Our Achieving Better Communication (ABC) Programme

What is ABC?

Our Achieving Better Communication (ABC) programme delivers communication support to babies, children and young adults with Down’s syndrome. ABC sessions run weekly and provide information and support to parents and activities for children to develop communication skills that can be continued in the home, wider family, and nursery/school environment.

The ABC programme uses research findings on the specific learning style and language development profile of children with Down’s syndrome to develop targeted communication support. Our sessions are therefore very focused on using visual communication tools and, where appropriate, supporting families and children to learn and use signed communication.

Groups will normally consist of 2, 3 or 4 children and the sessions vary in length depending on the size of the group from 30 minutes up to 1 hour long. A parent/carer or education support attends with each child and joins the group activities; this ensures that the techniques and approach can be transferred to home and nursery/school so that the child’s communication development can be consistently supported in all settings.




Click Here to Download




Our ABC groups were started in Edinburgh in October 2006 by a group of parents along with a Speech and Language Therapist. Down’s Syndrome Scotland took over the management of the Edinburgh groups in 2010 and developed ways of delivering a more national service.  In the years that followed, we ran a very successful pilot project evaluated by The University of Strathclyde and our ABC groups started to flourish and we have been successfully delivering groups across Scotland with over 100 children on the programme.  We continue to be very grateful to the funders who have supported the development of this programme over the years.


ABC At Home 

The ongoing pandemic has meant that we have been unable to return to face-to-face ABC sessions. We have continued to develop and deliver all our sessions online, which we have been doing since the initial 2020 lockdown. This means that we are continuing to provide consistent and timely support for communication development while the possibility of returning to face-to-face sessions remains very uncertain.

Our ABC sessions are delivered via Zoom or Microsoft Teams and can be accessed from home or from school.


The structure of ABC 

Our ABC sessions start from birth through our ABC First Steps sessions (previously The Wee Song and Sign Circle) you can find out more about ABC First Steps here, then into our Main Programme, which takes children from around the age of 3 right through to when they leave school at age 18.

Within our Main Programme children are placed into differentiated pre-school, primary school age and teen groups. Within these ages they are placed into groups depending on their stage of communication, we have three main categories;

  • First Words

Our First Words sessions are aimed at children who may be pre-speech or saying/signing individual words. These sessions use lots of storytelling, singing, signing, sound work and picture matching. Generally, the sessions are for children aged 3-5 years old, but the sessions are suitable for older children depending on the individual needs of the child.

  • Next Words

Our Next Words sessions are aimed at children who are beginning to join words or signs together into short sentences. These sessions involve sound work, storytelling, sequencing, word and picture matching and recognition. Generally, the sessions are for children ages 5-7 years old, but the sessions are suitable for younger and older children depending on the individual needs of the child.

  • Beyond Words

Our Beyond Words sessions cover a broad category where children work in groups generally aged 7 and over. These sessions focus on block topics and each child’s news, with a weekly picture sent to tutors for group discussion. Children are supported to ask and answer questions, taking turns to listen to and recall each child’s news. Using topic work, children will have the opportunity to expand vocabulary and practise new language concepts through repetition using visuals, stories and written prompts.

You can view a clip of each of these sessions below.

We also offer sessions at each of these communication stages for teens, these sessions use age-appropriate activities and communication support.

Our ABC Main Programme leads onto our new ABC Next Steps young adult Programme. In these sessions, young adults work in small groups (and sometimes 1-1 with a tutor, depending on individual need), focussing on communication and literacy skills such as reading and writing incorporating topical vocabulary, news or conversational skills. These groups are currently for young adults aged 18 – 25, you can find out more about these groups here.


ABC Anytime 

If you are interested in our programme but your child is not available on the days/times we have available in our ‘live’ session, then you may find our ABC Anytime sessions could suit you better.

With ABC Anytime we provide you with weekly recordings of communication support sessions to use when suits you or your child best, which can be either at home or in school.

ABC Anytime is suitable for children aged 3-12 or for younger teens who are at an earlier stage of communication. Some families find ABC Anytime useful for their child to adapt to the ABC programme in a flexible way whilst a suitable ABC “live” slot becomes available. Others opt for ABC Anytime as their programme of choice as it suits their family life best. If you are interested, please contact us at abc@dsscotland.org.uk.

You can view a clip of an ABC Anytime session below.

We are receiving encouraging feedback from families accessing ABC at home and School/Nursery, telling us how easily their child is adapting to the sessions and sharing their appreciation and thanks for how we have been able to continue supporting them at this time.

“Tyree has been enjoying the sessions. He seems more focused on the class than he would be in person.”

“The two zoom classes that Rosie has done with Katy have been great and she has been really engaged and enjoyed them”

If you are a member of DSS you can also access additional ABC communication support and resources on our online community platform (Hub 21). You can read more about this exciting new member offering here.

If you would like to find out more about joining our ABC programme, please email abc@dsscotland.org.uk.

All of our online sessions comply with our Online Safeguarding policy, this can be accessed here, please take the time to read this policy prior to your session if you have any questions we are more than happy to answer them.