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Down Syndrome Australia
by Katherine Sefton
Summer 2004 Volume 7.3
MORE THAN WORDS is the name of a three day workshop I attended in May 2004 to become certified in the More Than Words methodology. This program was developed by Fern Sussman, SLP from the Hanen Centre in Toronto, Canada. I have made reference and included many of the materials developed by the professionals at this center in previous Let's Talk articles. More Than Words is a program that was developed to improve the communication of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and or deficits in social and pragmatic communication. They are children who frequently are described as 'having their own agenda'.
In my work with children with Down syndrome, I have seen some children who exhibit these difficulties and traditional approaches do not work very well. I was surprised when I received an issue of Disability Solutions, vol.3, issue 5 and 6, September/October 1999 devoted to children who were diagnosed with both Down syndrome and Autism. This dual diagnosis is not as rare as one would imagine. I have worked with children who have received this diagnosis from accredited Child Development Teams after their parents have experienced many years of frustration due to the child making no or minimal progress in communication development in spite of intervention. In brief, those who have worked with these children have come to realize that they require a different approach.
In the More Than Words parent manual (a copy is available in the Connection office) there are many wonderful illustrations, techniques, and references for song books and toys that can be used to enhance the communication of children with 'their own agenda'.
Recipe for Fun: People Games-people games involve tickling, horsy rides on your knee, Row Your Boat with movement, and other activities that involve your physical interaction with the child to keep them engaged. Please see Chapter 5, More Than Words Manual for a more complete description and illustrations.
Winter 2004 Volume 7.1
It's the day before Thanksgiving and I am sitting in the airport. As I look around I see signs and symbols everywhere telling me where, when, and how to make my way around the huge cavernous people filled space. I am aware of how these visual aids help make me feel more secure and are essential to maintaining order in what could be chaos.
A recent issue of Disabilities Solutions, VOL 5 Issue 5, Jul-Aug 2003 was devoted to the use of visual materials to "Promote Inclusive Learning." I felt very validated by what I read in this article. For the past seven years I have been expanding the use of visual supports in my individual speech therapy session, and I have encouraged the families of clients to do the same. Some of these visual aids include picture symbols, large photographs (5 x 7), small Izone polarized photographs (2 x 2), picture schedules, dryboard written schedules, etc. I have found these supports to serve as primary communication devices as well as ways to help the child stay seated and on task. These visual reminders help the children feel secure; secure that they will get to do some of the things they wish, when it will occur in the session, and when it is completed. Frequently I will make a copy of either the picture or written schedule to allow the child to communicate with others outside of the immediate situation that happened.
I just purchased a wonderful manual, Visual Strategies for Improving Communication, Practical Supports for School and Home, Linda A Hodgdon, M.E.D., CCC SLP. Quirk Roberts Publishing, Twelth Printing 2003. Tel. (248) 879-2598. The DSC has purchased this manual also for you to review and use. It is available in their lending library. I highly recommend it.
RECIPE FOR FUN:
Purchase an Izone polarized camera about $14.00 (Walgreens, Longs, etc.) Take pictures or help your child take pictures of favorite things or people. Mount on 2" x 2" construction paper, laminate and put Velcro on the back. Arrange a schedule or make a "My favorite people and things" album to share.