The Harnisch Family

The Harnisch Family

Mar 9, 2011

Down Syndrome Conference ***PLAY YOUR WAY TO BETTER LANGUAGE"

Remember that Down Syndrome conference we attended several weeks ago down in KC?  I shared a little with you here & a little more here.  :-)
It was my intention to share a little more on the other FANTASTIC workshops we attended (as some other DS mom's had asked me too), but sadly time got away from me and I totally FORGOT, or perhaps got lazy :(  To tell you the truth, I think I was just SOOO overwhelmed with amazing information, productive insights and useful strategies/concepts that I was not sure where to begin.  So I kept putting it off...
Well, Casie just asked that I recap our experience and share some highlights with the group at this weekend's DS SuperMom's coffee.  So, since I'm revisiting my notes, thought I just post it to the blog as well!
keep in mind that SOOO many of these principles apply to typical developing kiddos as well - not just our intellectually & physically disabled ones  :-)
"Play Your Way to Better Language" by Jami Coombs
Miss Coombs is an active Speech Language Pathologist.  She was really good and connected with us, her audience, VERY WELL!  She discussed all aspects of Speech language interaction and communication.  I LOVED her energy, enthusiasm and passion.

I will simply put my highlights into bullet point form:
  • It is her observation that parent's are the most important people in a child's life, so it is extremely productive and beneficial for them to be INVOLVED in the therapy process and makes for faster and more functional progress that is better generalized to the home environment.
  • She summarized a child's job description:  EAT - SLEEP - PLAY  (sounds about right :)
  • so naturally, utilize this PLAY time to encourage language/speech development.
  • A Harvard study found that: HAPPINESS fuels naturally, let's make learning FUN
 sounds like common sense so far right?  yep!  It really IS.
  • Talk to your children a LOT throughout the day.  Constantly tell her what you are doing and why.  make the world around her sound interesting. Children crave engagement...think out loud!
  • I took this next part to heart...I am a "self-diagnosed" over-talker.  We, as parents, should be careful not to talk TOO much.  Be quiet at times to allow them the time & need to talk as well.  "Uncomfortable/awkward silence can encourage them to talk"
  • Communicate with your child's SLP.  KNOW where your child IS and what the next language expectation IS, so that you, as a parent can help facilitate through casual day-to-day interactions.
  • Give you child a chance to feel successful when she attempts to talk.  Do not use negative responses to their speech attempts like "no-no" rather, you should use phrases like "oh that was close" or "nice try".  Our little's ones will be difficult to understand at times, so it helps to give two choices and watch their eyes when they make requests.
  • Non-verbal communication is important to watch for.  Kids communicate LONG before they actually talk.  turn-taking games, sign language, making note & responding to eye gazes and rhythmic songs with gestures are all important in language development.  These are all pre-cursors to language, speech & communication development.
  • I learned that children learn from THE INSIDE - OUT.  they learn gross motor skills first (sign language) and work their way towards Fine motor skills (talking - talking is about the finest motor development one can accomplish).  This is why teaching our babies to sign early on can pay big dividends later.  We started with Macy at 6 months old.  She is now 14 months old and is just now starting to actually make the gestures.  I KNOW she recognizes and acknowledges the basics, so we did not start too soon.  Baby Signing times is a great video series.  She'll get there eventually  :-)
  • Just PLAAAY!  There are many "common sense" games!  For example:  Peek-a-boo (teaches turn taking, anticipation, visual attention & provides facial stimulation), Baby songs like Patta-cake, itsy-bitsy-spider, sooo biiig etc (providen speech rhythms, rhyming, gestural communication and intonation).
  • It is important to stimulate them oral motorly & facially (if those are even words - remember a lot of these are my notes, hehe).  Our little one's with Down Syndrome have low tone, so anything we can do to increase strength in their tongues, lips & face is HUGE.
  • help draw attention to their face, tongue, cheeks, etc...often.  increase their body awareness, let's them know they are there.  There are a lot of nerve endings.  Their tongue is a muscle, trying to get them to move their tongues without their jaw is hard to do - but important.
  • a lolli-pop is GREAT tongue stimulation.
  • Blowing raspberries are good - encourage "tongue-pulling back excersizes".
All of this is just so COMMON parenting SENSE.  I feel silly typing it out.  But at the end of the day, I think it's okay to "think" about it all and keep it all "top of mind" a little more.  It just reinforces that all this small-stuff can really make a difference.  So, my take-away, is to simply KEEP PLAYING with my kids!

