Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

31 for 21: What I Learned, or Didn't

"All done, 31-for 21."

31-for-21 is drawing to a close so it's time to look back on the month. I know it's not Day 31 yet, but of course tomorrow has to be reserved for Halloween photos.

Until then, let's reflect with some Qs and As (all from inside of my head):

Did I do it?
The challenge was to post every day in October, and I only missed one post. That was yesterday, and so I will blame Super Storm Sandy.  Yes, we're in Oregon but it was- uh-  in solidarity with all my east coast people who are without power. So I think I did okay.

Did it accomplish anything?
I know Anthony's grandma and aunties appreciated the daily updates, and like I said it got me thinking and writing more. But beyond that, I don't know. The motto of 31-for-21 is "Raising Awareness One Blog at a Time", and that's the part I'm not so sure about. It often feels like we are only preaching to the choir, that the only people reading these blogs are other bloggers with a child with Down syndrome. That's okay because that has value, and we all learn so much and get support from each other. But that's not really awareness, is it? Awareness would be if someone read something here that opened their eyes to something they didn't know about people with Down syndrome, or made them think about Down syndrome or other disabilities in a different way, or spurred them to do some education or advocacy of their own. If that happened because of this blog this month I'd love to hear about it!

Although I appreciate all the bloggers who took the time to do this, I think 31-for-21 might be counter-productive in a way. There are so many bloggers participating that it was impossible to keep up with all the posts. That means a lot of great writing probably got lost in the crowd. And that's a shame because a lot of bloggers put extra effort into their writing during this time.

I'm not the first to say this, but I think Down Syndrome Awareness Month, or at least 31-for 21, should be moved to March, when we have World Down Syndrome Day (3-21). There's too much else going on in October, and then when March rolls around it seems like overkill.

Would I do it again?
I don't think so, but never say never. Some days it just seemed like a pain in the neck, especially at the end of the day when all you want to do is relax but you have to think up a post. And most of the time I felt like no one was reading it anyway.

What did I like about 31-for-21?
I liked it as a motivator to write something every day.
I gained a sense of accomplishment from (mostly) completing the challenge.

It helped me to think about where I want to go with the blog. I liked knowing that there would be a new post from a lot of my favorite blogs every single day. I liked reading some great new posts from other bloggers and re-reading some old favorites.

If I did do it again, what would I do differently?
Have a focus for the month- "Down syndrome" is too big of a topic (at least for me). This goes for blogging in general, I think, and this blog in particular. Some bloggers did one picture a day, or just one thought a day-- I liked that-- short and sweet. More can be less.

Another thing: When you have a block of time, prepare several posts ahead of time so you have a few days off.

And I'll leave you with this observation:  Of all the posts this month, the one everyone like best was the one that I didn't write!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Rainy, Spooky Night

It was rainy and windy, and Anthony was as cranky as a hungry zombie at a salad bar, so conditions were perfect for our visit to his friend Jenna's Spooky Halloween Backyard.

Signing "pumpkin" in the haunted pumpkin patch.

Scary Scarecrow!

There was a haunted maze, a spider cave, and a swamp oozing with creatures of the night.

Anthony's favorite part? The cookies!

Friday, October 26, 2012

31 for 21 Day 26: Perspectives on the R-Word

Have you read the response to Ann Coulter from John Franklin Stephens yet?

To all those who think this isn't a big deal, please listen to what Frank says, and consider this:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

31 for 21 Day 25: Signing Time Books

Just about everyone we know who has a late talker in the family uses sign language with their child. It's such a great tool for communicating before the spoken words come.

Lots of us learn sign language words through Rachel Coleman's Signing Time videos.  But you might not know that there are also a series of Signing Time board books.  I really like these because they reinforce the signs learned in the videos, and Anthony loves them because they show the stars of the videos -- Alex, Leah, Rachel, and of course Hopkins-- in photographs signing and acting out the words.  I bought the series of books for Anthony's preschool and they've been a big hit.  The other kids seem to be having a lot of fun learning the signs. One parent said her child has learned 20 signs already.  Yesterday the teacher read one of the books at story time, and then they all sang "The Bear Went Over the Mountain" using the signs they learned from the book.

