Friday, December 3, 2010

Book Review: Early Communication Skills for Children with Down Syndrome

Early Communication Skills for Children with Down SyndromeI once attended an hour-long Speech and Language seminar hosted by three speech-language pathologists at a Down syndrome conference. Most of the information provided was from "Early Communication Skills for Children with Down Syndrome."

I've had this information-packed book since Matthew was a baby, referring to it for guidance and information about speech and language development for children with Down syndrome. The ssection on hearing and ear fluid in Chapter 2 reaffirmed a friend's advice to be meticulous and aggressive with treating any chronic ear fluid Matthew might develop. Hence, Matthew got his 1st set of ear tubes when he was 8 months old after a few undetected ear infections and discovery of persistent fluid in his middle ears.

The book offers practical suggestions and activities that can be easily integrated into our day, once I make a habit of it. It provides important tips and ideas on communicating, teaching vocabulary, supporting receptive and expressive language and enhancing a child's communication skills. For example, using real objects and real situations is important for learning concepts and building vocabulary as abstract thought tends to be difficult for children with Down syndrome.

Chapters 1 to 6 are:
- "Language, Speech, and Communication"
- "Speech and Language Characteristics of Children with Down Syndrome"
- "Busy Baby - Busy Parents"
- "Before the First Word - Precursors to Language"
- "The One-Word Stage"
- "The Two- and Three-Word Stages"

I find myself referring to this book more now that Matthew is communicating verbally with one-word or two-word phrases. I like the book suggestions to help stimulate language.

Communication is discussed in more speech-language pathologist speak/ terminology in chapters 7 through 13, including:
- "The Nuts and Bolts of Language Comprehension"
- "Speech and Intelligibility Problems"
- "Articulation and Phonology: Learning the Sounds of the Language"
- "Pragmatics: Communication in Action"
- "Communicating without Speech"
- "Understanding Speech and Language Evaluation"
- "Understanding Speech and Language Treatment"

So in a way, the book becomes a specialized dictionary for understanding unfamiliar professional terminology.

In chapter 14, "Literacy and Language," interesting points are made about teaching reading to children with Down syndrome before they turn 3 and how this would help develop speech and language. A few resources suggested were Love and Learning, the book Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome, and Sue Buckley's approach to teaching reading, which to me seems similar to the method discussed in Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome. Excerpts include:

"...the brain can go straight from print to meaning without changing the visual image of the word to its spoken form first and then accessing the meaning" (Buckley, 1996). In other words, before a child with Down syndrome even learns to speak, he may be able to look at a word such as 'dog' and see a picture of a dog in his mind without saying or even being able to pronounce the word in his head."

In a 1995 study by Sue Buckley on skills of two groups of children with Down Syndrome, results demonstrated that the children who were taught to read had more advanced language and memory skills than the nonreaders. Furthermore, she has found that children with Down syndrome who begin to read early are more advanced in speech, language and educational progress by age ten to eleven.

Overall, a very good book to have. It is an invaluable resource especially if speech and language are top priorities. And they are for Matthew. We want him to be intelligible to unfamiliar people and have a good foundation for speech and language development in order for him to communicate well with others. With this book, I feel armed with the information and guidance I need to help Matthew maximize his communication potential.

Have you read it? What do you think?


Rochelle said...

I have read it (or some of it) last year but, most of it was definitely too old for Alayna at the time. Will have to pull it out and reread it to see where we are now.
We agree with your main goal, intelligible speech to everyone not just family.

Brandie said...

I have it, but haven't read all of it. Like Rochelle, Goldie wasn't very old at the time. Now that she is talking more I should pull it out again.

Thanks for pointing out that the benefits of early reading were still seen at ages 10+. I did not know that. We'll have to keep working on the sight words!

Looking Up said...

I've had it since Josh was a few months old & have been reading as we pass the different milestones. Definitely agree that it's a good resource to have.