Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Literacy Launch Pad Chapter 1: The Love and Learning Program

We held our second Literacy Launch Pad Meeting on Thursday, August 16th.  We had another good turnout and were pleased to welcome two new members.

By popular demand, Merry was asked to tell us about her experience using the Love and Learning Program. Merry’s daughter is reading successfully, thanks in part to Love and Learning. She not only has a large sight word vocabulary, but she has shown that she can decipher words she has not encountered before, and in different contexts (“Press here” on a sign, “New York” on a t‐shirt). That’s awesome for any 5‐year‐old!

Here’s an overview of the program:
• DVDs show each letter of the alphabet, followed by a word starting with the letter (apple, bus, car, etc), then an illustration of the word, then a short video showing the word in action. The letters and words are clearly spoken. These videos, featuring the program developers’ daughter, who has Down syndrome, are great. I think kids would like them a lot. For example, the little girl eats an apple, gets on a bus, dances with her sister in the mirror, and tries on hats.
• In addition to the DVD, learning kits include an audio CD to help with vocalization, and short books to reinforce the words.
• Warning: The program looks old‐fashioned and clunky. It was made in the 80’s and hasn’t been updated. It’s slow‐moving and not flashy. But kids love it and it does seem to lead to success.

Prior to our meeting, I asked my peeps on the BabyCenter Down syndrome board to share their experiences with Love and Learning. Seven parents weighed in, and their comments echoed Merry’s positive experience:
• Worked wonderfully for my daughter! She really wowed them at preschool having
gone through the program.
• R learned to read the alphabet from kit one. She could also read all the words. My only complaint is that some of the words are weird. I wish they had picked higher frequency words.
• E learned her letters and the words on the first DVD. She also learned to read some words and numbers from Dvds 2‐4. I think she picked up more words from Brillkids but then we do that more often now. She is not as interested in the DVDs as she used to be. We also have the first computer program. It reinforces letters and words from the first DVD. E enjoys that. We really need to get back to using the DVDs more. In addition to reading I think it is helpful in the area of speech. I agree with PP on the words. I found otter to be an odd choice.
• V loved them and learned her letters from them at first. But I didn't do the whole nap time, sleep time listening to them like the "program" suggests. And yes, some of the words are odd. And I bet you can tell any L&L child just by asking them to show their neck. V hyperextends her head and draws a line down it, just like they do in the video!
• We used L & L in the beginning too. This was the program we were using at age 2 when I first realized that K could read words. We eventually went through kits 1 to 4 before moving on to another program. I agree with pp's comment in speech & reading. I'm sure K's reading vocabulary is the biggest reason that she speaks well. I also think some if their word choices are strange. I wonder if they picked words to match their home videos?
• We used the program as it was recommended by 2 families who gave their story (on the L&L website). I think that some of the program is sticking, when we use it consistently. I don't do the nap thing, I keep mine in the car and use them there. K is 3 1/2, and I was shocked the other day when she told me some of the letters! My husband and I are from the hometown the videos were recorded in, and love trying to figure out where they are when they show some of the scenes :)
• We started kit 1 when T was 22 mos. By the time he hit 2, he could read all the words and knew maybe 1/3 of the letters (knows most letter sounds now). I only used the dvd and books...no audio cd for us! At first I was disappointed in the age and quality of the video, but T LOVED it, so it was worth every penny. We've moved on to ipad reading apps instead now, but I think it was an awesome intro to reading for T, and taught him the connection between written words and the real world.

Reinforcing the “totally 80’s” feel of the program, there is no way to order online. You have to print out an order form and mail in a check. Instructions are on the Love and Learning website. We talked about approaching libraries and the Swindells Resource Center at Providence to ask them to stock the program so that parents can try it out before buying. It does not appear to be available used online, but we will keep our eyes open for deals.

Several of us are planning to use the program.  We'll check back in on how it goes.

BOTTOM LINE: If you can get beyond the low-tech presentation, Love and Learning is a worthwhile investment.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Farewell to the Little House

Right after Labor Day, Anthony moves up to the preschool house at his daycare.  This is a big step.  He will attend the "Big House", as it is affectionately known, until he enters (gulp) kindergarten.
Next Wednesday is Anthony's last day at the "Little House".  He started attending daycare at the Little House when he was just 4 months old. He looked like this:
At the Little House, he took naps in a hammock hanging from the ceiling.  He still had his g-tube.  We were terrified to leave him there; I used to call every day just to make sure he was still alive.

