Monday, April 27, 2009

Reading and Down syndrome

The video idea from Scarehaircare was one of the best suggestion I have received in regards to testing and IEPs. I gave the video of Morgan reading sight words and the kindergarten books to her teacher last month. This was her response, "I watched the video. I'm very pleased but not surprised. I turned it on at the beginning of class for Morgan (and her friends) to watch. She talked more today than she ever has and was smiling and laughing all day. I have some ideas I'd like to talk with you about her reading program and goals. . ."

Morgan's teacher is now sending home Level B guided reading books each week for Morgan to work on. These books are more challenging and she has improved so much in her reading since starting them. The typical kindergarten child should be on Level C at the end of the school year and Morgan is almost there. We met for her IEP goals and her teacher wanted her reading goals to be the same goals as the typical 1st grader for reading. We met with the school district to discuss Morgan's placement for next year and her kindergarten teacher brought the video with her. At the very beginning of the meeting her teacher told the district that she wanted to start with Morgan's video. They were surprised and asked her if they shouldn't first get to know Morgan a little bit before watching the video (which would have never happened because Morgan wasn't about to say one word to them and just looked down the entire meeting). She told them that she felt the video would alter the way they viewed Morgan and was very important in regards to her school placement for 1st grade. They were all amazed at her reading ability and it did change the tone of the meeting.

I have gotten a lot of emails asking me what I did to teach Morgan how to read. I want to make it very clear that Morgan is not the exception. I believe all children with Down syndrome can learn how to read. Most children with Down syndrome are visual learners and need to be taught reading through visual techniques (i.e. flash cards). Morgan knows her letters and sounds so I am also trying to teach her phonics but that is coming at a slower rate than the words she is learning from flash cards and repetition.

I started by making flash cards that said "I", "see", "mom", "dad", "Morgan" (and all the names of her siblings). We worked on those 10 flash cards for several weeks (I did it while she was sitting on the toilet since toilet training is an ongoing battle for us) and once she knew those words I put them into sentences-- "I see mom", "I see Morgan", etc. and we worked on those sentences. Each week when she brought home her kindergarten books I added more flash cards with the high frequency words from those books.

I knew I wanted her to read and just made it up as I went along. Then I went to this really great seminar a few months ago on teaching children with Down syndrome reading. is the company that came and did the reading workshop for us in SLC. They have a wonderful program and recommend starting it with your child as young as possible (around 6 months old). I didn't buy the program because I felt like Morgan was too far ahead in the process and was already reading phrases and books, but if I had found this program when Morgan was younger I would have invested in it, but I think this program can also be implemented in your own flash card program.

Here are the basics of the ereading pro program:

  • Use big flash cards (I was using index cards which are really too small). I made new flash cards on white card stock. I put 3 words on each page so each flash card is about 4"x8.5"
  • Use red font color -- it is a good color to grab the child's attention
  • Read through each card quickly --only spend a few seconds--just enough time to read the word (Don't expect the child to repeat the word. Just say the word as they look at the card and then go on to the next card).
  • Read each card 3x a day
  • Keep cards in categories and teach 1-2 categories at a time (I keep my cards in business size envelopes in categories). Some of the categories that I am working on with Morgan are: food, animals, family names, colors, sight words, verbs (jumping, hop, run, walk, climb, drink, eat,etc.), etc. I go through a lot of cards at one time with Morgan but with this reading program they suggest doing 5 cards from 2 categories for 5-7 days and then adding 2 new cards and removing 2 cards. So that they are always just doing about 10 cards 3xday.
  • If you start this program when your child is young and may not know their colors or all the animals, etc. that you are teaching--put a picture of the item on the BACK of the flashcard (the program suggests for the color flashcards to use paint sample cards from Home Depot), show the word, say the word and you can do the sign at the same time (if child is not verbal yet) and then turn it over and show the picture. That way the word is more powerful than the picture.
  • This program does not teach high frequency/ sight words because they are abstract words that have no meaning to the child (i.e., has, have, the, that, is, this, and, etc.). I have taught these words to Morgan because I didn't know not too :) and she has done great with them. I think these words are valuable because it is what makes it possible for her to read her guided reading books from school.
  • Visual learners have a hard time differentiating words that are similar so it is better to not have words that are similar in your set of 5 words. (For example, Morgan has a hard time knowing if the word is 'blue' or 'brown' because they both start with B). If she is not sure of a word she will usually say 3 words that start with that letter until she gets it right. This means it is harder for them to learn to read using 'word families' like I taught my other children. "bat, cat, hat, chat, rat, fat" all look too similar and are hard for her to catch on to. Even though she knows 'at' and the beginning sounds. I know she will eventually get this concept too but it is not the best way to teach her at this time.
  • Visual learners can learn BIG words so don't limit your flash cards to small words. Go ahead and teach your child 'refrigerator', 'hippopotamus', etc.
  • Don't point at each word. Just say the phrase as they look at the flashcard. (I didn't know this when I started with Morgan so we are still doing the 'Peter Pointer' because she insists on it. Habits are definitely hard to break with her!)

