone new is helping her. I hope things calm down and you develop a good relationship.
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-18-2004
Wed, 06-02-2004 - 1:51am
Niki, :)

First of all, take a deep breath. You didn't fail.

I've been a special ed teacher's aide for 11 years, and have gone through exactly what you are describing. It happens to all of us, and it's very difficult to get through the first few weeks (month?) with a new student. You don't know them, they don't know you, it's hard to read/understand them. Don't be so hard on yourself. ( I chased a boy with Downs around the field too, only 2 yrs ago-lol!)

I don't know the little girl that you work with so it's hard to give strategies, but I'll do what I can. :) It all depends on her level of understanding, and what has been done with her so far, so seek out those people who have worked with her before and quiz them! Ask them for help! Read her file! They are your best resource. Ready?

1-use the simplest language possible. Instead of, "please sit down we're going to do some puzzles." say..."sit please" "snack time now" "first color, then recess" The first/then language is important. She will learn to delay gratification for a bit, and that she must do something FIRST in order to get to do what she wants. This will give you some control for getting some learning things happening. "stop!" for when she's running away...avoid negative sayings like "don't do that/no/etc"-"chairs are for sitting on", "that's not safe", "walk please" etc works much much better.

2-I had two strategies for bolting. One was that I would allow my student to choose what he wanted to play with after recess, and we would set it on his desk. I also had a small plastic easter egg that I would show him, and inside would be a few chocolate covered raisins. "see this B?? Wow, when you come IN, you can have it." I'd put it in my pocket. We'd go outside, but I'd be very careful not to let him get to far. I'd carry a fanny pack with emergency items-small toys, cards, whatever he liked. I'd start warning him about the transition. "5 min-THEN we go inside" Use bribery if you have to at first. There is no shame in that. "First you come in, THEN you may have ...." If the bell rang and he laid on the grass, I let him lay there and walked towards the door. BUT, I reminded him what was waiting for him, and took out the egg and shook it. At first he'd just lay there. Sometimes in the rain. Then he'd get wet and cold, and decide to come in. The SECOND he got in the door, he got the egg with the raisins. Pretty soon, he began to associate being IN with the raisins-and would come in no problem. It wasn't fool proof, and it still happened occasionally where he'd bolt, but the behavior was dramatically reduced. If he chose to run while we were out there, I'd have to follow. However the staff knew my predicament. If I didn't come in, someone would come out to look for me. Or I had a cut out of a hand that I could give to a student, who would run to the office-then the principal would come and bring my student in. If the hand had to be used, no raisins. Then it was a time out. Once he knew what "the hand" meant, I would just have to show it to him and he would come, lol!

3-routine, routine, routine. Try to set up some sort of routine for her. Give her jobs to do. Can you cook with her? Read? Is a scheduale too restrictive? In school here in Canada, many kids use augmentative communication (either a picture system or other communication device). A common picture language is called Board maker. If you can get some pics, you could make her a scheduale-does she have a communication book, use sign language, speak, or use technology? I found that using a scheduale was the best thing with my student. He was so good at it that he was practically on autopilot at the end of the year. Consistancy is the KEY with these kids. You can't be wishy washy. Find out what calms her down. Ripping paper? Playdo? Videos? Often these kids are just worn out from school too, it's been a long day. She may need some downtime.

Ask Mom or Dad what they do for undesireable behavior. You may get some ideas there.

In my opinion, you aren't neccesarily getting her to respect you, you need her compliance. The boy that I worked with was at a 2 year old level. The more that I kept that in my head, the more I realized that it wasn't about getting his respect, it was more about training him. He had to learn that there were certain things that he could NOT do. I kept the list short (bolting/hitting/throwing things/spitting). If he laid on the floor and screamed in the hall, I sat down and said, "I'll wait."And then I ignored (unless he was doing something destructive or unsafe) Then I pulled out something to distract him with (from that trusty fanny pack). I'd say, "first stand up, THEN you can have....." If that didn't work, I said, "first (whatever it was I wanted him to do), then (whatever it is he wanted to do-within reason)" and "I'll wait". It's hard waiting them out-grit your teeth-don't give in, don't react, don't show any emotion. Just keep repeating the same language. When they aren't getting what they want, and they aren't getting a reaction from you, they eventually give it up and move on. It will then happen less and less.

Above all, realize that these are not always easy kids to work with. Don't be so hard on yourself for having to ask for help, we all do. And we've all felt like quitting too. :)Hang in there! You can ask me questions any time you need to. But I strongly suggest you seek out those people who worked with her before. Maybe get them to show you some sure fire strategies. Good luck!

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2003
Wed, 06-02-2004 - 7:22am
K, thanks for some terrific ideas of support! Thanks for sharing some of your experiences.



iVillage Member
Registered: 08-05-2003
Sat, 08-21-2004 - 6:55pm
Here is what I have learnt from dealing with certain kids with variouse disabilities that involve alot of coaxing. I use racing alot. The kids like it if it becomes a game so try having a race to the bath room, or the the craft table or something, depending on size piggy backs work wonders to. I have also learnt as long as the child will be in no danger and you can see them never chase the child. They will not come back and will think it's a game.

-Jen, hope I helped

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2003
Tue, 09-07-2004 - 8:07am

Nikki, how are things going?