Monday, April 20, 2009

Music and Movement and Mad Tears

Matthew (18 months old) does not speak any words yet. But he knows how to sign a few words like "more", "book", "shoes", "help", "all done" and "eat". While his expressive verbal language is slow to develop, his receptive language (understanding of words) is outstanding (my biased opinion). He understands "give to Mommy", "blow kisses", "close the dishwasher door", "blink eyes", among many other simple instructions. I know Matthew is getting it bit by bit but an extra nudge in that direction certainly helps.

Matthew is now enrolled in a music & movement class at a local studio in town. The class meets every Monday at 4:30 to 5pm, with an average of 5 toddlers. In this class, Matthew is the youngest but I agree with the speech therapist who runs the class that this is a good fit for him. He's very curious about other toddlers close to his age and they'd set a good example for him with their verbal skills. Right now, Matthew is the only one in the class with Down syndrome and the other kids seem to be typically developing who may be in the class just to help their language skills along. So the whole point of putting Matthew in this class is to help him develop his verbal skills through:
1. observation of and/or socialization with peers in a group activity-type setting
2. structured activities that combine music and movement, i.e. songs that require hand or arm gestures
3. physical activity as the toddlers go through a fun mini obstacle course while music plays in the background.

The idea is that when I give Matthew more opportunities to learn, explore and think about new things, all this stimuli promotes brain development hence, helping him progress. The more input he receives, the better his receptive language skills will get. The more he is processing, the better the chances of getting something to capture his interest which will hopefully lead to him wanting to express his interest - verbally.

The tricky part is I'm not with him for those 30 minutes. I'm in another room watching everything they do on a tv screen. He is assigned a "buddy", who is the speech therapist's assistant. It's tricky because Matthew is practically glued to me. Yes, he's a mama's boy (and I love it!) but it does raise his anxiety level up a notch to be taking in everything that goes on in the class without me by his side. I'm not suggesting it's bad in this case. It just is.

So he was fine for the first 2o minutes then refused to do anything else and got mad and upset and started sobbing. (How's that for non-verbal expressive language?!) So they took him out of the class when their attempts to comfort him were in vain and brought him to me. Half of me was saying "My poor baby! Let's not come back here" but the stronger half of me was saying "This exposure is good for him in the long run. He's not hurt, maybe just a little overwhelmed. We'll be back next week!"

The class coordinator reassured me that this is a typical reaction for toddlers his age. They have seen it many times before. It takes a few classes before they start to get into the groove of how the class is run. So we'll see how he does next week. Wish us luck!


meishaen said...

Dear Ria, its so moving to read all your articles, and your mother-in-law's gave me a glimpse of insight to the big moment. Love is so strong and magical within the family.... Thanks for sharing your life with us~ GO Captain Mathew! ^^

Ria said...

Thanks Mei! I'm glad you enjoy my blog. Visit often for updates. Take care!