Sunday, July 15, 2018

Reading at age 6

Gavyn is currently 6 and reading at a second grade reading level. Veronika is at a 1st grade reading level and turned 7 a couple days ago. They have only just finished kindergarten and they both have Down syndrome.
I have been asked many many times .... how are the kids reading so well at age 6?
So I decided to make a post about how they got to where they are.
Before we adopted them I did a lot of research on education and Down syndrome. I picked out things I liked and would work for our family and threw out things I knew would not work for our family.
Let me first start by saying, my husband and I are BIG readers. We love reading, we love books.
While doing research I came across the name Glenn Doman. He talked a lot about children with special needs and how to help them live to their fullest potential.
One of his books is How to Teach Your Baby to Read. I checked it out at our local library and started making flashcards.
In addition to working with flashcards, we read to our kids ALL the time. Every day, several times a day. It helped foster a love of books in them.

 We even took books outside and read them outside.
 We had a reading corner for our kids to sit and read.
 The Glenn Doman program talked about making giant sized flashcards and doing something called FAST FLASHING to teach reading. Basically you are teaching shape recognition. Because most children with Down syndrome are visual learners this program works great!  I would sit with our kids for a little while and fast flash some of their flash cards. The key is to make it fun and stop BEFORE your kids get bored, it will leave them wanting to do it more.
Once our kids knew many words I would leave the word cards they had mastered out so they could play with them. I wanted them to see reading as a fun thing, something they could play with even so I made a basket and put their word cards they knew. Now, the challenge was, neither of our kids were talking yet. So... how did I know they were learning the words?? Sign language was one way I knew. Another way we knew was because our kids were able to pick out the words when I would put several on the floor.

Another way we knew they were learning to read was because we would have several cards with directions on them, such as .... arms up, sit down, clap your hands, stand up, etc
We also worked on learning the names of our family

 After we worked with the Glenn Doman program a while we started adding in other programs. One of those programs was Zoo Phonics. We liked this program because even though our kids were not very verbal they were able to show me that they knew which sign went for each letter. 
We feel like having the visual plus the action for the letter helped cement it all together.
A friend of ours gave us a wonderful gift of very sturdy heavy card stocked flash cards with an Eric Carle theme called Eric Carle Animal Flash Cards. On one side was a picture of an animal along with the written name of the animal from Eric Carle's books and on the other side was the letter of the alphabet.

This is a video from when they were two. 

When our kids watched tv it was mostly signing time. Another program we liked however is Sparkabilities. You can look it up online and they even have some sample videos on youtube. I guess the key was that anything they heard/saw/played with was educational.

 We turned toys that were not purely educational into educational learning tools. Words and reading was everywhere they looked.
 We also did a lot of prereading activities such as shadow matching
 And picture matching with familiar pictures from stories
 We also did a lot of puzzles that had letters to go along with a picture so they would start to think about words that start with certain letters. By the time they were 4 they were able to think of a lot of words for each letter of the alphabet just because of simple things like this. We also played games like... I spy with my little eye, something that sounds like aaaaa, or bbbbbb, etc. Of course in the beginning they had no idea, so it was my husband and I who would play it while our kids listened. If I played it only with the kids I would wait a few seconds and give the answer.
 We had puzzles with shape and color names written on them, anything I could find with words that was educational ...
 We did arts and craft projects that had words and were educational such as this where they would have to crumple up papers to make flowers
 We had word matching games and picture matching games and color to word matching.

It was around this time that we started working with a program called So Happy to Learn by Mrs. Brown.

 Another amazing program we found was BrillKids. It was very much like the Glenn Doman program with the fast flashing, but it also had a lot of other great things with it. I loved how it progressed and it was an educational app I could use.

This is Gavyn at age 3 working with the BrillKids app.

This is Veronika at age 4 reading one of Mrs. Brown's books from the So Happy to Learn Program. 

Another thing we used was Preschool Prep. We had the videos plus the flash cards.

This is when Gavyn was about 3. He was not very verbal but he could point or hand me things. 
These are the flash cards from Preschool Prep.

