It Takes Two to Talk - A practical Guide for Parents of Children with Language Delays. The Hanen Center Toronto Ontario - Canada!
Hannah's Area Director and speech pathologist is trained in the Hanen program and is currently running a course in it for some of our parents. There are 8 families (1 dad) involved. Not all of the children have DS but 4 of them do. All the children are around 1 - 2 years old. Some of us are using signing to help with communication, others are using a picture exchange program (pecs).
The accompanying book is easy to follow and much of what it contains seems common sense. Yet I have to say that after only having attended two sessions to date - that I am learning a lot and that Hannah is being helped by some of the strategies being discussed. Basically we have talked about the four levels of communication (not bound by child's age) and what sort of communicator our children are. Identifying Hannah's communication stage was easy - she is a 'first words user' who is starting to combine words.
The first technique we have looked at is the OWL one - Observe, Wait and Listen. Sounds basic doesn't it but there is something about focussing on it in particular as well as having watched video clips of different parents communicating with their 'special' children that adds a lot to it. When I read the book prior to starting the actual course I was pretty sure that Hannah was what they call a reluctant communicator - that is she doesn't initiate that much but will respond when she has to - I wasn't totally happy with that as I knew that she actually enjoyed responding but I didn't think she initiated communication very often.
I am now rethinking that - closer observation and a less biased eye (comparing her communicaton to Kit - obviously she seems less like an initiator - he is a typically developing child well into the combining words stage at 21 months). So I am thinking that it is more likely that she is quite social in her communication style but that with Kit the way he is and my being a teacher (we naturally talk a lot and 'direct' too!) the poor darling initiates as much as she can! Also I think that she has worked out that I am observing her attempts to communicate and focussing on 'understanding' her more - so she is now making even greater efforts to communicate and to be understood. Pretty exciting for us all really!
The program includes video and feedback sessions where the facilitator videos Hannah and I communicating in a particular activity. I have to choose something (like readinga book together, playing with blocks together etc) where she and I communicate and practise 'owling' while being videoed for a few minutes. We then watrch teh video together and analyse the communication - positives and negatives in order to help me develop more skills in encouraging Hannah's communication.
Another concept that has been emphasised is 'letting the child lead' which has also helped me realise just how often Hannah does initiate things for hersoelf - especially when given the opportunity. The course runs until November/December. I am enjoying it very much - it is also a good opportunity to talk with some other parents and because the facilitator knows all our children well she is doing a great job of helping us through the course.
I will update on our progress as we go.
Today we went to my in-laws for lunch - as always the twins have an absolute ball running around with their cousins, one of whom is just a few months younger than them. It was a lovley sunny day and a game of chasings took off with young Kit and Jacob loving running from one side of the yard to the other and falling down on the picnic mat at the end of each 'race'. Their happy faces were a sight to see. It was pretty obvious that Hannah was keen to join in - on impulse I held her hands and she and I 'ran' with lots of hurrying and excitement with the boys - oh the joy on her face! She eagerly signed and said 'more' each time we collapsed on the picnic mat.
At the time I had a vague feeling of 'I wish she could do this on her own' but quite frankly we were all having too much fun to give it much more consideration than that. Once home and now that my mini athletes are in bed I still can't get melancholy about it - we all had so much fun that really it would be in bad faith to dwell on the 'poor Hannah' part of it - a betrayal of that wonderful determination, mischevious sense of fun and love of life that she has. So I just wanted to write that - for all my impatience and no matter how much I long for her to walk (and that is no doubt at least 5 or 6 months away yet) I can't believe that I could have any more pride and joy in my beautiful daughter as I did today watching her face light up as she chased those other two brats with as much agility and energy as she could muster. You are an angel Hannah Bear!