I started a "conversation book" for Matthew to take to school. I got the idea from a down syndrome education online article "Reading and writing for infants with Down syndrome (0-5 years). (Highly recommended resource!!) It is a photo album with photos of what we did during the week or weekend. I have the photo on one side and on the adjacent page, a short sentence about the photo written from his perspective.
The short narratives I write in the photo album aren't intended to
"test" his reading ability. I have underlined words that are not (yet) in his sight word vocabulary. So except for the underlined words, he can
read and understand the rest. The short sentences help him tell his teacher about what he likes (or does not like) or what he did recently.
I change the photos in the album every week to keep it fresh. He loves looking at photos. And his teacher tells me that he's always excited to show the photos to her.
In a nutshell, here's what I hope to achieve with the conversation book.
- encourage more spoken and spontaneous speech and language. He understands so much but has difficulty in expressing his thoughts.
- use his sight reading (a major strength) to give him the language to express his thoughts.
- encourage speaking in sentences.
- encourage social skills and turn-taking. His teacher had a great idea to also use his conversation book as an ice breaker with his peers since he tends to be shy and quiet around them.
- give him the language he can use in talking or thinking about things he likes and his experiences.
- it will also be a good way for his teacher to get to know him better.
- it's a good opportunity to practice reading and comprehension. He is highly motivated.
The first set of photos I put in his conversation book was about our trip to Grant's Farm.
Here's a video of him feeding the goats.
After a week, I replace the photos in the album with photos of a different and recent experience. A few of the old photos are displayed on our refrigerator for the following week but without the sentences. Instead, I use them to just point out different things on them. At the same time, I write short sentences on a small white board for him to read to me, giving him the visual words that I think he might want to say to help him tell me about the photos. So instead of just giving him the auditory input, "say this...", I make use of his visual memory (a common strength in children with Down syndrome) and his ability to read.