|Singing with Bekah|
Talking to our children is one of the most important things we can do! Children with Down Syndrome benefit incredibly from constant interaction. It enhances their development by learning early speech sounds and encourages communication. With Felix, I talk to him all the time. (My Mum once told me that I "Came out of the womb talking" so maybe that's why I don't find it too hard. Hahaha!) These are some of the ways I have used communication to assist Felix's development:
Talk, talk, talk
I always tell Felix what we're going to be doing. If it's time to get dressed I say, "Come on. Let's get you dressed." As I put on his pants I will always ask, "Where are your feet?" When I pull his feet through the footholes, I'll say, "There they are!" This is usually met with some giggles. I do the same with his shirt, and will count his fingers on each hand as they come through the hole. He thinks it's a big joke and laughs and smiles, but he is learning at the same time.
|Chatting with Aaron|
Cutting babies fingernails can be a chore as they are usually not willing to sit still for long enough. Felix knows that we count every time. He looks up at me expectantly as soon as he sees the scissors. We count each fingernail that we cut. We make a game out of it and have it done in no time.
Felix enjoys sitting on the kitchen floor and opening the bottom drawer to pull out all the teatowels. When he opens the drawer I say the word 'open', when he closes the drawer I say 'close'. After much repetition, he now does it correctly when I ask (most of the time). He looks very proud of himself because he knows he is comprehending what I'm saying to him. It's a pity Mr.Messy is still too young to refold all the teatowels after he's pulled them all out, but I'm sure that will come in time.
Reading books, I believe, is one of the most important things you can do with your children. Picture books are great when they are little. We spend a lot of time with Felix pointing to pictures and telling him what things are. We find that he responds well to pop-up or touch-and-feel books. We have encouraged him to turn the pages from when he was very young and he was doing this successfully by the time he was 12 months old. He now has his favourite pages and skips the bits of the book he doesn't like.
Dance and Sing
Music is a wonderful way to communicate with your child. Every day I put on Felix's CD player and we dance and sing. He is particularly responsive to the songs with lots of actions to them. If a song starts, that is one of his favourites, he will motion to me in some way (either by eye contact, making a sound or starting to dance). It's his way of saying to me, "Well come on Mum, do the actions!" He has started to mimic some of the actions and he amazes me every day with the things he has learned.
|Encourage facial expressions|
Repetition is important for children with Down Syndrome. It takes them a little longer to process information, so doing the same thing over and over is necessary for them to develop confidently. It's important that they achieve success in whatever it is that they are trying to do until they are able to perfect it themselves.
Felix and I have recently started building towers using blocks. Don't expect your child with Down Syndrome to construct the Empire State Building on their first try! Start with two blocks. Show him how to put one on top of the other. Do this over and over. Eventually your child will make an attempt to do it himself. The other day Felix managed to put three blocks on top of each other without any help. It was a very proud moment. He also loves knocking the blocks down. He thinks it's hilarious! After he has knocked them down he will grab my hand and move it towards the blocks to get me to build them again.
Repetition can be used in other ways too. Felix has the most enormous repertoire of facial expressions. It started with us making a face, for example, making an 'O' with our mouth. He was very quick to pick it up and would repeat the face back to us. We kept doing this and now he copies almost any face we make and he has plenty of his own that we repeat back to him. The same goes for sounds. It is important to mirror any sounds your child makes and encourage him to repeat sounds that you make. These are early speech sounds and are vital for your child's speech development. A mirror can also be a fun way for your child to practice facial expressions and sounds. They will learn from watching their reflection, and I guarantee you will enjoy watching them play as well.
Have fun communicating with your child. Be creative. Talk to him in the car about the things you can see out of the window. Talk to him about the different fruit in the supermarket. Talk to him when he's in the bath and mention the body parts that need to be washed. Make animal noises when you are reading a book about a farm. Your child will amaze you with what they learn and the feeling you get when they show you something new is priceless!