I just realized that I can't go to bed yet... I haven't posted today in the 31 for 21 blog challenge, to raise awareness about Down syndrome. And I have been writing a more in-depth post in my mind but it will have to wait for tomorrow.
For tonight, I want to give a testimonial for the Love and Learning reading program, designed for preschool children who might otherwise have a hard time with language skills. Children with Down syndrome are very, very visual. Although I am a big proponent of phonics education, it is true that phonics should probably not be the first step in teaching a child with Down syndrome to read. We invested in these kits (books and videos) when our daughter was a baby, buying a few at a time. Watching the videos and reading the booklets became one of her favorite activities, one which she associated with "cuddle time" with Mom and Dad. She learned to read simple sentences by the time she was 3 (with lots of repetition, and at a very slow pace, this is quite possible). After she had worked her way through 6 of the Love and Learning kits, I started making her personalized little books of her very own, and she has loved this approach ever since. She still has the notebooks with the handouts and poems her elementary school teachers made for her, and reviews them for fun.
Once she had mastered the most common sight words, she was more than prepared for phonics instruction of a more traditional kind. In fact, she was able to be fully included in a regular elementary school classroom all along, and her ability in phonetic reading was always grade-appropriate. Now that she is in middle school, the schools place much more emphasis on reading comprehension, which is definitely harder for her. However, I believe her ability to "decode" is still right on track for her grade level. If I know what literature books she is reading at school, I can discuss them in context with her and help her understand plot points and character development (I was a literature major in college, it ought to be good for something!) With quality movies being made of so many books, that provides an added incentive to read and discuss, and then watch the movie.
I highly recommend the Love and Learning kits for young children with Down syndrome. They work best if you do not watch a lot of other television, because they are very slow-moving by comparison to most TV shows. They made a huge difference in our daughter's academic aptitudes and, by extension, her self-esteem. I believe she is much more independent because of her early introduction to the skill of reading.
Now, at age 13, she has a stack of books on her bed at all times and I have to nag her to put them away. Could there be a better testimonial for a reading program?