by Anne Halpin, Outreach/Development Officer, Kay Devine, Director, Foyle Down's Syndrome Trust, Spencer Road, Waterside, Derry


Foyle Down’s Syndrome Trust (FDST) was formed in September 1995. The Trust has an innovative and groundbreaking approach to the educational and social inclusion of children and young people with Down’s Syndrome who are disadvantaged through the disabling attitudes in society.

The specific objectives of the Trust are:

  • to support children with Down’s Syndrome and their parents and families by providing home-based education to alleviate language delay and improve communication skills,
  • to support teaching and learning in schools,
  • to develop inclusive social programmes of activities for children and young people with Down Syndrome and their non-disabled peers,
  • to empower and assist parents in leading their children to independent living,
  • to develop inclusive good practice networks providing non-traditional education to children and young people, incorporating the social skill elements necessary to achieve independent living, and
  • to promote and increase representation of people with Down’s Syndrome in the wider community in decision-making and community activities.

Currently the Trust’s work is funded by the Department for Social Development, BBC Children in Need and Community Fund: Lottery Money Making a Difference.

Social programmes

The Trust works with and supports our partner providers in designing and developing specialist workshops for children and young people with Down’s Syndrome. Activities for the younger children are mainly centred around play and fun, and are aimed at building self-confidence and self-assurance in group situations.

The 11–16 age group look at more serious issues such as relationships and keeping themselves safe from harm in their community. They have been involved in two important projects in the past year. The first was ‘Self-Confidence/Self-Assurance’ programme with the Verbal Arts Centre, FDST and Patsy Devine (a community dramatist), The second project, jointly organised by FDST and the Cookie Company, via Challenge NI and the Foyle Parents and Friends Association, introduced young people to basic cookery skills and developed their practical life skills. The course can lead to NVQ accreditation.

Lisa Cregan (14) reports on the project: ‘Every Wednesday, Fidelma, Claire, Nicola, William, Michael, Rhona, Patricia, Emma, Laura and I went to the Cookie Club. Louise [Lyons] was our teacher. She taught us how to get ready to cook, lots of different recipes and all about hygiene and safety and preventing accidents. Here are some of the things we cooked: jams, pancakes, scrambled eggs on toast, spaghetti, stew, chicken curry, burgers, cookies, buns, rice crispies, Mars bar slices. Each week, when we finished our cooking, we ate it! Then we had to clean up! I always looked forward to going to the Cookie Club and I am sad that we have finished now. I would recommend the Cookie Club to everyone.’

Claire Thompson (14) says ‘I liked going to the Cookie Company because I like cooking with my friends. My favourite recipe was Spaghetti Bolognaise.’

Emma Diver (14) and Fidelma Coyle (17) provided the captions for the pictures. [Editor’s note: We apologise that there wasn’t enough space to show all seven pictures, but these will give ‘the flavour’.)

  1. Emma is going to eat vol au vents and orange juice which she made.
  2. Fidelma, Claire, Louise, Emma and Michael are writing about health and safety.
  3. Emma is flipping her pancakes, watched by Fidelma and Lisa.
  4. Louise is helping me read the questions about the recipe. My friend Claire is also in this photo.
  5. I’m cooking pancakes. They were delicious!
  6. Louise is teaching Claire and Emma about hygiene and safety when they are cooking.
  7. Michael is cooking pancakes, watched by Nicola and me.
Community participation

While taking part in any of the social programmes, the children and young people have been integrated into community venues and organisations. The 11–16 age group recently participated in the Carnivale of Colours, a community festival in Derry’s St Columb’s Park, and one of our young people has been invited to join a youth committee for next year’s Carnivale.

Nicola Harkin (16) explains: ‘We spent each Tuesday evening for a month before the Carnival, making our costumes at the Shantallow Community Centre, with Rhona and Jani helping us. To make my hat, I had to cut out the shape and paint it with lots of different colours. To make my skirt, I painted it with a mixture of colours. At the carnival, we walked around St Columb’s Park wearing our costumes. The walking was a bit too far for my legs, but we had a fun day!’

Dolores Murphy (15) and Nicola explain the photos from the day:

  1. This is my friend Laura. Doesn’t she look beautiful?
  2. Here’s a photo of Kay and William. Do you like their costumes?
  3. This is me (Dolores), looking lovely in my beautiful skirt. I painted my skirt with all different colours.

All of the young people thoroughly enjoyed their involvement in the Carnivale, just as they enthusiastically participate in all aspects of the Trust’s work available to each of them.