Online course: Supporting early development for children with Down syndrome from birth to 5 years

Our early years course offers families and preschool professionals comprehensive information about the early development of young children with Down syndrome, together with guidance on effective approaches to early intervention.

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The first few years of life are a critical time for development for all children. From birth, children with Down syndrome experience developmental delays and need additional support. Research is helping us to better understand these challenges and identify effective strategies for early intervention. Presented and led by Professor Sue Buckley OBE, this course examines how Down syndrome influences early development and what this means for effective support for young children with Down syndrome from birth.

This online course offers convenient access to up-to-date information and practical guidance for early years professionals supporting children with Down syndrome aged from birth to 5 years, including health visitors, early years teachers and assistants, speech and language therapists, advisory teachers, educational psychologists and outreach/advice staff and volunteers at organizations supporting young people with Down syndrome. The course is also valuable for parents seeking detailed advice, based on the latest research.

The course includes 10 modules, each of which includes a video presentation, handouts and an assessment. The video presentations can be viewed, handouts downloaded and assessments completed at any time. In addition, course participants can contact DSE tutors to ask questions and seek additional advice. Course participants should plan to spend a minimum of 20 hours studying to complete the course and assessments.

The course is accessible to participants in any country. A computer with a modern web brow gx-6ser and a reliable Internet connection sufficient for streaming videos is required.

"Many thanks for such an awesome, well presented, very informative course. All 10 modules have been very interesting and delivered in a most positive and professional manner by Sue. There was a great balance of research and real life stories bringing an in-depth meaning to the reality of Down syndrome" (Early Intervention Teacher, New Zealand)
"It is absolutely fantastic and my husband and I have learned more from this course than we have in all the 6 years of therapies and Early Interventions we have done for our son" (Parent, USA)
"I just want to start my message by saying how unbelievably helpful and informative all of the sessions have been" (Speech and Language Therapist, UK)


The following modules are included in this course:

  • How does having Down syndrome affect development - how having Down syndrome may influence children's development and learning, including an overview of common health issues and how they may influence development and an introduction to early social, motor, language, working memory and cognitive development for children with Down syndrome
  • Supporting social and emotional development - supporting social development from the first weeks of life through to starting school, including relating to both adults and children, learning to fit into the social world, play and friendships, managing emotions, developing age-appropriate behavior and how to prevent or change difficult behaviors
  • Learning to talk - how language learning may be influenced by having Down syndrome and provides practical guidance on how to support children with Down syndrome at each stage from understanding first signs and words to developing sentences and grammar
  • Developing speech and verbal short term memory - speech skills begin to develop from the first weeks of life and this module explains speech development and suggests activities to improve discrimination and production of speech sounds and words - it also explains the links between speech and verbal short-term memory (VSTM) and describes activities which may improve VSTM development
  • The importance of books and teaching early reading - how to teach early reading to provide a basis for developing reading in school, including teaching sight words and letter-sounds and first phonics and how to use reading to develop language
  • Developing number and math skills - explains each of the steps children have to go through to learn to count and to begin to understand the number system and aspects of maths, time and money - sets out activities to support the children's learning about numbers 1 to 10 in small and structured steps to provide a solid foundation to build on in school
  • Encouraging motor development and independence in preschool - how to support motor progress and how to encourage practical independence as motor skills improve including at meal times, washing, dressing and toilet training
  • Supporting play and cognitive development - how children learn through play and the benefits of a responsive teaching approach - practical strategies for supporting play, improving attention and encouraging persistence in play and problem solving - describes activities to teach early color, size and shape concepts, ordering and sequencing to support maths learning
  • Effective education and inclusion - considers the ways in which early years and preschool settings need to prepare to support the learning and development of a child with Down syndrome whether they are special or mainstream settings including the use of appropriate assessments and addressing staff training needs - considers the key factors which contribute to successful inclusive practice
  • Families, support and a shared vision - discusses the research on how families respond to and are affected by bringing up a child with Down syndrome - presents a vision of our children's futures and puts the information covered in the course into the context of preparing child with Down syndrome to lead a full and meaningful life with the same rights and needs as everyone else
"Just to say that I am studying your online course Birth to 5 years development and loving it. Our little one is 14 months now and doing so so well. Thank you so much and where would we be without all this support and love." (Parent, UK)
"This course has been amazing. Sue is fantastic! Very inspiring... As a parent to a girl who is starting school next year this course has had perfect timing. It is like a gold mine..." (Parent, Sweden)
"I just want to point everyone in the direction of this course I have been doing online with DSE International. I've nearly completed it now and it has been fantastic, invaluable actually. I've learned so much about language, social, learning, speech, emotional and motor development for our little ones and different ways in which to understand and encourage development... I feel much more confident in tackling his education now... Can't recommend it enough." (Parent, UK)


This course features:

  • Video presentations - lasting between one and two hours, available to course participants for streaming on-demand
  • Handouts - download copies of the slides in the presentation to work through
  • Assessments - check your learning with online assessments
  • 'In practice' checklists - guidance and checklists to assist course participants to identify how to apply what they have learned for each child that they work with
  • Further reading, references and resources - references to research discussed in each module, together with further reading and recommended resources are provided for those wishing to develop their knowledge further
  • Certificates of achievement - certificates for participants who successfully complete each module and assessment in this course

Course duration

We recommend setting aside around two hours per week for 10 weeks to study this course.

Access to the course is available as a monthly subscription or a single purchase of 12 months.

Participants must successfully complete each module and all assessments to receive a certificate of achievement.

How to book

You can purchase access to our online courses via our subscriptions website .

Help with online courses and subscriptions

Please visit our support site for additional help with online courses and subscriptions.