Below are a few activities she shared with us that are invaluable in way of speech language development.
  • FARM SETS:  Encourage talking while playing, ask "what's that"?  Model animal sounds, use "bah-bah", neigh-neigh", "moo-moo", "bawk-bawk", etc.  The use of prepositions are introduced...ON-OFF, UP-DOWN, OVER-UNDER, etc.  (you get the idea  :-)
  • BUBBLES!:  Any type of "blowing" activity is extremely beneficial and helps promote lip protrusion, tongue retraction, constricts muscles around the lips, good breath control.  ALL of this is good for Oral motor control.  Blowing bubbles encourages them to hold their breath and will actually allow them to speak LONGER SENTENCES when they are older.  Blowing POM-POM's and Ping Pong balls are other good/productive blowing activities.  not to mention FUUN!
  • SWIMMING:  kids like to hear their voices echo.  provides a good opportunity to work on closing their lips, blowing, and imitating mouth movements.   Swimming is great on their vestibular system and allows them to know where their bodies are in space.  swimming teaches them the concepts of "wet, dry, up, down, fast, slow, etc".  Language skills they learn are verbs:  "splash, jump, kick, reach, blow".  also counting skills "one-two-three-GO!".
  • BOOKS - another obvious. I feel silly even typing it out.  use age-appropriate books.  keep in mind while reading to your child that language is not just nouns, find verbs, adjectives and adverbs, etc to label.  For Macy (1), I want to use "real-life" picture books, with lots of textures, not too many pictures, bright colors, etc)
  • DOLL HOUSE - for both boys and girls - teaches functional home vocabulary, following directions, role-playing, pretend play, etc.
  • CARS & TRUCKS - both boys & GIRLS - race cars, wash cars, sell cars, hide cars to teach: action verbs (go, drive stop), concepts (fast, slow, short, shiny), colors, numbers, counting, and location.
  • STACKING TOYS - teaches "on-off, up-down, big-little" concepts,, Macy LOVES knocking them down!  :-)
  • COMPUTERS - too much to get into here...there endless opportunities.  The most important thing here is to remain AGE-APPROPRIATE and remain aware of child's current SKILL LEVELS.
She continued to go into more "grammar" speech language skill development, etc...but, I personally, got more out of the taking full advantage of "PLAY TIME" to teach  :-)

While Jami Coombs shared with us A LOT of useful insights, I feel as though this still just scratches the surface.  That being said, I am ALL ears and totally OPEN to any other ideas or suggestions that ANYONE has.  I especially want to know more rhythmic songs/gestures ideas, etc...I have always said, in my professional marketing career, that I always want to be a STUDENT OF THE INDUSTRY.  I don't think you can ever know too much.  I am brand new at this "special needs/special education" stuff.  And am really trying to take in as much as I can.  Please do share with me any and all of your respective experience and ideas.  Comments on this blog post would be awesome  :-)
Currently our biggest speech battle with Macy is teaching her how to drink from a sippy or straw cup.  She is really struggling here.  Mostly due to the fact that I still nurse.  It's pretty frustrating to say the least!  :-(  She needs that WHOLE vit. D milk to gain weight.  She is a "not-so-whopping" 15.8lbs).  She eats food like a champ.  but needs MORE milk!
While I attended this workshop - Joe went to a financial planning one  - "PLANNING FOR YOUR LOVED ONE WITH DOWN SYNDROME".  snooooze.  just kidding!  Feel free to ask him about it sometime if you like.

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