If you have a tween or teen with Down syndrome my title probably just got your attention. I could have easily substituted Hannah Montana, iCarly, Wizards of Waverly Place or other such show, but I went with the original musical movie addiction. (Some would argue this isn’t the original, but I’m talking teens in 2010).
So what does this have to do with speech?
When children are young we (parents, therapists, etc) know that the best way to get them to talk is through activities they enjoy. Speech therapy in middle and high school looks very different from the days of early intervention. But it doesn’t have to be boring! Here’s how to use your tween’s interest (or obsession) in a productive way:
- With your SLP come up with word lists related to your child’s articulation goals and interest movie/show. Working on blended sounds? Great! Add Troy. How about /s/ and /sh/? Then you can practice Kelsi and Sharpay. You get the idea…
- Work on listening comprehension together at home. You probably own a book or magazine related to your child’s interest. Read sections together, like a character bio, and ask “wh” questions. Reverse roles and let your teen quiz you. By now you’re probably an expert on Zac Ephron or Miranda Cosgrove yourself.
- Improve problem solving. Use scenarios from a recent show or movie and talk about the “kick-off” event. What was the problem the character(s) encountered? Write down 2-3 solutions and read them with your teen. Ask them to select what they think is the best choice and talk through that decision. Try and relate it to situations your teen has encountered. Drama is everywhere – teens with Down syndrome are not excluded!
- Tired of the same old lyrics (in less than stellar quality)? Print off the problem words and make flash cards. Have your tween be a musical star – pull out the echo microphone and have them repeat the words on the cards. As a reward let them perform the song for the family (for the millionth time). Provide specific praise for the words clearly sung or spoken, “You really used your l-sound Maddie! I heard it in love and possibilities.”
I’m not advocating limited interests. However, I am trying to bank on the fact that teens love to talk about what they like. The more your child talks, works on speech sounds, and practices conversation the better communicator he/she will become. Make the most of it by picking something they want to talk about. And don’t worry, Disney will eventually come out with another musical sure to spark their interest.