There are a few blogs that I make sure to read each and every time a new post is sent to my inbox. I have subscribed to some, but most of the time because I feel like I’m chasing time and doing five things at once, my only time to sit down and read them is right before bed on my smart phone. (C’mon Mommas, you know egg-sactly what I’m talking about.)
I’ve been reading My Stubborn Little Miss since I stumbled upon it from another blog that I like to visit. Enjoying the Small Things, blogger, Kelle Hampton and Megan are friends on social media, and when I was catching up on some posts, I saw that Megan had a baby girl who looked about the same age as Gellibean.
When I read up on her blog, I realized that Megan is a teacher like me. Whenever she writes about Ellie’s activities I am reminded once again how the simplest of activities can be learning for Gellie. (Ellie and Gellie…do you see a similarity here?) I love reading Megan’s posts because she keeps it real and shares what it’s like to raise a child, have a career, and still carve out time for herself and for her running.
Thank you Megan for agreeing to guest post and share some rock solid tips and tricks of how to work speech therapy into Ellie’s day in a way that is painless, and fun. Because like you, I do believe that learning (and therapy for our lils’) should be fun.
Parenting is a balancing act.
I want to make sure my daughter reaches her fullest potential. I want to provide her with every possible opportunity.
I do not want to suffocate Ellie with my overinvolvement. I want to give her freedom to play and be a kid.
I want to make sure that Ellie isn’t treated as less because she has Down syndrome. I want Ellie to believe in herself.
I want time to make dinner. I want to use the bathroom by myself. I want Ellie to go play alone for ten minutes so I can check Facebook.
I want time to work on my photography.
And I work full time, which I’ve done most of my daughter’s life, as a special education teacher and as a kindergarten teacher. For that reason, I try to find activities that are fun and help Ellie develop skills.
My favorite activities tend to be speech focused. Like all children, kids with Down syndrome have their own relative strengths and weaknesses. Not surprisingly, Ellie, who has a chatterbox for a mom, would much rather work on speech than fine motor skills.
My absolute favorite speech activity for babies and toddlers came from DownsEd. Their flashcards were the first flashcards Ellie used. Early on, I showed her the flashcards and told her what the pictures were to develop vocabulary. Later, I asked her to pick one from a field of two. (For example, pick the bear if I held a bear and a cat.) Soon, she could sign the words, and eventually say them.
Sometimes, high interest words aren’t available on flashcards. In that case, I make my own. You can see an example here. You can use your own photos or images from magazines on clipart. I’ve found my own photos hold Ellie’s interest more than stock images, and photographs generally hold her interest more than drawings. I always show Ellie the word, even though we haven’t pushed sight word reading yet. She recognizes Mommy, Daddy, and Ellie, and she also knows her uppercase and some lowercase letters.
We try to keep letter learning fun. As a teacher, I know that letter recognition and sound identification are important kindergarten skills, and as a Down syndrome mom, I know Ellie will probably sight read before she can decode. To work on sight reading, at this point I try to use natural methods – reading everything we can!
We have books available for Ellie in almost every room in the house, and we encourage her to explore them and “read” to herself. We also write words whenever we draw or color, including with chalk outside in the summer. Ellie’s speech and sound/letter awareness have always seemed to build on each other. We also write our own books. You can download a freebie here.
But what about the skills that my kid doesn’t really have and doesn’t seem interested in building? We sneak them in! For fine motor, we play with magnets (ABC magnets of course) and stickers. We grab a bucket of water and a paintbrush and we “paint” on the sidewalk on warm spring days. We dress baby dolls and brush their hair and put away silverware and pretend to paint our nails.
Daily activities for kids with Down syndrome don’t need to look dramatically different to promote learning. The most important thing in working on developmental skills that other kids learn naturally is simply to think about what the goal is and work backward. If I want Ellie to be able to zip her jacket, I start with zipping a bear’s jacket so it’s not on her. I add a big pull tag to the zipper so she can do it herself. And now, Ellie can (unfortunately? fortunately?) zip and unzip.
Fun makes all the difference.
Megan Landmeier is wife to Matt and mom to an almost four year old girl with Down syndrome, Ellie. When Megan isn’t busy chasing Ellie around, she’s teaching Kindergarten, taking photographs, running, or blogging. You can also find her on Instagram and Facebook.