Our son has received speech services since he was 6 months old. He also received services from our local School for the Deaf and Blind due to conductive hearing loss from fluid in his ears, which was temporary. Basically, for the first 6 months of his life, the world sounded as though he were underwater.
After consulting with his ENT and audiologist, we decided to have tubes placed in his ears and started to play a little catch up through various activities. Between his Speech Therapist and hearing specialist, we were exposed to fun, easy activities that can be done to promote speech and language development in infants and toddlers with Down Syndrome.
Speech Blubs and Down Syndrome
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Talk, Talk, Talk
1. Talk While Doing Daily Routines
Throughout the day, talk to your child while doing daily routines such as bathtime, mealtimes and getting dressed. Use simple language and sounds to tell your child what is happening.
“Turn on the faucet. Here comes the water. Blub, blub, blub. Look at all that water. Turn off the water. In the tub, you go! Splash, splash! Look at all that water. Scrub, scrub, scrub. So many bubbles!”
2. Point Out Common Sounds
Point out common sounds in the environment, imitate them and name where they are coming from. This increases your child’s auditory awareness, as well as creates motivation to try to imitate the sounds.
“Oooh. Do you hear the airplane? (make an airplane sound and point to it in the sky). Wow. That plane is so high! There it goes (makes the sound again while you point). Would you like to fly like an airplane?”
3. Play Lots of Face-to-Face Games
Play lots of face-to-face games that allow for language rich interactions. Peek-a-boo, Pat-a-cake, finger plays, bubbles, tickles and common nursery rhymes are great. While playing these games, make them interactive and fun, while exposing your child to lots of words. While singing songs, pause to give your little one a chance to sing along and get excited for any effort they put forth and use actions and gestures to engage him/her.
“Wow. Look at those bubbles. Pop! Pop! Pop! There go all the bubbles. The bubbles are floating away. Let’s blow more bubbles. Pop!”
4. Provide words to your child’s interests. Follow his/her lead.
“Yes! That’s a dog. You see a dog. Is that a big dog? Oh, yes, that is a big, fluffy dog.”
Many children with Down Syndrome pick up on simple sign language quickly as a way to communicate their needs. Sign language can help develop language skills before the child can use the spoken word and provides those who interact with him/her opportunities to expose the child to spoken language as they sign their wants and needs.
We learned simple sign language through our son’s hearing specialist, but we know many who have used other options as a resource.
Some tips for teaching sign:
- Start with signs for your child’s interests and favorite items.
- Use specific words rather than general requests such as “More,” “Please,” “Eat” etc. The reason for this is that it teaches discrimination and the power of language. If a child signs “Dog” and gets to see the dog, that has more meaning to them than signing “More” and the caregiver than playing 10 minutes of the guessing game to figure out more of what.
- Pair the sign with the spoken word each time as you teach it, then when the child starts signing on his/her own, reinforce their use of the sign with the spoken word for their sign: “Dog. You signed dog! Let’s find the dog.”
- Don’t underestimate the number of signs your child can learn. For us, within a few months of consistent exposure to signs, our son was able to sign over 50 words by 18-months-old. Every child is different, but don’t underestimate your little one’s abilities.
Play provides so many amazing opportunities for language development. Usually, your child is engaged and ready to interact.
- Anticipatory Games: these are activities that allow your child to anticipate what will happen, which can be paired with words or sounds to prompt you to do the next action. Anything from “Ready, set, GO!” to “Who’s hiding under the blanket? It’s…bunny!” Setting these up gives your child an opportunity to say the anticipated word because they’ve been exposed to the pattern.
- Pretend play: The options are limitless! Be a play partner with your child while you pretend to play doctor, make a meal, take care of a baby, go to the farm, etc. Narrate what you are doing and set up opportunities to expand the play, such as giving stuffed animals their food and then having them chat with each other while they eat or cars filling up on gas then talking about where they are headed.
- Table top activities: such as coloring, painting or play-doh. As your child interacts with the objects, give a dialogue such as the color, the action he/she is doing, the sound the object makes, etc.
- Speech Apps: Apps, like Speech Blubs, just 10 minutes a day, give your child a chance to interact with different words and sounds to enhance her/his speech development.
Oh, the wonderful world of books! As you read books with your child, encourage her/him to choose the book, turn the pages, point to pictures then talk about what the pictures show, ask wonder questions (“I’m so curious what will happen!” “I wonder what the wolf is going to do…”), pause when reading familiar stories to see if your child will fill in the next part…SO many opportunities for language development in books. It may drive us crazy, as parents, to read the same book over and over, but that repetition is magic for children and their language development. Follow your child’s lead. Let her/him look at a page until they are done, talking about different aspects of the picture as they interact with it. Recognize any sounds she/he makes, imitate the sound, then give a new sound or word to see if your child will imitate that one back. We LOVE books.
We will always encourage finding a Speech Therapist you like to create a program specific to your child’s needs. These activities are simple, fun ideas that will expose your child to a rich environment of language, which promotes language development in your child. Have fun!
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