Thursday, February 28, 2013

Letters and Some Fine Motor Skills

Today Vada and I got out the ABC Cookie Game. A lot of our games that we have we just look at and explore through the pieces right now, the game playing will come later on when she is really able to learn those specific concepts. For this game Vada choose a single letter at a time. I said the name of the letter out loud and then made the sound of each letter asking for help with the sounds, kind if like what she would do during her speech sessions. We're fans of Leap Frog here and I know the song for each letter from the Leap Frog videos so I sang those as well and especially when Vada's attention began to go elsewhere. We got through about half of the bucket before we put the "cookies" back into the "cookie jar".

Another letter activity that we did was with double sided magnets. One side of the magnets had a letter and the other side had a photo of something that began with the corresponding letter.

I talked with Vada about each letter and each photo. The colors and shapes that we saw, the foods that we eat and how things go here and there.

For a fine motor activity I thought that I would try to see what we could do with High-ho Cherry-O. Both Jasmine and Kiliegh, my older two girls, loved this game when they were younger so I thought I would give it a try.

Again, the game playing concept is past Vada's capabilities right now and I knew that going into this. What I was hoping for was a new grasping activity for her and I think with more practice this could be fun. Today only lasted a minute or two before she threw in the towel and thats okay!

I also brought out 4 Squares More Squares for her to mess around with. Eventually this will be a great way for her to learn math concepts. For now its just something to play with and to get familiar with. I also used it to talk about colors.

Since I had the 4SMS out I thought I would also try the wooden block shapes. This was another of Jasmine and Kilieghs favorites. (I am glad that for whatever reason, I saved all of this learning stuff!) For this activity, Vada showed NO interest. That's okay too! ere still getting a feel for all of our stuff and we have so much time with it being just her and I!

Vada and I did a little Bear patterns. She really paid attention to this.

She colored. Today, she used the Crayola Color Wonder markers, for something different.

I read The Naping House while telling the story through felt figures. Vada loves when I uses felt to tell stories! I wish they had a larger selection out there because I have only found a few sets.

Another fine motor activity that we did was with a traveling Connect Four game. All I asked Vada to do was to put the tiny piece into the top slots. This however could be a choking hazard if your child still puts objects into their mouths. Vada will occasionally, so I have to watch her and keep a hand close by just in case her hand starts to go for her mouth! This seemed to be fun for Vada. She seemed to enjoy the sounds of the disks dropping and she kept asking for more. It really made her focus too!

We went to Texas to see my foster parents over this last summer, while we were there we went to a zoo where I found these teeny tiny animals. I immediately thought of fine motor activities. We have used them in sand, rice, shaving cream, jello and here where I had her pick them up and put them into containers and then take the out of containers and put them into new containers. I also take advantage of the fact that they are very realistic and talk about what kind of animal they are and the sounds that each animal makes. Vada can "moo" like a Cow and make the sound, while using her arm to demonstrate the nose of an Elephant. Every now and again I can get her to reply to "What does a Pig say?" For a child who does very little speaking, this is all good!

I do a lot of talking throughout our "class time", I mean A LOT! Everything that I do, everything that she does, I make sounds for. Like when we were doing the Connect four, I would say "Did it go down, down, down, boom!" and then I would pat my hand onto the desk. To keep her attention with the tiny animals I would grab one and make its sound and make it dance around the edge of whatever container we were working with all the time making it roar or hiss. We hug and kiss and high five a ton! Which is something you don't get in a typical class. I tickle her and she tickles me. She throws fits too, don't get me wrong!! There are those moments too! But a lot of what I do besides the constant reading of books throughout the day and evening, is talk, talk, talk through our learning time. 

 I have been asked several times how I "keep" her attention. I have found that it is important that she is in her seat during our learning time and that I am not always serious. If I make things fun and interesting for her then she stays with it. Also, I plan what we are going to do at least one night ahead of time. If we go through all of the stuff that I planned on and there is more time and I thin that she is still open to learning more then I turn on some music and let her play while I grab more things to do. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2013 GiGi's Playhouse "I Have A Voice" Gala

That night (Saturday, March 23rd), as we said good bye to Vada, we told her that we were off to go to a party to celebrate her because in our hearts that's exactly what we were doing.

