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Children’s School Lives Study: Report 7

Children’s School Lives Study: Report 7

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Learning Programme 4: Ciaran' (Special School)


Ciarán is 15-years-old and has Down syndrome. He is functioning within the low moderate/severe learning range. Ciarán is a very funloving, affectionate and content student who enjoys attending school and is popular and liked by his peers. He has an older brother and sister who do not live at home–he resides with his parents and has a very close relationship with his grandfather who lives nearby.

Ciarán loves farming and music. He enjoys watching farming videos and listening to country music.

The school is a special school for students aged four to eighteen years. The school caters for students with severe/profound learning disabilities, moderate/multiple learning disabilities and for students with autism, and is a multi-denominational school.

It is divided into 4 areas: 7 junior classes, 6 senior classes, 6 classes for children with autism and 5 special care classes. Ciarán is a student in Senior 3—a class of 9 students.

Ciarán commenced SLT in the school in 2008. He was non-verbal and communicated by pointing, gesture and pulling adults to get what he wanted. SLT focused primarily on developing Ciarán’s expressive skills, using a combination of:

  • AAC in the form of Makaton signs
  • encouraging verbal attempts of words he was signing (initially single words, then 2, 3 and 4 key word sentences as his skills improved)
  • exercises to develop strength and mobility of jaw, lip and tongue muscles for improved articulation
  • intensive articulation/phonology drill work
  • increasing his awareness and use of 2 and 3 syllables in words.

In 2016, Ciarán’s comprehension of language was assessed and found to be at a 5 ½ to 6 year old level. Expressively he can use 3-4 word sentences for most of the functions of communication on a daily basis. His speech intelligibility, although much improved, continues to be the area of greatest challenge for Ciarán, He continues to use Makaton signs, with reminding, to support his speech when intelligibility is poor.

Ciarán has Hirschsprung syndrome, a congenital hereditary condition affecting his bowel function. It has been difficult to toilet train Ciarán regarding bowel movements as a result. The school is consulting with his paediatrician, social worker, parents and district nurse in relation to toilet training.

Ciarán is always cheerful and eager to learn. He embraces new tasks and takes instruction well. Ciarán is a non-reader and is operating within the 1-5 number recognition and numeration level.

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