The video at the top shows the changes that I implemented on our flashcards after I attended the workshop (bigger cards, bigger font and printed in red).

This is a video of my friend's little boy doing the ereadingpro program. He is 3 years old at the time of this video and had been doing the program for 40 days. Impressive!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pay'n it forward

I was lucky enough to win on my friend Cheri's blog and I just got an incredible, amazing gift in the mail yesterday that I will be blogging about!!

1. Be one of the first THREE bloggers to leave a comment on this post, which then entitles you to a handmade item from me (a little scary for me since I am not too crafty!).

2. Winners must post this challenge on their own blog, meaning that you will pay it forward, creating a handmade gift -anything!- for the first THREE bloggers who leave a comment on YOUR post about this giveaway!

3. The gift that you send to your 3 friends can be from any price range and you have 365 days to make/ship your item. This means you should be willing to maintain your blog at least until you receive your gift and have shipped your gifts. And, remember it’s the spirit and the thought that count!

4. When you receive your gift, blog about it! If you are not one of the first three to comment on this post, you can still play along. Go ahead and start your own Pay It Forward chain, and encourage your blogging friends to do the same! It's all about paying it forward.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Happy (belated) April Fool's Day

I am playing a little catch up on my blogging. I feel like my life has been on fast forward speed all month and I now have a little break to get caught up on some things--important things-- like blogging.

Gavin and I earned the terrible parents award. We completely forgot about April Fool's Day until that morning. It was too late to do anything exciting with the rush of getting everyone ready for school and out the door.

But it wasn't too late for Ryan. He went online and googled 'April Fool's Day jokes'. The first joke he found was an idea to put a one dollar bill inside the toilet paper on the roll so the next person to use the bathroom finds money inside the toilet paper. Not so much a prank but a dream come true! He was really excited about doing it until he realized he had to give up some of his own money. So he settled for the second idea he saw. He asked me if I wanted to know what he had done and I told him I wanted to be surprised.

And it did give me a good laugh when I opened up the toilet seat to put Morgan on the toilet when she got home from school.

What is it with boys and loving potty humor?

It's great to be 8!

Happy 8th Birthday Hadley! She has been anxiously awaiting this birthday for quite some time. A lot happens at eight -- old enough to finally get her ears pierced, baptism, activity days with her primary friends, and a birthday party at the Lion House!

She got a new bike, mp3 player and Ds game for her birthday. And I think the mp3 won best birthday gift award. It was loaded with all her favorites--HSM, Naked Brothers Band, Jonas Brothers, Enchanted, Annie, Wicked, Aly & AJ, etc. She listened to it the entire day--didn't matter that she had two friends over and couldn't hear a word they were saying or interact with them. She just kept on singing her little heart out. Jack and Ryan finally asked if she could go in another room so they could hear the tv without her background vocals. Her birthday was last month and we haven't seen the mp3 player for awhile so it may have been a short lived gift. But she definitely enjoyed it while she had it.

Then it was off to the mall for her extreme makeover--earrings. Not that I didn't try to convince her otherwise. Because I did! I used all the best scare tactics...painful, infections, cleaning them 3 times a day, etc. She was not budging! She picked out some cute pink princess cut earrings and was all set! She was very brave and didn't even flinch when she got them pierced. And she has shown great responsibility with cleaning them all by herself 3 times a day.

She had her birthday party at The Lion House--a historic home where Brigham Young's family lived 150+ years ago. The girls get to go there and feel like a pioneer for the day-- wearing bonnets, playing pioneer games like 'button, button, who's got the button?', pulling taffy, touring around the house, and learning about life in the 1800s.

All of her birthday friends on the staircase in the Lion House

Hadley's doll that she chose as her party gift

Getting ready to make a wish. She is terrible at blowing out candles. It honestly took 8 tries!

