Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Language Development and Down Syndrome

Hurdles, hurdles, and more hurdles is what it seems needs to be conquered when it comes to Down syndrome.  That's what the therapists, doctors, and books claim.  Low muscle tone, congenital heart defects, cognitive delays, speech delays, Hirschsprung's disease, sleep apnea, astigmatism, hearing loss, hypothyroidism, atlantoaxial instability, leukemia, sensory issues, strong gag reflex, constipation, joint flexibility, low stamina.  Is your brain overwhelmed yet?  Parents of children with Down syndrome can easily get caught up in all the possibilities, it's easy to do.  Yet, our ability to help our children develop to their fullest potential requires us to remain grounded and aware of the "what ifs" but not overwhelmed by them.

Joseph is at the point where he's conquered many hurdles:  inability to maintain body temperature, breast feeding, weight gain, open heart surgery, sitting, crawling, walking, drinking from a cup, using a spoon.  Some were bigger hurdles than others.  Now he's working on communication/speech/language development.  I've mentioned before that we started using the Baby Signing Time DVDs when Joseph was 1.  He began sitting completely on his own 2 weeks after his first birthday and at that time he began watching Rachel Coleman and all the babies sing and sign.  We all learned American Sign Language (ASL) along with him.  He didn't start to sign on his own until around age 2, maybe a bit earlier.  He began with the sign for more and eat.  Then added milk, drink and dog.  He's got quite a signing vocabulary at this point.  Regularly he'll sign the following words.

french fry
thank you
signing lizard which is on the next page

signing bird

Some require a bit of coaxing on our part:  please, thank you and mom.  And to the untrained eye others may be unrecognizable, but we know what he's saying for the most part.  Once he began to sign he also started "reading" books.  It's probably my favorite pasttime, just watching him sitting on the floor with a book.  He especially likes books about animals and vehicles.  He'll babble, turn the page, point, babble some more, sign familiar animals, turn the page, babble, point to the words, repeat until the end.  Then he'll grab another book and do the same.  Love it!  And now most recently he's begun saying a few words.

car - cah
shoes - hoosh
deer - deeh
daddy - da  or dada
eat - ee
fish - ohsh
cookie - key
dog - gah

Still no mama, but I'm confident that by 3 he'll be saying it.  Joseph has a speech therapy evaluation coming up later this week.  Last June the therapist did an evaluation and concluded that she "couldn't do anything more for him than his family's doing already".  I requested another eval just to be sure that I'm not missing anything.  I'm pleased with his speech development (except for the mama thing, what a disgrace) and believe strongly that Baby Signing Time was extremely beneficial to his speech development.  I've read in various parenting magazines that signing is useful in those inbetween months when babies can't talk but can express their needs.  Children with Down syndrome often have a delay in their speech development therefore knowing how to communicate through signs may ease any frustrations that come with a delay.  I don't have any proof of that.  I just know that Joseph is content; if it's because of his signing ability or our (mom, dad, brothers, sisters) increased awareness of his needs, I can't say for sure.  One thing for sure is that signing requires eye contact which aids in communication.

1 comment:

  1. My son has a speech delay too and it took almost a year for him to say mama. Until then I was gaga. I almost cried when he finally said mama.


I love chatting with my readers. So go ahead and comment to start the conversation.