Last September we had the great pleasure to present our research findings at the Down Syndrome Research Forum organised by the Down Syndrome Education International at Hertfordshire University. This conference has been a unique opportunity to bring researchers and professionals together and to discuss recent finding about education and intervention programmes for children with Down syndrome.
At the DSRF2017 we presented our research findings about mathematical difficulties in children and adolescents with Down syndrome within the symposium “The foundations of number development in individuals with Down syndrome: difficulties and solutions” organised by Dr Jo Van Herwegen. This has been a great opportunity for us to stress the importance of providing numeracy training for children and adolescents with Down syndrome and to discuss this topic with teachers, parents and clinicians. In particular we raised a critical issue: focusing on the development of mathematical abilities is very important because mathematics is just everywhere and it is necessaryto support children’s autonomy and independence.
Currently, most of the therapy provided to children with Down syndrome focuses on language rather than on mathematics. However, research findings show that mathematics is an area of difficulty for most children and adolescents with Down syndrome, and many individuals with Down syndrome fail to achieve proficiency in mathematics (Rynders et al., 1997; Turner & Alborz, 2003). This must be consider a risk factor if we consider that mathematical skills are essential for everyday life. We need maths skills when we have to catch the bus number 12 and go to school, cook a delicious pasta dish (75gr of pasta in boiling water for 10 minutes) or check the time to make sure we don’t miss the train. Furthermore, the mastery of basic mathematical concepts are fundamental to the development of more advanced mathematical abilities and it is absolutely necessary to support post-secondary goals such as employment and independence (Brynner & Parson, 1997).
Several research studies have shown that specific intervention programmes may be useful to enhance mathematical abilities in children with Down syndrome. Some of these interventions work directly on basic mathematical skills; others tap domain general skills such as memory and attention, affecting mathematical learning indirectly. Either ways, most of the researchers agree on the importance of those early interventions and our aim is to put these findings into practice.