In honor of her 8th birthday, here are 8 things about Hadley you may not have known

  1. She loves to read and was excited to start an American Girl book club with her friends. They all get together and read the same American Girl book--each taking turns reading a page

  2. She is tall (just like her mom) and towers over most of her friends.

  3. She loves ballet and gymnastics. She is trying really hard to learn how to do a back handspring by herself so she can advance to level 3.

  4. She has a really hard time talking in a soft voice especially when playing with Griffin and Mia. I have to be careful so I am not constantly asking her to talk quieter since it seems in this house there is always someone trying to sleep.

  5. She started to take piano lessons in the fall and is a natural. Rhythm and timing come easily and she is flying through her books!

  6. She is very independent. She spends a lot of time doing her own thing and is content hanging out in her room playing with her dolls, barbies, art projects, crafts, reading.

  7. She has many friends and loves to play. She likes to bring all of her friends directly to our house everyday after school.

  8. She has one busy schedule. Monday--piano, Tuesday-ballet, Wednesday--gymnastics, Thursday--ballet, Friday--Activity Days. She has to stick playtime in whenever she can find it!

    Happy 8th Birthday Hadlebugs! We love you!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Facebook hurts!

I had 2 'friends' from high school delete me as their friend on facebook because of the following conversation and their loyalty to Brian. I do need to point out that I was the first one to delete in this mess. I deleted Brian after all of his rude comments. He left the very last comment on this thread after he had been deleted from my fb page. I just feel like I am in high school all over again.

Spread the word to end the word!

Shauna at 9:40am March 31
Wow, you made me think about how many times I've said it with no intention of ever ridiculing someone. But, of course you're so right. I'm sorry...I will promise to stop now! :}

Brig at 9:50am March 31
agreed --- ever since working with special education groups in junior high, I've felt this same way. See this article on cnn:

Brian at 12:12pm March 31
It's so retarded that someone didn't think about this campaign earlier.

Heather at 1:04pm March 31
Brian --that is exactly what this is about, but I guess I can't expect for you to understand how it feels when I hear that word used casually. It didn't always bother me, but that changed 6 years ago when my daughter was born with Down syndrome.

Sylvia at 2:14pm March 31
I didn't even know that was a word!

Heather at 2:23pm March 31
Sylvia--The R word is "retard" and "retarded".

Brian at 3:55pm March 31
I understand why your personal experience might warrant that perspective. I've never met an individual with Down Syndrome or any other condition that might garner the "R" word that could give a damn. They're happy, they're connected to source way more than any of us "normal" people, and, if they could, I would put money on them saying "this campaign is retarded—focus on running around and frolicking in the park. Look, like ME wheeee!"

Brig at 4:57pm March 31
wow, Brian I don't know who you are but you sound unbelievably insensitive. I guess you feel like you need the attention you get from provoking and hurting others.

Brian at 5:25pm March 31
Illustrating that these special beings are way more connected to source (read=God) and would never waste time signing petitions about things is not insensitive, in my opinion. Using the "R" word on an anti-"R" word post is just being ironic. It'll only serve to make a few people laugh—and a few more people sign your petition to spite me. So, I'm really just brightening the world a little here. :)

Sylvia at 5:32pm March 31
I was just pointing out that we don't use that isn't even a word to us!even a word to us!

Heather at 9:35pm March 31
Brian--apparently you have NOT met anyone with Down syndrome because there is so much more to each one of them than you imply with your comment that they are just happy and in a park running around. There are many people with Down syndrome that are behind this campaign and are great self advocates. But I honestly feel like any comment I make to you just isn't worth my time. It is obvious that you think you know what it is like to be a parent of a child with special needs. So I will leave it at that.

Mandy at 11:41am April 1
Good job Heather!! And I don't think your comment made anyone laugh Brian. It was rude.

Brian at 12:11pm April 1
Thank you, Heather. That makes total sense. I have met numerous people with Down's Syndrome. And, as mentioned twice before in this thread, I believe they are more connected to God than any "normal" people I have encountered. They are extremely special beings—and I don't know that I'd deem that extra 21st chromosome a disability. As a mother of one of these special beings, I'm certain you have witnessed, as have I, that they are some of our greatest teachers...To clarify, I don't think all with DS frolic in parks; it was a singular example to illustrate that they are, generally, impeccably happy, despite their perceived disabilities—which I find inspiring. I don't attach the label "retard" to anyone with DS or any other perceived mental disability. I only use the word by its purest definition: delayed reaction—or, in this case, delayed perception. So I will sign the petition, as it states "derogatory use of the word". I will leave it at that.