When he was 18 months old, he moved up from the infant room to the toddler room.  This was another big step.  
In the toddler room, Anthony  ate meals around the table with his friends and took naps on his own little cot during quiet time. He was the only kid in the toddler room who wasn't walking yet.  I remember him proudly doing his army crawl into the dining room to have breakfast on that first morning.  But he fit right in.  He had fun playing outside, doing art projects, and participating in music time. (He's going to be in for a rude awakening when he finds out there's more to "school" than this, but that can wait.)

The Big House is even cooler than the Little House.  It's a bigger space with lots of different areas for art, writing, playing with cars and trains, a dress-up/pretend area, and anything else a preschooler can think up to do.  They go outside every day rain or shine.  The outside area has a big sandbox and play structure with a climbing wall and slide, trikes and a track to ride them on, and more art areas. And a bunny.  Every year the kids make jam for Father's Day. 

Three other kids from the Little House will be moving up with Anthony, and some of his old friends moved up last year, so he'll be among some familiar faces.  We're really excited about this new step for him, but also a little nervous.  Will he miss his old teachers and the kids that are staying behind at the Little House?  Will he be intimidated by the bigger kids? Will they be nice to him and will they understand what he's trying to say when he uses his signs?  We'll be right there to help him with any challenges, but I have a feeling he's going to do just fine.
Big House here we come!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Literacy Launch Pad Lifts Off!

I'm proud to announce that our early reading group is up and running. Our first "Literacy Launch Pad" meeting was held July 19th.  Thanks to the good folks at Milagros, we have a venue reserved for our meeting every third Thursday of the month.

Literacy Launch Pad is a parent-run education, support and discussion group for those who want to learn effective ways to build literacy skills in children with Down syndrome. We will focus on literacy in preschool-age children with Down syndrome, but all families are welcome. It’s never too early to start thinking about literacy, and we would love to learn from parents of older kids who have been there.

Our kickoff meeting was attended by 9 families. Our little readers range in age from 19 months to 5 years.  We had a great time getting to know each other and sharing some of the literacy activities we currently do with our kids.  Below are the meeting notes for anyone who might be interested.

Meeting Summary: We Have Liftoff!

1. Our philosophy: 
"Reading activities may be the single most important intervention for promoting the speech, language and cognitive development of preschool children with Down syndrome."  –Down Syndrome Education International
  • Families are the best teachers. We can learn from, motivate, and inspire each other.
  • Keep it fun and flexible.
  • Focus on one technique/topic per month

2. We introduced ourselves and shared some ideas about early literacy activities:
  • Reading books together
  • Ipad/Iphone apps
  • Flash cards
  • Homemade books
  • Labeling objects around the house
  • Writing words with sidewalk chalk
  • Pointing out words on signs around the neighborhood
  • See and Learn Program
  • Meet the Sight Words videos
  • Love and Learning Program

3. Parent Show and Tell
  • Susan gave an overview of some materials she uses with Anthony, including homemade books, materials from Down Syndrome Education International, and the Meet the Sight Words videos.

4. Reminders/FYI
  • NWDSA is having a make and take literacy session next week
  • Local naturopath is speaking on Saturday

5. Going forward
  • The time and venue worked well.
  • We will meet the Third Thursday of each month at Milagros from 5:30-7:00
  • Susan will create a Facebook group so we can communicate between meetings. We’ll use the group to decide on next month’s topic for focus.
  • Sorry, no kids! We agreed that this should be a kids-free event so we can devote our full attention to the discussion. Let’s try to help each other out with child care.
Next up (Thursday, August 16th):  Merry will be telling us about her experiences with the program "Love and Learning".  Merry's daughter (age 5) is successfully reading and we are excited to hear how she got there.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Beach Trip Photo Bomb!

We spent a glorious week in Manzanita on the Oregon Coast.  I have about a million pictures and it's hard to narrow them down so I'm just going to post them all.
Here's Anthony running on the beach for the very first time.  He loved it- he had so much fun running up to the waves and then running away just in time!
Fortunately, Anthony loves the coast as much as his Daddy does. 

A highlight of our trip was a ride on a steam locomotive from Garibaldi to Rockaway. The ride lasts an hour and a half including a half hour stop in Rockaway so you can go to the beach, get ice cream, or just run around a little bit.

Inside the train.
The view from the train.

 Little Skipper ready for his first boat trip,on Nehalem Bay.

Flying a kite for the first time.

 It got away and "we" (i.e., Paul) had to chase it all over town!

 We explored tide pools...

And ate healthy snacks.

We saw an Octopus tree.

 And met the world's fattest squirrel.

One night, much to Paul's dismay, we participated in drum circle on the beach.

 Anthony really got into it.

 That's me climbing the big sand mountain at Cape Kiwanda.


 Who needs Legos?

Sand surfing. He did this about 20 times in a row.


 Big and Little.