• Down syndrome;
  • early intervention;
  • social competence;
  • systems

Abstract  This article addresses the dynamics of parent–child interactions and their potential influence on the development of social competence among children with Down syndrome (DS). The authors argue that a strong parent–child relationship is fundamental for building the social competence of children with DS and the integration and inclusion of these children into their communities. The Learn at Play Program (LAPP), a model of early intervention that prioritizes the goals of nurturing and shaping the development of interpersonal skills and social competence among children with DS, is proffered. Discussed first is a brief overview of early intervention and the rationale for the need to focus on parent–child interactions and social competence when DS is present. The LAPP early intervention model for children with DS and their families is presented along with data from seven mother–child dyads assessed with the LAPP longitudinal study of parent–child interactions in DS to demonstrate the use of the model. The author's experiences with the LAPP program are also used to illustrate the utility of linking supportive networks (such as nonprofit organizations), academic and provincial government funding partnerships and public policy forums, and publicly funded organizations providing services to children with developmental delays from birth to 3 years old.