The challenges of providing services and support in the digital age

There has been a growth in online services in the last year, partly due to the pandemic and partly to make full use of the opportunities to reach families when services are offered in this way. Services include recorded video presentations and live online sessions, with some aiming to teach and support parents and some aiming to directly teach children. The presenters will share their programmes and what they have learned so far. The aim of this symposium is to consider what we are learning about the effectiveness of these forms of delivery and to begin to outline some shared guidelines for good practice.

Delivering online early development groups: the PEGS project

Nicola Enoch 1 ; & Rebecca Baxter 2

  1. Positive About Down Syndrome, The Ups of Downs
  2. LETS Go! UK



Background: The availability of Down syndrome specific early intervention services across the UK is highly variable and is often dependent on local support groups. The Ups of Downs and LETS Go! UK provide early development groups to local families across Warwickshire and Hampshire respectively and the neighbouring counties. This project aims to provide early intervention activities and support for the implementation of these activities, to families with young children with Down syndrome (aged 6months-3 years) across the UK. It looks to answer the question as to whether early intervention services can be delivered to families using digital media and video communication. This presentation will share the development of this project and the progress to date on delivering services online.

The project is comprised of two components:

Videos: video recordings include activities across a range of skills, including communication, early speech sound development, vocabulary, language, memory, fine motor and early reading and number. The activities follow developmental order and include examples of how to make activities easier and harder depending on the needs of the individual child.

Groups: Early Development Teachers who have extensive experience and knowledge in supporting preschool children with Down syndrome deliver regular online groups with parents. In addition to parental support, these groups provide the opportunity to discuss individual children's needs and development to encourage implementation of the activities at an appropriate level.

The project includes a number of steps to evaluate the service and these steps and preliminary data will be outlined. Online provision of services and support are more achievable than ever before but need careful development and evaluation.

Teach Me Too

Johanna Aiyathurai 1 ; Lucy Clark 2 ; & Julie Knight 2

  1. 21 Together
  2. Teachmetoo



Teach Me Too is an online library of 40 short educational videos and accompanying learning resources, all designed around the specific learning profile of children with Down's syndrome.

Produced as an emergency Covid-19 project to enable learners working in the early years curriculum stages to continue their learning at home or in education settings.

Initial evaluation: Initially a Kent based programme that became available to all in Dec 2020. We commissioned an independent evaluation of the project to investigate to what extent the 'Teach me too' project provides an online, accessible resource, to empower families, teachers, and children to understand and adapt to the challenges that Downs Syndrome presents to learning.

All the Kent parents interviewed reported a positive impact on their child, particularly relating to communication skills. They reported increased capacity and eagerness of their child to communicate. Parents reported that the project had supported them in understanding better the educational challenges faced by their child. The project gave them tools and ideas that helped them develop family and child-specific learning opportunities, parents felt empowered and less anxious about the future for their child. A worldwide survey is planned.

Future questions: Is there a longer-term use for this type of online learning? Do we need a mixed approach that targets parents directly, as well as the children? What are the other applications for this type of learning?

Online group therapy sessions with children with Down syndrome: What we have learnt

Erica Ranzato



Downright Excellent! (DEx) is a charity based in London that provides support to children and young people with Down syndrome and their families. DEx's service provision includes Speech and Language Therapy and Occupational Therapy delivered in small group settings. The COVID-19 pandemic forced therapists to quickly move from face to face setting to online setting and to radically change the way the service is provided.

A number of guidelines and resources to support the inclusion of children with special needs for online learning have been made available in the last year (e.g. Fajardo Bravo et al., 2020). However, very little is known in relation to the move to online therapy sessions and in relation to online services that are specifically provided to children and young adults with Down Syndrome and their families.

The first aim of this study is to explore therapists' experiences in moving to the online setting. In particular, the role played by technology, the influence of the different setting on the therapy delivery and the development of new child - parent - therapist dynamics.

The second aim of the study is to investigate how the service has evolved and to discuss the challenges that therapists had to face and how the DEx clinical team overcame them through collaboration with families.

Five therapists took part in semi-structured interviews, thematically analysed. The data for this study is currently being analysed.

Results from this study aim to provide a therapist's perspective and to start the conversation around good practices and recommendations to improve the provision of online services to children and young adults with Down syndrome.

Is it possible to deliver effective Early Intervention Groups via live video link?

Isabel Ashman 1 ; & Dr Wendy Uttley

  1. Early Years and Family Support



Down Syndrome Training and Support Service have been delivering a five year Early Intervention course for pre-school children with Down Syndrome since 2005. The children and parent / carer come to us in groups of five, from birth and attend a two hour, EDG, fortnightly, term time only. The intervention, devised by Dr Wendy Uttley, parent of Sam, 23, who has Down syndrome, focusses on speech, language and communication, numeracy, fine and gross motor skills and socialisation. 100+ children have attended the course to date. The majority have gone on to mainstream schools.

In the Spring of 2020, it became apparent, due to Covid19, that we needed to find a way to continue to deliver Early Intervention for families during periods of lockdown and shielding.

Could the EDG's be delivered virtually? What activities would and wouldn't work online? What resources would the families need in order for there to be effective interaction between the practitioner and the children, and for the work to be continued at home? What was the optimum number of children per session for the delivery to feel personal and for observation of the children's development and subsequent differentiation to continue? How long could a session last to prevent “Zoom fatigue” but optimise the focus required for online learning?

In the first lockdown we trialled delivery techniques, using feedback and practitioner observations. We feel we have now converted the intervention into an effective online offer. The areas of speech, language and communication and numeracy are working well. Areas of reduced efficacy are - gross and fine motor skills, & socialisation.

We currently work with 40 children; 28 of those children regularly attend online. There appears to be a mixture of factors influencing online attendance; socio-demography, age and ability. We are still observing and making adjustments to delivery.