Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Simple Secrets For Helping A Child With Down Syndrome Achieve Therapy Goals

What happens when an insomniac swears off sleeping pills?  You get a 4am blog post!  

I got up, checked on my kids, laid back down, and my brain kept racing.  After you're through reading this post, the source of my insomnia will be crystal clear: I am a type A, perfectionist, neurotic nutcase.  All day long, my mind is swimming with ideas, ambitions, and goals.  Yet there are not enough hours in the it spills over into the wee hours of morning.  It's truly the only time I can achieve solitude to focus.  And when you're operating on 5 hours sleep, you can imagine how laser sharp this focus is (←Sarcasm).  Allow me to walk you through it...
The first thing I did was google the Dolch Sight Word list and I found this website where you can print out free flash cards!  Score (did you hear my excited squeal all the way over in Australia?!)!  Josie loves flash cards.  She will sit and drill herself on her picture flashcards (with the word on one side and the picture/word on the other).  
The flash card discovery reminded me of an email I just received inquiring about this picture schedule seen in the previous blog post.  At this point, it seemed sensible to turn this into a blog post.  What else are you going to do at 4am, right?  

Josie has been working on self-dressing but my goal for her is to shift this from an activity that requires verbal prompts from me, to something she can complete independently as soon as she gets out of bed in the morning.  

I recently attended the National Down Syndrome Congress Convention and one concept that was drilled over and over in workshop after workshop is that kids with Down syndrome are visual learners.  So anytime you can offer a visual aid, it is extremely helpful in facilitating the completion of a task.
So I got out the poster board (I recommend foam board instead), markers, sticky Velcro tabs, and laminated photos of Josie completing the steps of self dressing, and I made this:
The steps are numbered and when she completes each step, she takes the photo and puts it in the pink "All Done" box at the bottom and then she moves on to the next step.  

On to physical therapy...Twice a week, we have college girls come out and reinforce Josie's therapy exercises with her to help her achieve her goals.  They usually start with self dressing (see above) and then they move on to physical therapy.  We have allocated a room in our basement to being what we affectionately call "Josie's physical therapy torture chamber".  During Josie's sessions with the physical therapist, I take photos and draft a simple document like the one below with basic instructions on how to complete the exercises with Josie.  The document is then printed and posted on the wall in the "torture chamber".  This way, anyone can glance at it and guide Josie through her exercises, even if they were not present at the actual physical therapy session.
On to speech therapy...One of Josie's speech therapy goals is to learn proper pronoun usage.  Josie frequently refers to herself as "you" instead of "I" (example: "You want a snack.").  One strategy to help correct this is to play games that involves simple turn taking.  This way Josie learns "My turn/Your turn".  So I created a basic memory match game that Josie can play with her sister and work on "I got a match/You got a match".  One thing that really helps kids with Down syndrome learn(and probably any kids for that matter), is to present the information in a framework that interests them.  I could have created a memory match game where Josie is matching basic shapes or animals and she would probably enjoy that, but she really delights in flipping the cards over and seeing her family members' faces.  

Claire, one of the beloved college students who works with Josie on her skills, brilliantly adapted this idea to create a handwriting activity that would appeal to Josie.  She knows that Josie loves bread sticks from the Olive Garden, so she spelled Josie's name in bread sticks, printed out the document, put it in a plastic sleeve, and has Josie trace over it with dry erase crayons.  It's a lot more fun for Josie to do handwriting activities when they involve her favorite food.
There you have it, Folks.  Simple and affordable activities that any mom can put together to help her child acquire skills and achieve goals.  Now that I've shared these ideas with you, you share your ideas for achieving a restful night's sleep with me (I'm not joking - how do I turn my brain off???).

I'm off to Starbucks for some liquid energy so I can return and face the troops when the rooster crows!


  1. You can use these awesome ideas with any kid!!! I'm inspired!

  2. What a blessing you are to share this information- and your life with Josie. DS certainly complicates things.... but your family is truly 'rocking' this challenge

  3. Thanks, Elizabeth!!! Great tips for a chromosonally enhanced child, or anyone for that matter!!! I love the flashcards and the "getting dressed" chart is AWESOME!

  4. I wonder if this would work with the geriatric crowd when they become confused.

  5. Thank you!

    Where did you get those college kids???

  6. Awesome ideas!
    Insomnia advice: when you wake up just lay there and take it; do not reward your uncooperative brain with getting stuff done, getting up etc. It doesn't work great but seems to lead to more sleep than getting up. Of course it also leads to less done, so again not an awesome solution.
    Love your visual getting dressed helper board. I did a morning, after school and evening chart for my son last year with pictures for each activity and it was so much better than me saying what to do each time.
    My son is an extreme visual learner (he's seven and just now really being able to hear rhyming words, still can't really using phonics/sound out to read words); so we are pretty much learning reading 99% through sight words.
    I ordered the whole big set of Snap Words from Child 1st Publications and he loves them: they incorporate a picture into the word on one side and haven't it written normally on the other. You can also order them in smaller packs if your child already knows a lot of words but mine only had about the first 50 at the time so we got the complete set. You can print off sample cards on their site which we did and my son immediately learned those few words even though they were longer than his 3-letter sight words he was doing at school like 'the' or 'and'. If you need to freshen up your sight word regimen I highly recommend these for visual learners + it makes doing flash cards even more fun.