Sunday, February 21, 2010

Downs Ed Conference

This weekend, we went to KC to attend the Downsed conference sponsored by the DSG of KC.   It was a wonderful conference where speakers like Sue Buckley, and Julie Hughes (photos below) did presentations on a variety of topics, broken down by age groups of 0-5, 5-11 and 11-16.  We attended the 0-5 track and enjoyed presentations on developing language and communications skills, developing early reading skills, supporting speech and verbal memory, developing play number and cognitive skills and behavior.

Sue Buckley

Julie Hughes

During our 4 hour trip home (it was snowing...again) I had time to think about what I learned and all the concepts I wanted to try with Ben when we go home.   Here are some of the more important things from the conference:
Visual Learning -I had heard before that children with Down syndrome learn better when visual teaching techniques are used.   In fact, just last week I took pictures or everyday things around our house to make learning cards for Ben.   The Downsed group did a really good job of breaking down the learning process for children with Down syndrome so that I could understand why visual learning works so well.  They offer a system called See and Learn that is much like the pictures I too for Ben.  I just need to make a few adjustments to my cards, and they will be much more effective learning tool.

Errorless Learning - Start lessons out very easy so the child can not fail.   Then slowly start making each lesson a bit harder.  By using errorless learning, you can prevent children from getting frustrated and giving up.  We need to work harder at teaching our kids instead of testing our kids. 

Reading - Even very young children can be taught to read, first by word matching, then selecting and finally by word naming.  It has been found that children with Down syndrome learn better when taught whole words first and then after they have a good understanding of sight words, go back and teach them phonics.   One of the most impressive parts of this session was a video clip of a 4 year old boy with Down syndrome reading.  The lesson I took from this section, was that we should never stop raising the bar.  If we keep challenging our children, there is no telling what they will be able to accomplish. 

Language vs Speech - Ben understands a lot.  He just can't say anything.   He has a communication goal that up to now has been mostly sign and a few picture cards.   What I learned is that speech and language are two separate items that are often on very different levels.  We need to get him some actual speech goals starting with teaching him the letter sounds, while continuing to expand what he can comprehend.    

Behavior - Most children with Down syndrome are very social.  However because they are so darn cute, and they look at us with those beautiful eyes, they soon have many of the people in their lives jumping to help them.  Our job as parents is to give them chronological age appropriate boundaries and behavior goals.  They may need some support to meet these goals, but good behavior will only help our children later in their lives to be accepted by their peers. 

This is just a small part of the information we learned on Saturday.  I need to go back over my notes and pick out some activities to start with Ben.  We also brought home a video that has speech and language activities for preschool children with Down syndrome.  I look forward to watching it this week.

  This was my first conference and I had high expectations that I would learn a lot.  The good people at Downsed did not let me down.  It was a great learning experience.  Plus I got to spend a night out of town with my husband and without the kids.  This was Ben's first time spending the night at Grandma's.  He did great, but I think she would have liked to sleep in a bit longer.   

Parents from the DSAF of NE group who attended the conference.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

We're More Alike Than Different

A while back, I noticed on another blog Monkey Musings a post about the the National Down Syndrome Congress campaign titled We're More Alike Than Different. In this campaign, they create posters meant to show everyone how children with Down syndrome are more like typical children than they are different. All you have to do to make a poster is fill out an online form and send in a picture, and the NDSC does the rest. In about a week they email a PDF poster of your child that you can take to any printer to be printed. To find out more about making a poster of your own, click here.
I thought about it for quite some time, wondering which thing Ben does that reminds me of when his older brothers were his age. He likes music, dancing, throwing balls, playing with toys, reading books, and clearing out the cupboards. But one of his favorite things to do, especially when we are not looking, is playing in the toilet and getting into the toilet paper. While his two older brothers are pretty good at attempting to get the door shut, they do not always get it latched, so Ben takes it upon himself to systematically check the doors and drawers around the house to see if anyone might have accidentally left something open that just might have something fun in it. The bathroom is no exception.
One afternoon recently, it was just a little too quiet for a minute, and when I saw the bathroom door cracked, I knew who was in there. Luckily the toilet seat was down, so the next best thing to for Ben to play with was the toilet paper. I quickly grabbed my camera and took a couple of shots.
Yes, I could have chosen a topic that was not quite so silly for Ben's poster. However, I truly think all kids know, if they want to play with something that someone's told them not to play with, they need to be really quiet - aka sneaky. Ben may have some delays in some areas, but at 23 months, I think he has getting into trouble down pretty good. He is ready to jump into his terrible two's with both feet. Are the rest of use ready? I hope so.
Sorry the poster picture is so small. The text reads: What toddler does not like to play with toilet paper? It rips easily, and comes on a handy little roll so it is easy to get more. Go ahead, leave the bathroom door cracked. I dare you!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Skate Daze, Basketball and Surgery, Oh My!

A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to be able to attend the Omaha Down Syndrome Parent Network event at Skate Daze in Omaha. They have a giant indoor maze for the kids to play in and some fun video games. Ben loved the ball pit even. I hated to see him in it as I knew it was a total germ fest. I was surprised that a place like that did not have any hand sanitizer dispensers.

I tried to hose him down when we got out, but the damage was done. The runny nose and junky cough started within a day or two of our visit. We did also visit the Amazing Pizza Machine that day as well, so he could have picked up the germs there, but at least the APM had hand sanitizing dispensers everywhere you turned. Here are some pictures of the boys at Skate Daze.

Come on Mom! There is not that many germs in here!

Concentrate! Don't wreck!

I totally know my Mom is trying to take a picture, but this game is far too cool for me to care.

Noah is the luckiest person I know. I am pretty sure we will be taking a trip to vegas for his 21st B-day. He wins at everything. Especially poker. He could be betting with a pair of 2's and not even know he got a flush to win the hand. So while at the Amazing Pizza machine, they announced that everyone could sign up to win a play card worth $50.00. The boys were ready to play, but Ben was still eating, so I took the older two to sign up, to kill a little time. Guess who won. Of course Noah won. So after that we did not have to worry about which 2 rides they wanted to go on, as they got to do any ride or game they wanted. It was fun.

John's basketball team continues to do well. John and I have been battling about his hair. I took the picture below just so he could see how silly his hair looked when he was all hot and sweaty, and it was sticking up in different directions. The next day, he let me buzz all his hair off. Noah let me trim his up too. I think John will be much cooler at his games without all that thick hair. Plus I love to rub his head just after he gets a fresh buzz. I will post a picture after his next game so you can see the difference.

Ben is a little stinker. He is so sneaky. He is constantly going around checking all the doors and drawers to make sure the non toddlers in the house shut things up tightly. Every now and then, things get too quiet, and we know he has found a weak spot in our defenses. On this occaision, one of his big brothers did not get the bathroom door shut all the way, and he was just having a blast with the toilet paper. Luckily I caught him while most of the toilet paper was still on the roll.

Ben is having surgery this week to put in a second set of ear tubes, and to get stints in his tear ducts. It is fairly minor surgery, but please keep him in your prayers this week, that all goes well.