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.