What is Universal Design for Learning (UDL)?

According to the National Center on Universal Design for Learning:

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials and assessments that work for everyone. It is not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs.

Why is UDL important for students with Down syndrome?

NDSS promotes the incorporation of UDL into federal and state policy and legislation in order to raise expectations and improve educational outcomes for students with Down syndrome from early childhood through postsecondary education. UDL provides multiple and flexible methods of presentation, means of expression and means of engagement enabling educators to reach students with diverse learning styles, challenges and interests. This approach greatly benefits all students, including students with Down syndrome. Successful implementation of UDL principles is a key part of successful inclusion of students with Down syndrome in general education classrooms.

How can I bring UDL to my school district?

UDL is referenced in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015, which is the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that has replaced the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. ESSA encourages states to design assessments using UDL principles, to award grants to local education agencies who use UDL and to adopt technology that aligns with UDL.

Advocates are needed to spread UDL principles to more states and more school districts. The first step is to find out if your school district has developed its curriculum using UDL principles and whether educators receive training on UDL. If not, parents may share information about UDL with staff at their child’s school and with other families to build support for change. The links below provide many resources to help.