Thursday, April 28, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

"Let Me In!" (or is that "Let Us Out!")?

We arrived a little early for Music Together Class this morning and the previous class was still going on...

Friday, April 22, 2011

An Earth Day Poem

 Spring is sprung

 The grass is riz

I wonder where dem birdies iz.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What I Learned at the Inclusion Conference #2: Behavior and Social Learning

Yes, even Anthony has his moments of "challenging behavior".  So what's a parent to do?  We have no idea.

At last weekend's Inclusion Conference, I attended a workshop called Behavior and Social Learning in the Early Years.  Most of the information in the workshop came from the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations of Early Learning, or CSEFEL, at Vanderbilt University.  CSEFEL's website has a lot of good info and handouts for parents and teachers.  The workshop wasn't specifically geared toward behavior in kids with Down syndrome, but I think the strategies are relevant to any toddler.  The presenter, Teacher Tim from Multnomah County Early Intervention, did a great job of conveying the information in a way that was immediately practical. 

Here are a some things that stood out for me (and which I took notes on):

Having friends in preschool is a good thing.  It is a predictor of success in many areas (and who doesn't want their kid to have friends?).  There are ways you can help your child to make friends at this stage. 
  • Preschool kids who have friends are "play organizers"-- the kid who says, "Lets..."  
    • Boy example: "Let's play trains."   "Okay."
    • Girl example: "Let's play train station.  You take the tickets and you tell people where to sit.  You are the conductor and you have to announce where the stop is.  We have to put our suitcase over here.  When we get to the station yadda yadda yadda.........................."
  • Ideally, a kid should initiate play about 30% of the time. Otherwise, the other kid feels like he has to do all the work in the friendship (Hmmmmm, this doesn't change when we grow up, does it?).  You can help your child to learn to initiate play by giving him the words to do so, showing him how, and practicing with him.  I see this with Anthony- he really does have to be urged to join in the fun.  It's hard since he's not talking yet, but I can think of ways we can encourage him to intitiate play with other kids even without talking.
  • Kids who have friends are helpful.  Teacher Tim recommended providing opportunities for your child to be helpful.  For example, when Mommy comes home from work, Daddy could urge Anthony to help her take her jacket off.  You can also role play being by helpful using puppets, etc.
  • Kids who have friends also know how to give compliments, understand how and when to give an apology, and are beginning to empathize.  These are all things you can model.
Time Outs
  • Time outs have become like a punishment-- "Stop [insert undesirable behavior] or you're gonna get a time out!" [direct quote from our neighbors]
  • But time outs do not teach or change behavior. They are a tool to be used in the moment to help a child calm down (another word for it can be the "calm down area" or "calm down spot"). 
  • Prevention and anticipation is more effective.  We know Anthony is probably going to throw his food off his tray at dinnertime, so instead of giving him a "Time Out" when he does it, we come up with strategies to prevent the behavior before it happens.  (Good luck with that!)
Other random things that I found interesting:
  • Remain calm when addressing a challenging behavior.  Kids (and adults) model others' emotional states.  So if we remain calm when Anthony is screaming because he doesn't want his diaper changed, he is more likely to calm down quickly.
  • Teaching the concept of "First/Then" is important.  For example, "First we will get dressed and then we will listen to music. "  Teacher Tim showed how you can use pictures to illustrate the concept.  I have started to do this with Anthony: "First we put our shoes on, and then we will go outside"; "First we put our PJs on, and then we will have milk." (But simplify the language for a very young person: "First shoes, then outside."  "First PJs, then milk.")
  • Very young children do not understand contractions!  So when you say, "Don't run."  They may hear "Run".  Instead, say "Walk." 
  • Or talk like Data. 
  • Make sure to acknowledge when your child does follow directions.  Many times during the day your child doesn't do what you ask, but when he does, it's important to recognize and praise it: "I said we were going to put our pajamas on and you came into your room!  I really liked how you listened to Mommy! Mommy is so proud of you!"  Or some such.
  • Be specific in your praise: The ubiquitous "Good job!" that we all overuse is inadequate and confusing.  Make sure the kids knows what it was that he did well. 
Follow these tips and you might get less of this:

Or maybe not.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

My Backyard

 Taking a moment to meditate.

A little gardening.

And then it started to rain.

