What are some helpful resources for speech therapists working with the Down syndrome population (ages 2-5)?
One of the most important things to remember when working with children with Down syndrome (or any child who has a cognitive delay) is that they move through the stages of language development in the same order as more typically developing children - just more slowly. Consequently, the materials you choose will be dictated by the child's current level of language and cognitive development.
Given this, I recommend intervention activities that facilitate the development of oral vocabulary, pre-literacy skills, and early social skills (turn-taking, eye contact, language functions). I am also a big advocate of involving parents - especially in helping children build those critical language and pre-literacy skills.
Specific materials I suggest:
Learning Language and Loving It (available from Hanen Resources or through Thinking Publications)
The parent companion to this is It Takes Two to Talk (same information)
These two books are invaluable resources for working with preschool children. I have used them very successfully with children with Down Syndrome.
Fingerplays, songs and rhymes are invaluable to facilitate metalinguistic and social skills. There are a number of resources you could use. Some suggestions are:
The Eentsy, Weentsy Spider: Fingerplays and Action Rhymes - Joanna Cole.
Let's Do Fingerplays - Marion Grayson (may be hard to find but has been available on Amazon.com)
The Complete Book of Rhymes, Songs, Poems, Fingerplays, and Chants: Over 700 Selections - Pamela Byrne Schiller
Time to Sing - This is an audiotape that I especially like. It was developed for working with children with apraxia. The familiar songs (such as ''Wheels on the Bus,'' ''Shake your Sillies Out,'' ''Bingo'') are sung at a slower speed which provides children with more processing time. It works wonderfully for children with Down Syndrome.
Read With Me! Stress-Free Strategies for Building Language and Literacy. This is the book I wrote (in conjunction with a reading specialist) that provides information on interactive reading strategies that build language and pre-literacy skills for children of all ability levels. These strategies can be used in the classroom or intervention setting or taught to parents for use in the home setting.
Remember, children with cognitive delays follow the typical developmental sequence of language learning (as opposed to children with autism who commonly demonstrate idiosyncratic developmental patterns). So, you can use many of the same materials with preschoolers with Down Syndrome as you would use with more typically developing preschoolers. Just adjust the activities to match the current developmental levels of each child.
Dr. Shari Robertson is an Associate Professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She spent 16 years in the public schools working with preschool and school-age children with a variety of communicative disorders. Her current research focuses on intervention efficacy with preschool children and the development of language and literacy skills. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.