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July 13, 2023

Grant amount: £22,500

Learn and Thrive

  • Grant programme: Positive Futures
  • Region: South East

Towards the development of online age-appropriate resources focused on safety and consent for young people with Down's syndrome.

About the organisation

Learn and Thrive has a vision of a world where everyone with Down’s syndrome thrives, our part of deleiveirng this vision is through expert learning and support for children and young people with Down’s syndrome (DS) via digital tools and online learning. Currently, we deliver the “Teach Me Too” project for pre-school and young children with DS, and “Learning For Life” which focuses on social skills, reducing vulnerability, appropriate social behaviour, and accessing your wider community. We use FREE digital resources to reach those children who often can’t access face-to-face support while supporting and training families and the professionals that work alongside them. Building a wider network of adults who know how to utilise the specific learning needs of our children to teach and support them to access their potential and their wider communities. Extensive video libraries and downloadable physical resources mean every child can access expert support and not just those that can afford to pay for it. The pandemic forced us to work differently, Learn and Thrive are taking all our positive learning experiences and developing tools that will help children and young people with DS, regardless of their means, background, or location.

Organisation’s objectives
  • Increasing knowledge and skills associated with living a full and vibrant life.
  • Reducing vulnerability and risk as young people with Down’s syndrome move into adulthood.
  • Increasing independence and employabaility skills.
  • Raising expectations throughout the Down’s syndrome community and the wider community.

About the project

How To… Get Involved – Production of Digital Learning Resources

The funding received from PHF has built new co-produced content for our free online video series. Working alongside young people, highly qualified specialists and professional film teams to ensure the resources are high quality, representing our community and reflecting their needs.

To enter into the adult world, we don’t just need to understand academic skills. The world of work, family, and leisure is littered with written and unwritten rules on how to behave and how to be accepted in your community. Typically developing young people learn through life, school, and friends. They learn; who to hug, when a friend is taking advantage of you, who should touch your body and when to ask for help. Young people with Down’s syndrome / learning difficulties don’t have the same access to social learning, and when they do, learning by inference is often impossible. They need an approach that uses their specific way of learning to teach these social skills step by step. Children and young people with DS all have some degree of learning disability. However, research has shown they have particular areas of weakness and strengths in the way they learn. Visual learning is a real strength and by creating high-quality video, symbols, and expertly differentiated resources we are able to support them by providing access to the information they need to thrive. Our recently developed series; Being Healthy, Caring Friendships and The Changing Adolescent Body all provide essential lessons that Young people with DS need to understand to help their personal development and interactions within the wider community.

Previously our team have tried to mend the damage done by inappropriate sexualised behaviour, or young people finding themselves is very vulnerable positions. We have come in and tried to ensure they have the skills moving forward. But why wait until the worst has happened! It is vital we support these young people to prevent the risks involved in social interaction, reduce their vulnerability and build their independence and confidence. While there are books and curriculums written out for teachers they all rely on staff to build and plan their own sessions. Thry rely on youth group leaders and parents to become experts or employ experts. Now anyone can pick up this practical and direct project to support them to deliver excellent learning and skills to the young people they are working with.

Quotes from our most recent focus group:

I’m just so pleased that you have brought out the young adults version, as I’ve mentioned I have used TM2 for a very long time and it is absolutely amazing. Its lovely to see that you have listened to parents, school and people that have used them and from that you have listened, learnt and developed the materials you now have for the young adults. Just keep on bring out more and more subjects out as it really really does help. Like everyone else has said I just wish more people were aware of it as the resources and all of the material is just wonderful, so thank you very very much. – Denise Blackshaw, Parent

I think the resources are absolutely amazing. I think there is such a gap for the resources and I wish more people knew about it. I wish I had learnt about them earlier, I wish I had them in my teaching placements and first year of teaching and second year of teaching and just earlier. I wish everyone working with children with additional needs had them because they have hit the nail on the head with exactly what we are trying to teach, it’s perfect. – Sarah Brown, Teacher

I work in a mainstream school with Down syndrome, so the resources offered in PHSE are a little to higher level for a DS child. Yours are at her level, lovely and colourful, big and bright. You can keep going over them, especially in different scenarios happening in the playground I can get them out and go through them. Sometimes the ones in mainstream school are very jazzy and too much information. So what I have found is brilliant.– Denis Chapman, Teaching Assistant

Watch the videos produced for Learn and Thrive's How To...Be Healthy series

Impact of PHF’s support

The number of people that we are reaching is increasing daily, which is amazing to see. In the past 9 months we have had an additional 1143 sign ups to our website, bringing our total reach to 2545. 36% of sign ups are of parents to CYP with Down’s syndrome, 39% are teachers or support groups who work with CYP with Downs’s Syndrome and 25% are CYP with another diagnosis such as ASD. By continuing to add new resources we are able to reach the varied needs of our community. In the next 12 months we are planning to create and release Respectful Relationships, Families and Understanding Health and Prevention which have all been highly requested by our members to aid the development and transition of our CYP into the world outside of School/College.

Over the past 9 months are videos have been viewed over 5000 times by around 600 unique viewers.  Repetition is a key tool used for the learning style of people with Down’s syndrome. This is why our online videos work so well, the user is able to replay the video as many times as they need to help solidify their understanding.

During the How to be Healthy video series we were able to invite a number of young people with Down’s syndrome along to the filming days to take part and share their talents in Dance, Zumba and fitness. The funding received enabled us to create this representation in our newest series as well as giving young people with Down’s Syndrome a new opportunity.

Quotes from two participants’ mums:

“Days like these are great to meet new people who are in the same boat. Rowan’s confidence grows so much from days like these, and he always comes away with such high spirits”

“Opportunities and so hard to come by so days like this are amazing for Andrew. He has been looking forward to today for ages and has been so excited to get involved”


How does your organisation exemplify PHF’s values?

When completing any of our projects we always have excellence in mind. In order to achieve the highest quality resources, we pull together information from a variety of avenues such as speciality teachers, industry professionals and the Down’s Syndrome community to ensure we are creating resources that are both user friendly and informative. Our approach is inclusive and collaborative, inviting stakeholders to share their insights and contribute to our mission. By using specialist teachers and industry professionals, we can ensure that all the resources we produce are factually correct and include all the information that is required to understand the topic, while also being shown at a level that engages our community and allows them to full grasp the lesson being taught.

Our ambition drives us to continuously innovate and expand our resources to reach as many children and young people with Down’s syndrome as possible. We aim to be a leading provider of accessible educational content, ensuring that our materials are not only comprehensive but also engaging and effective. By setting high standards and challenging ourselves to exceed them, we aspire to create a significant and lasting impact in the lives of our beneficiaries. We draw motivation from the incredible potential of children and young people with Down’s syndrome and the transformative power of education. Our resources are designed to inspire and encourage our users, fostering a love for learning and self-discovery. We are dedicated to overcoming challenges and continuously improving our offerings based on feedback and evolving needs. This determination is reflected in our rigorous approach to developing and updating our resources, ensuring they remain relevant and beneficial. We persistently seek new opportunities and partnerships to enhance our reach and effectiveness, demonstrating our unwavering commitment to our cause.

We believe in operating with the utmost honesty, transparency, and respect. This means that all of our free online resources for children and young people with Down’s syndrome are meticulously developed to be accurate, trustworthy, and beneficial. We are committed to clear and open communication with our community, we do this by asking for regular feedback, which we always respond to which creates an open communication platform and also hosting regular focus groups.