BUILDING VOCABULARY (AGES 2 to 3)
I Want That!
Teaching your child the meaning of signs and symbols can help him communicate as his language skills are emerging. In its practice guide, "That Sign Means Ice Cream," the Center for Early Literacy Learning (earlyliteracylearning.org) in Asheville, NC, recommends showing toddlers a real object or activity along with a matching image. Take pictures of objects or activities your child likes so he can "ask" for what he wants by pointing or handing you the picture. Always encourage him to say the word too.
Rainbow of Learning
Play this fun game for learning colors: Gather many things of one color from around the house -- a red shirt, stuffed animal, blanket, cup -- and put them all in a red bag or laundry basket. "A visual activity based on real-world objects can make it easier for a child with Down syndrome to understand a general concept," Dr. Kumin says. If the child is at the one-word level, name the color as you pull out the object. If the child can process a two-word phrase, say the color and the object's name.
Tell Me More
Children with Down syndrome need more time before they form multi-word phrases. Research shows that they generally have a 100-word vocabulary (including signs and/or spoken words) before they begin to put words together. Transition your child from a one-word to a two-word stage by using a technique of imitation with expansion. First, repeat a word your child has said and then expand it by one word. For example, if your child says "boat" while playing, follow up by saying, "Boat. Boat go." If she says "dog," you could say "Dog. Black dog." Repetition is essential, Dr. Kumin says, so don't get frustrated if you have to do it many times.
A Visual Helper
Use a pacing board to elicit two-word phrases. At its simplest, this tool is a rectangular piece of laminated cardboard with two colored dots spaced a few inches apart. "The board serves as a visual reminder to put two words together," Dr. Kumin says. For instance, in modeling the phrase "Car go," point to the first dot as you say "car" and then the second dot as you say "go." Use hand-over-hand assistance to help your child point, and that motion will serve as a tactile cue. As your child progresses, draw more dots to provide cues as he learns to increase the length of his phrases.