All of the commercials advertising Thanksgiving day shopping (shudder) have me thinking – Gift List Time!!! One of the most common questions I get is, “It’s my child’s birthday soon. Do you have any toy recommendations? You know, things that they will use and be therapeutic?” Yes and Yes.
Frankly, I know why Oprah loved to list her favorite things. It’s just fun. This year I’m putting out 3 lists:
- School Age Gift List linked below
- Infant-Toddlers (blog post TBD)
- A special surprise list (!!!) in early December
Now for my soap box (skip to list if you’ve heard it). It’s my opinion that spending time together – interacting and playing - are more important than anything on this list. None of these items were developed for children with DS. There is nothing magical in a product; even the ones I’ve listed for you. The magic* is in relationship.
Think about your closest friend. Why are you friends? What do you both have in common? Do you only do things that one of you enjoys? Your child wants the same thing – Someone to listen and share in their activities. That’s what the 2013 Gift List list is all about. Most toys included are meant to be enjoyed together.
Drum roll please…..
*Full Disclosure: None of the toys suggested are magical. Any questions related to magic should be directed to J.K. Rowling or similar authority on the matter. (Insert tongue-in-cheek). Toys listed are for informational purposes only. I have not been paid or otherwise strong-armed into recommending any of these items. Opinions are my own and may not reflect those of my employer.
I'd always wanted a sister, so when April arrived on the scene I was ecstatic. In fact, I actually named her - April Joy - because I was so happy. I visited her in the hospital after she was born and was told she had Down syndrome. And guess what? I think it's made me love her more (if that's possible).
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a therapy activity. I love playing the game Hedbanz with my school-age children with DS. For those of you who’ve never played Hedbanz, it’s like 20 questions. Each player wears a crown-like headband and draws a picture card. Each card has a simple drawing on one side from familiar categories like animals, foods, household items, etc. Without looking, the player inserts the card into the front of the headband. Reality – I do this for my kids to prevent peeking (sorry OTs!) The other players can see the card as the picture faces out.
In therapy, I start by asking the child questions about my own picture. If I’m alone with the child then I peek at my card (gasp!). This is to ensure their answers to my yes/no questions are accurate. Next, the child takes his or her turn and asks questions until their picture is guessed. With this pattern, the child gets the opportunity to:
- listen to someone asking questions (modeling the skill)
- answer yes/no questions
- ask questions
The first adaptation I’ve done with Hedbanz is to reword the questions. This simplifies the game and allows the child practice asking questions that would naturally occur in day-to-day routines. So, “Am I an animal?” becomes, “Is it an animal?”
Finally, if having all the clue cards out is too overwhelming, then I will select 2 questions. One of the questions chosen will correspond to the picture on his or her headband. The child picks from these 2 options. This allows the child to participate in the game with support. As they become more proficient with asking questions, we phase out the clue cards.
I have uploaded the clue cards for your personal use. In my practice, I print the cards in color, laminate, and cut them out. If you don’t have a color printer, check out Fedex Office online. You can upload the file and print on card stock for a nominal fee.
Be patient and go slowly. Playing games together is a wonderful way to bond with your child and work on language skills.
Recently a friend and colleague told me about the I Run 4 Michael program. Basically, if you like to run (ride, swim, etc) the iRun4 group will match you with a buddy with special needs, of any age, who can’t (or doesn’t yet) run. The runner and match exchange pictures via a closed Facebook group supporting one another. The special need doesn’t matter – DS, cerebral palsy, Trisomy 18 – you name it. It’s all about encouraging one another.
Founder Tim Boyle started I Run 4 Michael to honor his good friend, a man with DS who developed painful hip dysplasia. Tim dedicates his run’s to Michael and Michael cheers him on with pictures, artwork, and most recently – an engraved dog tag for him to wear.
I signed up several weeks ago and am still waiting for a match. The organization is run by volunteers so I’m patiently waiting (also trying to contain my excitement). While posting my pre-match runs online I became aware of several other bloggers in the DS community whose children are matched. The DS awareness message is strong!
What I love about this organization is its message. People have different abilities, but we are all human. Runner-match stories are interwoven in very real ways. This isn’t a place that elevates individuals with special needs to a place of otherness. It’s a place that promotes understanding and encouragement.
Life is short.
Run with a friend cheering you on.
PS There are more runners than matches. This is my unsolicited ask for families active on Facebook to sign up.