My husband and I wouldn't have been at this Gala if it wasn't for God giving us our sweet girl Vada and we felt blessed and excited to be spending another year and another night celebrating the beauty of our loved ones as well as their passion, strength and insight on life that they share with us and especially that extra special chromosome that sets them apart yet brings us all together.

For me personally the Gala is special because I love to watch all of the teens and young adults who happen to have Down syndrome. They are full of life and the life of the party! I watch how they dance and laugh and party the night away and I imagine how someday I will be here with Vada, watching her with her now toddler friends and they too with dance the night away! And while I savor every moment of Vada's youth, I am very excited to share in those moments with her!

Monday, February 25, 2013

One million voices and Small Wonders Photography

Last week Vada and I were invited to come back to Small Wonders Photography where Quinn, the photographer was being interviewed for his work that he and his wife Anne are doing locally to help build Down syndrome awareness. Quinn was the photographer for the One Million Voices traveling Gallery of the Quad Cities as well as other projects for GiGi's Playhouse. Anne was the writer for the One Million Voices gallery and together they have not only created masterpieces but  voices that will forever speak in volumes, for our children young and old alike! 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

An Unplanned Learning Day

Today we "winged it". 

Vada's oldest sister, Jasmine, is spending her third day home sick and in bed so Vada and I stayed home as well. Usually, on Tuesdays we have a Women's Bible study that I bring Vada along for. Currently, we are reading Calm My Anxious Heart: A Womens Guide to Finding Contentment. It's not our typical "route" for a Bible study but it is a really good study and it gets us into His word nonetheless! Anyway, since Jasmine is sick with a pretty good fever (103.5), I decided it was best to stay close by, if she needs me, which left some free time for Vada and I to "do school". That's what we say, "Do school". I dunno, it still feels weird calling it class and school. Kind of like I am playing or pretending or something...

I had the math flash cards and counting cubes still out from yesterday as well as the family sight word packet but other than that I had to quickly pull some things out for us to do. Vada loves being in our classroom. She likes to explore through the cabinets as well as through the book shelves, so I had plenty of time to decide what I wanted to do. However  I know that Vada's best time to learn is right after she eats breakfast, that's why most mornings I bring her down here right in her p'j's. We were already forty-five minutes into the normal morning class routine time which gave me a little over an hour with her to get some lesson time in before lunch.

I started with this Melissa and Doug Wooden Shape counter. I thought that it would be good to talk about the colors, shapes, numbers and then to help transition into more math-like lessons.

She wasn't overly excited with this toy but that may be because she hasn't had much experience with it. She needed some coaching and cheering on to finish it but she did and then we moved on from it. 

We worked on the Get Set For School Touch and Flip flash cards and the cube counters again today. I changed one step, however. Today, where the animals cards were only used to represent a number yesterday, they only represented a number half of the time today. Once Vada had filled the 'square' cards with the cubes we slid the cards under its corresponding 'animal' card and then flipped the animal card over to show the number. Once I did that, I would then say " Look Vada, this number ___ means this and count, this" and then point to the picture, the square and so on...

She did fifty times better with this activity today, than she did yesterday and  I thought that she did a really good job yesterday! I cant wait to see what she does next time we do this! (I plan on doing math and some kind of reading or literacy activity everyday that we have school.)

Not the best photo of Little Miss but check out her pincer grasp!!!

Another fun activity that we did was the Super Sorting Pie! This awesome learning game came from Vada's Grandpa and Grandma all of the way in Texas! Thanks guys she loves it! See, she's blowing you her thank you kisses!

 She really picks up things quickly! Don't get me wrong, she doesn't know her colors at least not all of them but today, when she slowed down and focused, she seemed to recognize them and that was pretty cool!

