How to support people with Down Syndrome in the workplace

Written by CWD Editor
Last updated Tuesday March 23 2021

Employing people with Down Syndrome not only has a positive impact on our community, it can also benefit your business. Despite many of the unfair stereotypes, people who have Down Syndrome have a wide range of strengths, talents and skills. Like anyone else, they are grateful to have a job and thrive on having a purpose and a daily routine, making them reliable, committed and punctual employees.

There are many ways you can support people with Down Syndrome in the workplace. It is vital to consider the different stages of their professional journey and understand what you can do to be a supportive and inclusive employer.

Induction and Training

Induction and training are essential to provide your employees with appropriate time to learn about your policies and procedures and introduce them to the work environment and colleagues. Here are some tips on how you can support people with Down Syndrome during this stage:

  • Allocating a mentor to the employee so they know whom they need to speak to if they have any questions.
  • Providing the employee with an induction booklet to keep the information together and periodically review it if needed.
  • Providing the employee with photographs of each staff member with details about their names, roles and where to find them as a reference.
  • Creating a visual and written daily schedule, including break and lunchtimes, and breaking down daily tasks.
  • After explaining each task, you can check if they understood before moving onto the next one. You can use the “See one, Do one, Teach one” technique to help the mentor verify whether the employee understands the tasks.
  • Allow for a more extended period for the induction to be completed, in case you need to review some job aspects with the employee.

Employee Development Stage

Everybody doing a job for the first time needs support. For people who have Down Syndrome, the level of support required will depend on the individual and should be discussed in the employee’s presence. Here are some valuable tips that can help you assist workers with Down Syndrome:

Providing aids and supportive equipment

  • Giving the employee a map or floor plan of the workspace, with photographs and information about where items are stored and where each staff member can be found.
  • Visual aids to assist in tasks, such as describing how to use a photocopier or scanner.
  • Working in partnership with somebody who knows the employee to learn more about aids and supportive equipment they already use at home are proven to be effective.
  • Providing assisting devices, such as electronic pencil sharpeners or staplers, non-skid material, etc.

Making information understandable and accessible

  • Breaking down jobs into smaller, manageable tasks to go through in a sequence.
  • Explaining tasks in different ways if the employee does not understand at first.
  • Demonstrating the task to the employee so they can practically see how to carry it out.
  • Using adequate language and common synonyms for more complex words and concepts.
  • Using large text and easy-to-read font when writing instructions.
  • Assigning the employee routinely and regular jobs.
  • Being prepared to allow for extra time for some tasks to be achieved.

At Careers with Disabilities, we are committed to providing employers and job seekers with the support they need to thrive in their lives. For more information about working with a disability such as Down Syndrome, you can visit our website’s dedicated page, the Government or the NHS websites.

Last Updated: Tuesday March 23 2021

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