Mini MINdDS - a project specially for the little ones


Dr Pauline Frzelle (School of Clinical Therapies UCC), Dr Eva McMullan (Department of Music UCC) and Olive Buckeridge (Early Years Specialist, Down Syndrome Ireland).

Following the interest in the MINdDS project, Dr Eva McMullan (Department of Music) and Dr. Pauline Frizelle are currently developing a programme called Mini MINdDS.

Building on the substantial early years programmes already created by Down Syndrome Ireland and in collaboration with Olive Buckeridge (Early Years Specialist at Down Syndrome Ireland), Drs Mc Mullan and Frizelle are proposing to create a researched music programme which will support language development in the earliest of learners with Down Syndrome aged between 0-2 years, at this significant time in their development. 

Proposed Mini MINdDS project will include the following objectives:

  1. To support communication development through the use and composition of appropriate songs to include sequential songs, songs for daily activities, songs for routine such as bedtime songs. ‘Pieces will form an inherent part of the programme, as when words are part of a song, it makes it easier to remember. Therefore, singing increases phonological awareness’ (Barker, 1999).
  2. To encourage the use of Lámh signs for both the parents and children.
  3. Help support motor development through beat synchronisation and action songs.
  4. To support general cognitive development.
  5. To encourage socio-emotional development.


In recent years, there has been much research into the importance of music in language development. It has been noted that “language and music have been shown to use the same perceptive and cognitive procedures. For example, humming a simple, familiar melody activates complex auditory procedures, attention, memory, and the circuits of sensory integration of the brain.” (Moreno-Garcia et. al., Zatorre 2005). In addition, the benefits of using music in the classroom to enhance academic achievement have been well documented (Hammel and Hourigan, 2017).

In most Junior Infant classrooms, music is used to support education, whether it assists in learning the days of the week through song or in reminding children how to carry out a particular activity. It has been documented that “songs, chants, poems, and rhymes play an important role in early language development” (Dzanic et al., 2016)

The importance of early years education has now been widely acknowledged with a substantial body of research to support its inclusion in education models across the globe. However, the acknowledged importance of music in early years education is only an emerging field, with detailed research yet to develop. Putting music as a core component of early years education is something finally to be realized. Even more so, the importance of music in early intervention strategies has not been considered in-depth.

A pilot of this programme is currently being taught by Dr McMullan online for Down Syndrome Ireland and the mini MINdDS team are hoping to apply for ethical approval in the coming months to create this exciting project which will support language development in our earliest learners.


Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience

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