As you can see in the pictures above and below, I poured the fruit piece into the pie topper/lid and sat them next to Vada for easy acceptability.  It worked for a few minutes, until she figured out that she could spin the lid into circles and then that was all that she wanted to do! Then I had to hold the  lid for her and let her pick out the pieces. For awhile, that too worked and then she began to try to take hand fulls of the fruit pieces. She was getting bored. Since we were close to being done I took the last few pieces that were left and one by one handed them to Vada and while saying the color of each piece as I had been doing through this whole activity, I asked her to put it into the correct spots. That did it for her and she sorted out every single piece of fruit that there was to be sorted!

See how Vada's thumb and pointer goes inward in this grasp? This is why she has thumb splints and should be wearing them! In my defense, she is down to one pair that fits and they were drying from being cleaned :)

Elmo Count Along Crayons was another fun learning activity that we did today. I really liked this toy when I found it a few months ago and so it became one of Vada's Christmas! 

It has had many days of "free play" but today was its first day of "serious learning". Actually, before today, all Vada wanted to do was push the center yellow button which played the main song. Today we actually listened to what Elmo asked us to do. "Find the Yellow crayon. Find the number four." and "How many crayons are lit up?" Elmo is pretty impatient and doesn't give much time to answer his questions, so I quickly repeated the question for Vada, counted out loud using her pointer and then I would tell her which button to push. She is new to this way of playing with this Elmo game so in the beginning I also had to take her pointer and push the correct button to give Elmo his answer but towards the end of our time she was getting it.

After Vada practiced her writing I got out these handy dandy loop scissors that I borrowed from Vada's awesome occupational therapist, Christy. 
Did You know that at Vada's age, (almost 3 on March 2) she should be able to use or at the very least be practicing on using scissors?! It seems so young to me. I completely forgot at what age my older two girls were when they were doing some of these things and maybe it's just Vada's sie or the fact that she is very quiet verbally that throws me when it comes to theses things but to me, somethings, she still seems like a little baby and not a little girl who should be learning math and how to cut paper! I'm glad that I have books, therapists and websites to keep me on track!

I held Vada's hand and together we made several cuts through the paper and then she wanted to do it on her own. She is becoming very independent these days. So I let her explore the scissors on her own. There is a great deal of work to be done here but again I am so blessed that she is actually interested in learning!

Oh and these stinkin' blocks! I have mentioned before that Vada does not enjoy plying with blocks (unless it involves knocking them down). However this is another thing that needs to be worked on. Stacking. So we worked on stacking today. 

For Vada's second birthday she received this Fisher Price Snap n' Style Doll. When she got the doll it was a beyond what she was into for playing. At that time she wasn't playing pretend with dolls and she certainly wasn't dressing them up but this doll set was so cute and the snap clothes was such a different idea that I kept them with the idea that Vada might enjoy this doll later on. 

Vada loved this doll today and we had such a fun time snapping and unsnapping her outfits. I even made it into a learning experience by talking about everything that we were doing and everywhere about the doll itself, the dolls hair color, her eye color, where her feet, head, hands etc... were, the color of the clothing that Vada choose and so on. 

Vada's speech and occupational therapists often used the Mr. Potato Head for therapy sessions and this doll kind of reminds me of those sessions. I personally loved the old Mr. Potato Head, from when I was younger. We bought Vada her own Mrs. Potato Head for Christmas this last year because of of how it was used in therapies and the new versions of the toys stink! I don't like them at all and now I am on the hunt for an "old school" Mr. Potato Head.

We learned more about animals and the different sounds that they make by singing Old McDonald Had a Farm while I put up felt figures on our felt board. I sang through each animal and their sounds twice before Vada seemed to ready to move on and then I slipped in one more round of "what does the animal say", when I was picking up. 

We ended our day the same way we end every day, with Vada taking all of the books off of the shelves and looking through them...

And then she helped me clean it all up. She rocks!