So it isnt really just ONE thing that we feel has helped our kids, but a lifestyle. We found a lot of different programs and have used each of them to help them be more well rounded. 
Because reading is so important to us as a family it is important to our kids.  And reading in itself is not enough. We want our kids to understand what they are reading so I made these worksheets for them.
This is Veronika when she was 4 working on her reading comprehension. 

One thing I felt was very important was to not listen to other's when they said things about my kids. I had a teacher tell me that Gavyn did not know any letters when he was already reading. The problem was, they didnt know how to test him where he could answer. I had friends ask my why I would teach my 2 year old to read, I had therapists who questioned what we were doing. The thing is... I KNEW my kids would have struggles because they have Down syndrome. I wanted to give them as much of a leg up as I could. I wanted to give them a head start. I feel like I have. We have developed in our kids a love for learning, a love for reading, and they are doing amazing!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Happy 7th Birthday Veronika!!

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. 
Psalm 139:14

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Summer isn't far away

With summer months coming soon we have so much going on. In June our daughter and granddaughter will be flying home for a visit. We have been wanting to get started on the Simply Classical program but we have decided to hold off until after their visit that way we don't end up getting into a good rhythm and grove and then get off track during their visit.
So looking forward to getting to meet my grandbaby for the first time. Isn't she adorable?

In the mean time we are doing our Around the World studies. We are just starting to learn about the continent of Africa. Some of the main highlights we will be learning about will be learning about Egypt, Kenya, Mount Kilimanjaro, Madagascar, Sahara Desert, the Serengeti grasslands, the Nile River, and learning some words and songs in Swahili. 
We will be spending at least a month on this, learning different countries in Africa and being able to locate them on the map, learning about animals of Africa, learning about mummies, King Tutankhamun, Hatshepsut, Ramesses II and so much more!
Once we finish our studies of Africa we will make a little video about it and post it. 
There are days when I am frustrated with modern technology and wish for simpler times but even I will admit that I LOVE being able to just look things up online, find resources, art projects that support our learning, and just the wealth of knowledge that can so easily be found. 
 I love this slant board we got, it is really helping our kids who have weak fine motor skills to improve their handwriting.
 Daddy built this water table by adding some store bought storage containers to an old train table he had made a few years ago. We just popped the train table top off and put the containers in. It has been a big hit and a wonderful way for our sensory seekers to relax between lessons.
 Working on PT skills before seat work has been something we have noticed has really helped. We require the kids move around at least for 30 minutes to 1 hour before we do any sit down work. It has helped them stay focused longer. Sometimes we use tools such as the one above, and other times we turn on music and dance, or go outside and jump on the trampoline. Anything to get their bodies moving, their blood pumping, and their brains ready for learning.
 Our little guy struggles the most with his fine motor skills so we have found these great rock crayons. They are great for making him hold the crayons the correct way rather than the regular crayons that he tends to just fist.
 Another tool we have is therapy eggs. The pink egg is easier to squeeze and the blue one is harder. We have him do several squeezes in each hand and then switch to get his hand strength built up.
 Fun riding around together on their little bike.
 More water play

 So nice to be able to sit outside and enjoy my beautiful flowers!
I am blown away by this!! She did this all by herself!! Her handwriting is certainly coming along! (now if she would only decide if she is left handed or right, lol) 
Oh well, Hakuna Matata!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sensory Bins over the Years

I was just on one of my facebook groups and was talking with another mama about sensory bins and I thought I would post here. We LOVE sensory bins. We have sensory seekers and sensory avoiders so we always have to have a variety. Sensory bins dont always have to be in a bin either.... sometimes it can be at the table, on the floor, or even in a play pin. 

 mess free paint - I put paint in a zip lock bag and then used duct tape to keep the bag from being opened
 I used different spices and let them smell them and also transfer the spices from one bowl to the next
  we used child size teacups and pitches for practicing pouring
 leaves in the play pin
we went to a pumpkin patch and they had a big bin of dried corn
basket with the large legos
 bottles with glass beads (I had to sit close to them so they would not put them into their mouth) was great for working on their fine motor skills

 we brought the sand/water table inside and just put a blanket on the floor to help keep it mess free

 colored rice, we did some for every season and found some great things at the Dollar store to put inside the sensory bin

oobleck and flubber

different kinds of beans
water beads