An inspirational place for families to celebrate their child

To read on Gigi’s Playhouse website:

Programs Overview


Programs at GiGi’s Playhouse offer foundational learning opportunities for individuals with Down syndrome, their families and the community.

GiGi’s Playhouse programs ?are a place for parents/caregivers to share ideas and network with one another. We invite caregivers to communicate their needs, questions and concerns with one another, and promote connections to be made in support of each other. GiGi’s programs embrace the family and help aid the development of a healthy, successful relationship between parents, individuals with Down syndrome and siblings.

GiGi’s Playhouse programs support families in developing high expectations for their son or daughter with Down syndrome. Many families are blindsided by a diagnosis of Down syndrome in pregnancy or at birth, and GiGi’s programs aim to help parents overcome the diagnosis and maintain high expectations for their child to achieve success in social, educational and employment opportunities in the future.? Our staff and volunteers support parents in maintaining high expectations, even through challenging periods of time. By encouraging their child to follow routines and participate fully, parents take a big step in recognizing their child’s potential.

Goals for each GiGi’s Playhouse program: 

  • Create opportunities for parent networking and provide educational tools? 
  • Instill high expectations for each participant to follow program routines and to fully participate in planned activities 
  • Motivate the child, parent and volunteers to give their “Best of All” in each program session 
  • Deliver purposeful programming tailored for individuals with Down syndrome, to include structured routines, purposeful activity planning and an (engaging/fun/creative) environment to foster development and encourage growth in individuals with Down syndrome 
  • Provide specific, therapeutic or educational learning opportunities to support development of speech-language, social, and motor skills  tailored?to addressing the universal challenges of individuals with Down syndrome
  • Remove the barrier of cost?for our participants by offering free programs  


Research shows that individuals with Down syndrome tend to be “visual learners” and benefit from kinesthetic (movement) and auditory input (music, song) when learning.? Utilizing a multi-sensory approach sets the individual up for the highest level of success.? GiGi’s Playhouse programs offer a consistent program structure and routine, which lends to recognition and comprehension of program activities.? For example, by ending the program with the same song each week, participants learn to anticipate the closure of the program and this helps increase cooperation through this transition. When children and families come to GiGi’s, they quickly learn the routine and expectations when taught from the beginning. Don’t miss out on this learning opportunity! 

At GiGi’s Playhouse, each program has a therapeutic or educational focus.? Even if it appears the participants are just having fun, they are learning and experiencing therapy in disguise at the same time.? Whether working on social skills, motor skills, speech and language, reading, math, computers or just simple peer interaction, it is all purposeful fun!? Along with the development of new skills comes self-esteem- the most important element to Playhouse programs. Self-esteem is formed not only in the child with Down syndrome, but in the family members as well. 

Families and siblings are always welcome at GiGi’s Playhouse during programs or any time when the Playhouse is open. Parents are expected to remain at the Playhouse during programs, and be actively involved in supporting their child’s participation in program activities. Volunteers are also available to assist throughout the program. 

See our Program Listings here.





Adorable little faces and persons

To read on The Down syndrome Centre website:

Alan Ryan


7 years old
Place in the Family
Alan has one sister named Sophie (10) and who he adores
Alan loves to ride his bike, swimming, football, swing ball and playing on the road outside our house. He adores eating out and his favourite food is a burger. He also loves babies especially his baby cousins Danielle, Toby and Leo.
He doesn’t like blood tests, having his hair blow dried or being helped (to which he replies “I don’t need help, I’m seven”)
Soccer, Reading, Cycling, Playing Frisbee and Swimming.

Testimonial by Mum, Jackie Ryan

Alan has had another brilliant year. He took on the challenge of senior infants with ease despite having a new teacher, a new SNA and a new resource teacher all in one go to contend with. He adores school and is doing really well. He loves maths and Irish and even won a certificate for Irish speaker of the day recently. He loves spellings and reading and his writing has come on hugely also.

Alan spent a week in Lanzarote in early May and he loved it from start to finish. He was the talk of the resort and he loved speaking in Spanish with words such as Hola and Gracias rolling off the tongue. He loved swimming and walking on the beach but his favourite activity by far was to pick a different restaurant to dine at each night. He was best friends with the waiters everywhere we went and in fact he was best friends with most people everywhere we went. This is not unusual for Alan. He is like a magnet and seems to draw people to him even when he isn’t even trying.

In the last year Alan finally conquered his fears in the water and is swimming now with ease.
Alan loves his family, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents & friends. He has 2 cousins in Australia who he doesn’t get to see very often but he never forgets them. He also has a little cousin in New Zealand who he is mad about despite not having met Toby as of yet. The special bond is there no matter what the distance.

Alan is one of the funniest and happiest individuals you could meet. His smile is infectious. Everywhere we go people ask me if he is ever in a bad mood and the truth is that unless he is sick, he is always happy. He skips into school every day and skips home again. He is a constant reminder to us about how to live in the moment and how to make the most of every single day.

But perhaps more importantly than all of the above is that Alan is more than just a cute picture on a poster. He has a valuable role to play in society and he has so much to offer to those around him. He has educated us as a family, the children in his school and everyone he engages with, and we are all the better people for it. He has shown us the importance of patience, understanding, acceptance and diversity. He is capable of so much more than people might imagine. He has a bright future ahead of him, provided the opportunities are made available to him. A world without Alan and people like him would make our society a less colourful, joyful and diverse place in which to live.

The centre

Alan attends the Down syndrome centre every second week for Occupational therapy with Ellie. He skips into the centre each time and it’s the only appointment he has that big sis Sophie looks forward to also. Ellie always includes her in the session and as a result Sophie feels part of the process. This is so important for siblings who can sometimes be forgotten along the way. In fact Sophie could probably run the session by now.

Alan will also attend a specialised summer camp at the centre in July which will be great for his development but also for socialising with his pals.

The centre is a special place for us as a family. We see it as the future for people with Down syndrome in Ireland. As a result we have been involved in many fundraising events to help raise money for the centre. Without it & all of the amazing people that work there, I don’t honestly know what the future would hold for Alan.


Testimonial by Ellie Forsyth, Occupational Therapist

Alan has had another great year, continuing to keep up with his peers throughout senior infants. Alan’s handwriting is coming along beautifully and he is developing a great sense of spatial awareness which is having a hugely positive effect on his legibility. Alan works hard on motor planning, sequencing and ideation; coming up with the most fantastic obstacle courses and makes great use out of our ‘fancy’ (Alan’s word .. not mine!) therapy equipment. Although Alan’s Occupational Therapy appointments are late in the afternoon, following a busy day in school, he is always so eager to learn and gives 110%. It is my privilege to be a part of Alan’s continued success and development.

2016 5 years old


2017 6 years old


2018 7 years old



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