Tuesday, October 6, 2015

DSAM: Let's Talk

Blake enjoying Bubble Play. One of Dona's favorite "transactional" objects! 

Down Syndrome Awareness Month (DSAM) is a wonderful opportunity to talk about all aspects of Down Syndrome from its clinical definition, statistics, myths and truths, therapies, medical intervention, education, parenting and more.

Today I have the sincere pleasure of introducing the best speech practitioner that Blake and I have the pleasure of working with and who I am proud to call part of TEAM BLAKE.

Dona Hare, of  Learn*Connect*Play has prepared her TALKING TOP 10 to share with  you today. This applies to ALL children who have speech issues or delays, regardless of diagnosis (or the lack thereof). We have worked with Dona for a year and most of her expertise is taught to ME, not Blake. As a parent of a child with special needs we must accept that the majority of the workload for education falls on our shoulders. Rightly so, we are the models that our children see the most and spend the most time with. It stand to reason that the practitioner working with your child should be equipping YOU with the tools you need for your child to be successful and this is Dona's approach that I am so thankful for.


1. TRUST YOUR GUT! All kinds of well intentioned professionals will tell you what is wrong with your child and what to do to fix it.  As a parent you know better than anyone what your child feels and needs. Don’t ever forget that you are the expert on your child and when you feel good about a school, professional or an intervention, it is the right choice for your family.

2. INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES. Recognize, accept and embrace yours and your child’s unique sensory profile, learning and communication style. We all take in, process and put out information differently. Your child will benefit when you tailor your interactions to fit his individual differences.

3. BEHAVIOR IS COMMUNICATION! Every yell, bite, tear and smile communicates what your child thinks, feels or needs. Looking deeply at what the behavior is communicating rather than just labeling the behavior as bad, can actually strengthen the parent-child connection and support language development.

4. NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION IS THE FOUNDATION FOR LANGUAGE! 97% of communication is body language, facial expressions, gestures and tone of voice. Support your child’s communication by emphasizing gestures, facial expressions and vocal tone.  

5. OWL!

Eniko Mihalik by Terry Richardson for Harper's Bazaar US November 2011

OWL = Observe what your child is saying with and without words. 
Wait to respond. Take 3 breaths before you tell him what to say or help him. Then respond and wait again to see what happens. SLOW DOWN!
Listen with your eyes, ears and heart to what he is saying and how you can keep the interaction going. 

6. FOLLOW HIS/HER LEAD! You bought cool finger paints and want to try that but your child would rather play in the dirt and look for ants. Do what he is interested in and likes. 

7. KEEP THE INTERACTION GOING! When in doubt, imitate! Imitating your child’s words or actions are a great way to keep your child connected and engaged and continue the interaction.

8. PLAY WITH ABANDON!  Talk, sing and play with your child everywhere. Don’t be afraid to act silly, make funny faces or make up crazy songs. You know you are playing right by your child’s smile and laugh.

9. SEEK OUT PLAYMATES! (For you and your child.) Go to the library, playground, parent groups, preschool and gymnastics and look for those nice kids that connect with your child. Then check out the parent. If you like the parent, invite them over for a play date. Inclusion happens everywhere-not just at school!

10. THIS IS A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT! Take care of yourself, the relationship with your partner and your friends. 

In the end, it’s all about Learn. Connect. Play.   

Thanks Dona! 

Blake & Dona at the beach, Blake's older sister also participates in his Speech Sessions

About Dona:  Dona has worked for more than 30 years to help develop language, literacy, and social skills for children and their families. She earned her Masters Degree from the University of Southern California and trained at the John Tracy Clinic, an internationally recognized parent education training center. She has worked for the California Department of Education (Diagnostic Center of Central California) assessing students, providing training throughout the state, and writing and piloting curriculum programs.

Dona holds certifications in DIR/Floortime, PRT-Pivotal Response Therapy, Hanen Early Language Program, and P.L.A.Y. Project (Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters). She has worked with several school districts throughout California as a Speech and Language Specialist providing early intervention and school age services, and also directed a national camp for children on the autism spectrum.

The US Department of Education, the California State Superintendent of Education, and the UC DAVIS, MIND INSTITUTE have recognized Dona for her skills and achievements in developing programs, curriculum, and training. Most recently, she worked as a Program Specialist for the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education training teachers and parents, developing programs, and identifying learning strategies and supports for the most challenging students.

Go to www.learnconnectplay.comhttp://learnconnectplay.com/ for more information.

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