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Ms. Boyd Shares Her Teaching Gifts

My name is Calista Boyd and I have been teaching all ages from preschool to college remedial reading over the past 40 years. I enjoyed teaching and most of all I enjoy watching the students achieve their goals and become successful adults. In the last 14 years, I worked with an amazing woman, Mrs. Rosa Rocha, who allowed me to use my skills and knowledge to teach adults with Down syndrome.

Through the years, we addressed the needs of the students who came to us by developing unique educational and vocational programs at The Friends of Down Syndrome’s Academy. Our intent is to give them a jumpstart for their best life possible. We have over 50 students ranging from 19 to 69 attending our program in Houston.

Our program is based on the needs of the students. We aim to use their own skills to help them be lifetime learners and successful adults in the community. Our facility is bright and cheerful, clean, and welcoming to parents, visitors, and students.


When a student is considering enrolling at Friends of Down Syndrome (FoDS) Academy, they are given a 45-minute evaluation through conversation, games, and directions. Each student is then placed into one of seven classes based on their current skillset.

Prospective families are given a tour of the building so they can see the students in reading, math, social sciences, music, art, vocational, and exercise classes. The students always come up and say “Hi” and shake their hand.

The unique hands-on, coordinated, and personalized approach has helped many adult students to read for the first time and for historically non-verbal students to speak at school and at home. The results have been remarkable.

Attendees fund their fees either themselves (privately) or through agencies and state benefits based on the number of days they attend each week.

Productive Days

Every day starts in the social hall with the Pledge of Allegiance and morning announcements. Routine helps students get into the learning mindset. Then each student goes to their scheduled classes.

Each student learns differently, even with an all-Down syndrome program. Teachers utilize a variety of programs including Touch Math (a multi-sensory program), Raz-kids (a computer reading program for school and home), and hands-on projects with microscopes, arts & crafts, and musical instruments. Additional classes on Nutrition, Physical Education, Speech, Gardening, and Vocational skills make our program quite unique. I have found that expression is their best way to communicate. I use multi-sensory centers and personalized learning to help build verbal skills and confidence. The day ends with social time where students chat, dance, and sing. No time for boredom.


Respect and honesty for our fellow students and staff is mandatory. Behavioral issues are few and addressed swiftly through discussion, teaching, and reminders of the rules of respect. Taking time to visit students one-on-one is both rewarding and impactful. Just having a cup of coffee or Coke and talking about their weekend, their dog, and the goofy thing they did at the mall all build the rapport and trust necessary for everyone to succeed. And you’ll have a friend forever.

Ms. Boyd, Retired FoDS lead teacher


I'm thrilled to announce The Essential Guide was honored with the Gold Award by the Nonfiction Authors Association!

The Essential Guide provides step-by-step support to:

  • Inspire mindset shifts toward one of independence and possibilities

  • Foster independence building blocks from the earliest age

  • Highlight health risks and financial resources every family must know

  • Detail education and work options to promote community inclusion

  • Evaluate family- and community-based home options including the search process

The Guide presents action items and worksheets to equip you with a clear timeline and path. The resources and references sections will save you time and money in your search for information and organizations that support your family’s journey.

“As parents, we are the experts of our loved ones, and this is an excellent resource in navigating our own decisions to better support the goals and dreams of those we love.” Tara Goodwin, D.O., Adult Down Syndrome Clinic, QuestCare Dallas

Friedman intersperses relatable and inspiring stories from a wide array of families. Insights from many experts in the fields of communications, education, health, and financial planning provide the confidence and guidance for you to navigate your family’s path toward independence.


Beyond Down Syndrome is proud to donate a portion of all book sales proceeds to LuMind IDSC to support Down syndrome research specifically focused on the link with Alzheimer's disease. Did you know that 12% of the US population will be afflicted by Alzheimer's but 95% of the Down syndrome community will have Alzheimer's by the age of 65, often exhibiting first signs decades earlier. Together we can make a difference!


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