Heather at 12:32pm April 1
Thanks Brian! I definitely did not mean for this to be controversial or hateful! So I appreciate you taking the time to clarify your feelings.

Annette at 10:04pm April 2
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, however, we are trying to raise awareness that "special needs" is a better way to refer to people, the same way we are now refer to Indians as Native Americans, Black people as African Americans and so on. I think it is fantastic that some kids started this and after seeing the movie "Pay it Forward" I believe it is worth it to even change one person's derogatory use of the word.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

They grow up so fast!

Hadley is getting baptized this Saturday and is full of anticipation and excitement! She had her interview with the bishop tonight and was so nervous. She played with her dress the entire time and had the cutest little nervous giggle. And her responses to his questions were barely audible. He asked her if she was a little nervous and she giggled and replied, "no". They talked about the 4th Article of Faith (We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost) and discussed the meaning of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His atonement. She is definitely prepared and ready for this next step in her life!

Another exciting part of getting baptized is finding a beautiful baptism dress! I went out shopping after the interview and when I got home Hadley asked me if I had bought her a wedding dress. A wedding dress?????? I am already having a hard enough time accepting that she is old enough to be getting baptized, I don't need to think about her wedding quite yet!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Brothers Birthday Bash

We definitely know what makes a great birthday celebration! We went to San Francisco for a weekend birthday trip for Gavin's 38th birthday and his brother's, Jeff's, big four-oh! I laughed more than I have in years and had the best time! I think it was my best birthday ever and it wasn't even my birthday.

Our first day in the city was all about was his 40th birthday after all!

We found our hotel --The Palace Hotel. It was a great hotel with a lot of character. I love adventures and the unknown. That's probably the reason I was able to convince Rae into using to book our hotel with only knowing it would be a 4 star hotel in Union Square for $100/night.

We walked around the city through Union Square, Chinatown and eventually made it to North Beach for lunch at The Stinking Rose. I am confident that I have NEVER eaten so much garlic in one sitting! My stomach was burning for the rest of the day! It was really yummy, though, at first...then after the garlic bomb and about 5 rolls, I realized I had eaten way too much garlic!
We took a taxi with a really strange taxi driver -- never turned on the meter, one glove on, talked about his hangover from the night before, kept trying to unroll the windows even thought it was cold outside. Did he not like our garlic stench? Still not sure if it was really a taxi or some guy posing as a taxi driver. We went to the theater district in hopes of getting some tickets to Wicked. No luck! We were sad for a minute but then realized it gave us a good excuse to go to NYC in the next few months. And we were sure we could find a good movie at the local theater! :) And of course we did the mandatory shopping spree at Zara because it was all about Jeff!

We spent the next day at Alcatraz Island and Fisherman's Wharf. The island was so beautiful with so many great photo shots in front of all the old brick buildings and walls. It was my first time to tour Alcatraz--it was cool to take the audio tour through the prison, too.

The ferry ride to Alcatraz

Picture spot on Alcatraz Island

Jeff and Gavin enjoying the audio tour

We spent the rest of the day at the wharf--getting lunch, eating chocolate samples at Ghirardelli square, buying expensive cupcakes, shopping, visiting the art galleries, and riding the bus with Ellen as our bus driver. I think we ate dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Not sure but feel safe with that assumption since I think we ate there 3 times during our short stay.

Lunch at Fisherman's Wharf

Crab legs!

We spent the last day riding bikes over Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. This was my favorite day! I had so much fun riding bikes with Gavin! And it helped that we had perfect weather and didn't get lost like we did on our girl's trip last year. I only had to walk my bike up one hill this time compared to all the walking I did on my last attempt. Not because I am in better shape...nothing has changed there, but Gavin showed me how to use my gears!
The bridge is somewhere in all the fog!

Rae, Jeff, Gavin and me

The birthday boys!

This is after walking up a huge hill! I couldn't move and was taking a much needed break!

Making our way across the bridge

Hanging out in Sausalito--waiting for the ferry to take us back to the Ferry Building

Ferry ride back to San Fran

We spent some time in Chinatown again on our last day looking for Totoro. Apparently there isn't a big demand for Japanese cartoon figures in CHINAtown. Go figure!

We may not have found Totoro . . . but we did find this guy!

Chinatown entrance

Happy 38th Birthday Gavin!!
I love you!