I didn't realize this, but they can be a good tool for teaching sight words as well.  Today I showed Anthony one of his "Meet the Sight Words" videos.  There is a part where they show the sight words in sentences and the word to be learned pops out.  The sentence was "I love you", and the sight word "I" popped out.  Anthony not only said "I" when he saw it, he then signed "love"!   "Love" isn't one of the sight words we've ever taught him.  I tried to think of how he might have learned it, and I think it must be from this book, which I just got this week.
How great is this?  Anthony not only read a sight word that we haven't been specifically teaching him, but the word was love.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

31 for 21 Day 24: An Important Message From Our Sponsor

 We love you
all the way...
to the moon...
and back.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

31 for 21 Day 23: I Got Nothin'

It's after 9:00 and I haven't even eaten dinner yet.  
But I haven't missed a day yet, so enjoy this cute pumpkin picture.

Monday, October 22, 2012

31 for 21 Day 22: iPad Apps for Language and Literacy

Our October Literacy Launch Pad meeting was about ways we can use the iPad or iPhone to support our kids as they are learning to communicate and read.  We shared some of our favorite apps, and discussed how to use this technology wisely.

I found these very sensible tips from the  Oregon Division for Early Childhood (Oregon DEC):

·         Provide children with an abundance of opportunities to learn conceptsthrough sensory experiences, movement and by exploring toys, objects, materialsand theirenvironment.TechnologyshouldNEVER totally replace opportunitiesfor activeengagementunlessthechildisunabletoexploreontheirownbecause of his/her disability.
·         Some children are especially engaged with iOS devices because apps arevisually engagingand featuremusicand novelexperiences. Other
·         Selectappsthatfeaturethechild’sareaofinterest (trains, animals,coloring,etc.).
·         Createopportunities forchildren toplay with the iPadbesideorwithotherchildren.
·         Limit the amount of time young children are allowed toplaywithiPadstoshort periods of time (10‐15 minutes at a time). Play together withyourchildtoteachjointattention, expressiveandreceptivelanguage, literacyandnumeracyconcepts, socialskillsandotherneededskills.

·         WhenusingiOS devicesforthepurposeofassistivetechnology, considerthe child’sneedforassistivetechnologybylookingatthechild’sskillsandneeds, thedemands of theenvironment, tasks to beaccomplishedand other toolsavailable. Begin with low‐tech solutions (such as object and pictureschedules, simpleAACdevices, etc.). Ifachildismoreproficientusingalow‐tech system  than an iOS device, then the low‐tech system is the preferredsystem. Don’tbefooledbytheexcitement of new technology)
·         When using iOS devices for AAC with very young children, assess the child’s receptive understanding of words, understanding of two dimensional picture representation, ability to choose between multiple pictures presented, size of pictures needed as well as portability and accessibility of the device.
·         Personalize your child’s stories and favorite apps with familiar pictures (such as favorite toys, family members,  friends,  etc.)  Teach skills through social stories.
Since iOS devices are so portable and accessible, remember to protect your device with protective cases.

These are all good things to keep in mind before you hand that iPad over to your preschooler!

Turning it into snuggle time with Daddy. 

Here are a few simple tips for childproofing your device to avoid a lot of frustration:

·    Disable the home button
o   Bubcap ($6.99 on
o   Use a large binder clip
·         Childproof covers (Otterbox, Gripcase)
·         Make a folder for the child’s own apps:
o   Hold down an app until they all “jiggle”
o   Drag one app on top of another
o   Name the folder
o   Then  you can drag other apps into the new folder

Anthony can choose an app from his folder.

Here are some of our favorite apps:

Special Stories (for making homemade books, social stories)
Little Reader from Brill Kids (flashcards; see Brill Kids website for tips on use)
Starfall (alphabet, phonics)
Peek-a-boo barn/Peek-a-boo wild (Animal sounds, words, learning to navigate, easy, fun, good for younger
kids too)
Special Words (Reading program from Down Syndrome Education International; can add your own words
and phrases)
Also see for a great list of other apps, and links to still more lists.

There are so many out there, it's almost impossible to narrow them down into a manageable list.  An app that
holds the attention of one child might seem completely boring to another.  It's a matter of finding out what fits
best for the individual child.

We plan to continue to share our own app finds and update this list periodically, so check back!

And most importantly, if it's not fun, don't do it!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fine Feathered and Four Legged Friends

Nate and his parents live on a farm out in Yamhill County. Anthony didn't believe me when I told him we were going to a farm, but there was no denying it when we stepped out of the car to this sight:

Signing "chicken".

Going to check for eggs.

 Picking apples from the trees.

 And eating them! I don't think he knew that apples grow on trees. It was so fun for him to see it for himself.


 Then we met this charming lady.

 Learning to pet Abby gently.

She was such a sweetie.

 Look out- she's coming in for a kiss!

We think this boy will have a dog in his future, and who knows- maybe some chickens too.