What I Learned at the Inclusion Conference #1: Disability is Natural

Over the weekend, I went to a conference on inclusion sponsored by the Northwest Down Syndrome Association.  What is inclusion?  In general, it means that kids with disabilities go to neighborhood schools in classes with their peers and participate fully in their communities.  For example, Anthony is the only child at his daycare who has Down syndrome, and he and Anant are the only kids in their Music Together class this term who have Down syndrome.  That is inclusion.  A "special ed" preschool in which all the kids have disabilities is not inclusion. 

One of the highlights of the conference was a presentation by Kathie Snow, author of the book Disability is Natural.  Kathie's website has a ton of useful information, including lots of short articles you can download for free. 

Here are some quotes from Kathie that illustrate her philosophy:

"Very young children with disabilities may spend countless hours, day in and day out, receiving "special services" and interventions, or attending 'special programs'-- and in the process, their natural and joyous childhoods may be lost."

"Advocates in the field have traditionally agitated for more services and more funding.  But we do not need more special programs that isolate and segregate people who have been labeled with disabilities.  We need, instead, inclusion in schools, communities, employment, and in other typical environments.  To move toward that direction requires us to recognize that disability is a 'natural part of the human experience' (as stated in the US Developmental Disabilities Act and other laws).  In addition, we need to acknowledge that people with disabilities are fine, just the way they are!"

"Instead of trying to "fix" people with disabilities, we need to ensure they have the tools they need for success (such as assistive technology devices for movement, speech, and other needs) and accommodations (physical, social, or other types of support), to enhance their successful inclusion and participation in the typical, ordinary, environments most Americans take for granted."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Playdate PDX

We decided to check out Playdate PDX today.  It's kind of like an upscale McDonald's Playland.

Friday, April 15, 2011

School Days and Great Strides

Here's Anthony at school this morning.  Morning dropoffs have been a little challenging since they came back from Spring Break- Anthony has not been too happy about us leaving.  Even though he's fine about a minute after we leave, it's hard on Mommy and Daddy!  But this morning all the kids were sitting at the table doing puzzles and making cookies out of clay, so that was much more interesting than me.

He's looking so grown up these days! 

Anthony would like you to know about a fundraiser for one of his schoolmates. Chloe is a sweet girl who has cystic fibrosis.  Her family has formed a team, "Chloe's Crusaders" to help raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation through the Great Strides Walk, scheduled for Saturday, May 21st at Oaks Park Amusement Park.  Please visit to see how you can help in the fight for a cure (and watch an amazing video of Chloe!). 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

Wreath Laying at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Uncle John, his grandsons Michael and Joseph, and cousin Barbara laid a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier at Arlington Cemetery last week.  The wreath is dedicated to the Port Authority Police Officers who died in the line of duty on 9/11.

Barbara was a PA police officer for many years.

The wreath says "In Memory of Michael Mahon". That's Anthony's Grandpa Mike, whose birthday is today.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

Our Morning Commute

I rode my bike to work for the first time today!  It was a great way to start the day.  My little copilot rode along with me to daycare and then I continued on my way. I didn't take any pictures of this morning's trek, but here are some highlights I encountered along the way.

I was able to go about 50 blocks on Klickitat, a very pretty street. 

It's where Ramona Quimby lived!

Klickitat was the safer route suggested at The street is painted with these handy symbols.

Next was a beautiful ride along the river on the Eastbank Esplanade...

...then over the Hawthorne Bridge

(See- there I am!)

After a short zigzag through downtown, then it was up the big hill on Terwilliger...

...and I arrived victorious at my destination! 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Z-Vibes, Jigglers, and Chewy Tubes, Oh My!

Sounds pretty racy, no?  Actually these are the new gadgets Anthony's speech therapist recommended at his appointment yesterday, along with this vibrating teether:

Anthony LOVES this thing.  I had gotten it for him last year, and he wasn't too interested in it.  But when we dug it out yesterday he couldn't get enough of it.

That feels good!

Along with the teether, Juli also recommended a Z-vibe:

These things called "Jigglers" that vibrate when you bite on them:


And these Chewy Tubes.  Not surprisingly, you chew on these.

So why all this paraphernalia?  These things are supposed to help to compensate for low muscle tone in the mouth and lips.  If Anthony is more aware of the muscles around his mouth and face, we can promote better control as he is learning to make sounds and words, and hence better articulation.  We want to help him to be able to articulate clearly so he can be understood when he speaks.  We are also supposed to give him little massages and taps around his mouth and cheeks.  Luckily, Anthony loves to put stuff in his mouth and chew on things, and he thinks the faces massages are fun.  I found everything on Amazon, for a little cheaper than in the catalog that Juli gave us.