Children with Down syndrome are keen to be social and their interactive communication skills (the ability to understand and participate in conversations) are good. This strength should be recognized and every effort made to enable them to communicate in all the settings that they are in at home and at school. Increasing the quantity and quality of everyday communication experience for children with Down syndrome is an important intervention (Buckley, S. 2000:27).
The following ideas and activities may enhance and develop language skills:
- Talk to your children – they understand more than they can say.
- Talk about what your children are doing and their experiences.
- Expand what your children are saying by repeating and elaborating on their sentences. e.g. If the child is saying “Dog sit”, you say, “The dog is sitting”.
- Follow your child’s lead in communication settings – this includes active listening and it may encourage more communication from your child.
- Incorporate all the senses when you teach your children new concepts, e.g. let them: listen to, look at, feel, taste and smell an object.
- Signing could be a useful tool which may allow more effective communication and less frustration.
- Musical activities may be beneficial: The repetitive, fun and engaging elements of music and musical activities, such as singing songs, rhythm and experimenting with musical instruments may also enhance and develop memory and attention qualities.
- Visual learning activities may support language learning and comprehension skills. For example: Playing language games where words are printed on cards. This could also help with learning individual words and their meanings.
- Reading books and pictures – an interactive and enriching activity for all! Time well spent and definitely one of the most valuable sources of language development.
Most children with Down syndrome understand more language than their expressive language skills suggest and therefore their understanding may, very often, be underestimated. This means that their social interactive skills and non-verbal communication skills may be seen as areas of strength (Buckley, S. & Bird, G. 2001:5). However, facial muscle tone, articulation and phonology may need specific attention and support.
The following activities may prove to be beneficial and help with speech production:
- Blowing bubbles or any other blowing activities (for example: blow balls and bubble fun).
- Create pictures by blowing paint over paper with a short straw.
- Blow up balloons.
- Blow whistles.
- Play Blow Soccer by using a rolled up ball of aluminum foil / a cotton ball on the floor or on a table.
- Sucking activities – use straws and vary the thickness of the straws.
- Licking an ice-cream. (Please be careful of allergies / intolerances)
- Spread peanut-butter on lips, the child can lick it off. (Please be careful of allergies/ intolerances)
“They might be a little slower, but that also slows life down for everybody around them.” – Joshua Tillotson, father of Down Syndrome twins.