Originally published on 2/14/2011. Update includes new photo of my beautiful sister, April. **
This year we received a LOT of Valentines. I don’t remember getting this many before. Last week my husband Pete was out of town presenting at a conference. He returned home last night, took one look at our mantel filled to the edges with cards and asked, “Who are all of these from?” Well – grandparents mostly, and my sister. I handed him April’s card, “Read this. It’s from my sister.” A smile emerged across his face.
April and I have a very competitive (loving, and sisterly) relationship. Inside the card was a hand-written note encouraging me to eat Valentine’s Day candy. Why? Because I will gain weight, lose our ongoing weight-loss challenge, and she will forever reign supreme as the “Biggest Loser.”
April’s sense of humor is expressed perfectly in the card she picked out, purchased, addressed, and mailed herself. It’s one of the funniest cards she has ever sent to me. (Click on the pictures to enlarge and read)
Language is so much more than vocabulary. It is more than following directions. It’s telling jokes, knowing when your older brother is being a jerk and not paying you a compliment, and figuring out how to irk your sister in just a few sentences.
So how in the world did April go from a little girl with Down syndrome in speech therapy to young woman using a card to push her sister’s buttons? How did she learn these kinds of language skills?
- Listening to stories. Our Dad read children’s novels to us in his “Library Lady” voice (see #2).
- Lots of exposure to humor. Just meet our father and you’ll understand.
- Three older siblings. And if older sibs are good for anything, it’s sarcasm.
- Direct teaching of more complicated concepts… This meant hard work with my mom, teachers, and therapists…Similes, metaphors, figures of speech, etc.
- Self-determination. She’s always wanted to keep up with us, as a child and as an adult.
So where do we start with our child?
Picture books are good at introducing common figures of speech. The following books do a nice job at illustrating what speech-language pathologists consider more advanced language concepts:
As your child gets into later elementary school, read stories together as a family that include humor and problem solving such as,
If your child finds something funny, talk about it. Explain what you find humorous. A great time to do this is during TV commercials. This provides a model and framework for their answers later when you ask, “What’s so funny?” And most importantly – remember to laugh at their knock-knock jokes. Somehow life feels a little less complicated when we can laugh together.
** Thanks to Sarah and Carleigh of the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City, April will receive a Hug-in-a-Mug as her Valentine’s Day treat this year!