Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Promoting speech at a very young age

Tommy made my day today after a long day of hard work. My eyes are in tears, just to remember when I heard Tommy saying "thank you" this evening.  Any parent with a kid with a genetic disorder know how it feels. I don't know when I will hear it again, but I know he can do it. 

Tommy's therapies think one of Tommy's greatest skills is communications. We have been working really hard to provide him with every tool that  become him verbal since he was a newborn (and maybe since he was in the womb). 
  • We talked to Tommy since he was in the womb. I used to explain to him when he was an unborn baby how it would be to take a bath every morning when I was taking a shower. He enjoyed the first bath. Explain the environment around them help them to anticipate and learn new concepts.
  • We taught Tommy to pay attention since he was a newborn. We started with playing music to let him pay attention to sound for long period of time. Classical Music CDs are great to star during sleeping time  (I also put him to listen to classical music in the womb). He has been exposed to many sounds by introducing him to simple instrumental music toys such as: piano, maracas, drum, guitar and any kitchen or house-keeping  utensil that produce a sound. He has a long repertory of music including American Indian music.
  •  We also have a lot face to face interactions to promote eye contact since he was a newborn. 
  • We started to call him by his name since he was born. He responded to his name since he was about 4 month old.
  • We read to Tommy since he was in the womb. I read to him during bath time when he was a newborn to take advantage that he was awaked and very alert. Reading to him is part of our daily routine. Reading increases language comprehension. 
  • We promoted gesture since he was a newborn. My husband started to wave "bye-bye" to him when he was a month old. Tommy was about 5 month old when we saw him for the first time waving to daddy. He mastered it when he was about seven month. He currently initiates waving to estrangers on his own at his 18 month, which is an indication that his expressive communication is progressing. 
  • Turn taking is other way we have used to encourage speech. A great activity is to play with a ball and a car toy throwing the ball to the baby back and for.  "High 5" and "down low". is other good way for gesture and turn taking. We taught Tommy "high 5" and "down low" when he was 9 month. He currently initiates those gesture own his own, too.
  • Label objects and people by pointing. Tommy's pointing skills with index finger started to emerge when he was about 15 month. Before he was using his open-hand as a gesture to point at pictures once an awhile.  
  • Speech evaluations to monitor speech and oral motor. The first Tommy's Speech evaluation was at 6 month old. We didn't have concerns, but we wanted to monitor his pre-speech development.  The second evaluation was when Tommy was 8 month old. This evaluation showed he had mild delay in oral motor skills and a mild delay language comprehension and language expression. Because of this evaluation we realized I was focused in teaching him more Spanish than English. We also realized we should improve our playing skills to expose him to new games and toys.  We hired a private Speech therapy for this evaluations. Because of this evaluation I requested Speech therapy through the EIP, but it was denied because his Pragmatics skills were in the 9-12 month level and Gesture skills were emerging at the 9-12 month level when he was 8 month. Pragmatic language is the area of language function that embraces the use of language in social contexts (knowing what to say, how to say it, and when to say it, and how to "be" with other people). Our last evaluation was when Tommy was 13 month because I observed lack of expressive communication, even although he was saying "mama", "dada" and "hi"; He was also signing "more" and all done". But he wasn't combining gesture with pointing! We took him to Sensory Solutions  (We highly recommend their services [excellent therapists, great equipment and affordable price]). The evaluation showed that Tommy's receptive language was in the average range, but his expressive communication was delay. We started private services with Sensory Solutions and we are seeing the results today (We started Speech therapy once a month through the EIP 2 month ago).
Currently, we are teaching Tommy to read by using the first kit of the Love and Learning program. I also know other two programs that have been designed to teach children with Down syndrome to read. Those are:  eRedingpro and See and Learn Language and Reading. According to the article Reading and writing for infants with Down syndrome (0-5 years) by Sue Buckley and Gillian Bird, "Teaching reading to teach talking is probably the single most effective intervention for helping children with Down syndrome to overcome their learning difficulties... Beginning early, by introducing young children to reading from two years of age, will promote the development on both their language and their literacy skills." 

Our next step is to star the Listening Program based on the Tomatis method. "The Listening Program’s psychoacoustically modified music and patent-pending production techniques are designed to stimulate or “exercise” the different functions of the auditory processing system. This enables the brain to better receive, process, store and utilize the valuable information provided through the varied soundscapes in our lives such as music, language and the environment in which we live."

Developing Tommy's communications skills have been one of our priorities because it is what will connect him with the world. I felt that every sacrifice we have done is nothing, comparing with the great feeling of satisfaction I felt today. Hearing "Thank you" from him it was like he was telling me: Mom "thank you" for loving me and accepting me how I am. My boy has a beautiful voice!

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