Down's syndrome: Top tech for learning, fun, organisation

AbilityNet is a charity which enables people with different abilities to make the most of technology and encourages a tech inclusive society. So, on World Down’s syndrome Day last month (21 March) we talked to the Down’s syndrome Association and blogger Leah Jones about technology which might be useful or of interest to people with Down’s syndrome. 

World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) is marked with activities and events to raise public awareness and create a global voice for advocating for the rights, inclusion and well being of people with Down's syndrome. This year's theme is #LeaveNoOneBehind.

Of course, the abilities, needs and interests of everyone, including people with Down’s syndrome differ greatly, and so technology used also varies.

Why visual technology is important for people with Down’s syndrome

But while technology used by children and adults who have Down's syndrome will vary, there is something worth noting when considering tech, app and website users with Down's syndrome - a strong visual learning skill is common.

A spokesperson for the Down’s Syndrome Association told AbilityNet: “Things like timetables, clocks and scheduling apps are particularly useful because people with Down’s syndrome are very strong visual learners. Therefore seeing a clock face, a visual timetable or a photo diary can be really helpful in enabling someone to understand and remember the message. Sometimes other prompts will be needed, but visual imagery is very important.”

"Technology is a must for me": Blogger and trainer who has Down's syndrome

Trainer and blogger Leah Jones, who has Down’s syndrome, told us she finds a whole range of technology important and enjoyable. Leah runs Positive You - which offers fun and creative training to give people with a learning disability good confidence and self-esteem.

She told AbilityNet: “I say that it’s a must for me to be into technology. I love most things to do with my phone and my watch. I always keep them updated when they need to be refreshed.

"I use technology in many forms including various websites, the iPhone, iWatch and iPad. One of my favourite things to do online is to look at things about clothes and food places. I also tend to catch up on my shows on BBC1 iPlayer and ITV Hub when I miss them.

Leah Jones

Like many people, Leah's top technology is her phone. "My favourite technology is my phone," she says. "So I can take photos, text or ring my fiancé and contact my mum when I need to. I also have an iWatch which I use for particular workouts including running and walking and I use a stair stepper app. I often use a walking app and a rowing app too to help me to loose weight.

Learning apps and software for children with Down’s syndrome

Many of the educational apps and programmes that all children/ learners use, for reading, writing, numeracy e.t.c. are used by children with Down’s syndrome. Clicker software is used in schools and can be helpful for children who have Down's syndrome (this software is designed to develop speech and language skills and word recognition using visual prompts).

Special iApps is also commonly used by children who have Down’s syndrome. The Special iApps social enterprise is a former finalist in the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards. The organisation was created by a husband and wife team who couldn’t find the apps needed to effectively teach their son, who has Down's syndrome and autism.

The couple found that most apps had too much going on in the background (distracting and confusing), weren't configurable and weren’t easily personalised for each child, so they created their own clear and clean apps designed to help children learn at their own pace.

These apps are now very popular with children who have Down's syndrome and are used and translated all over the world. In 2017 their organisation was a finalist in the Tech4Good Community Impact Award category, after being nominated by a member of their team.   

Further reading

Visit the Down’s Syndrome Association Website

Check out the Positive You website with Leah Jones

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