SKIP Tips for Pre Schoolers
SKIP (Special Kids Intervention Tips) is a holistic early intervention group for young children with Down syndrome up to 5 years old.
To the untrained eye a SKIP session should look like a playgroup but every activity is carefully planned and analysed, aiming to achieve milestones that will be important for a child’s school and social life. The children take part in different activities throughout the session, we have Free Play, Circle Time, P.E., Snack Time and Arts & Crafts. There’s a huge focus on social skills such as waiting, sharing, requesting and appropriately interacting with peers, all while playing and having fun!!
But, if a parent is not a therapist how can they aid their child’s progress?
Below are some general tips of how to teach young children with Down syndrome.
To begin with, we have to make things simple and understand that kids are constantly learning so just trying to teach them using everyday activities will go a long way! Language is learned all the time, everyday in every situation! Daily activities are more valuable than you can imagine. For example when your child is getting dressed for bed you could create a fun body part naming game or if you are sorting through the laundry at home your child could match the same colour socks together and help take them out or put them in to a basket.
Learning Through Play
Play, play, play! I can’t emphasise hard enough the importance of playing, for ALL children! Play is the child’s work!
As much as possible try to teach your child through play. Play should be carried out for its own sake, not for an end reward, so get down at their level and enjoy yourself.
During play children practice old skills and develop new ones, it provides an “emotional safety valve” and opportunities to learn from their environment.
It’s very important that we don’t turn play into work by demanding actions we should always remember that we are teaching not testing our kids. So instead of “where is the red car?” “show me the blue car!” we say “The red car is fast, the blue car is big”
Follow their lead and use positive reinforcement and praise to reinforce behaviours we want to see more often. Ignore as much as possible “bad” behaviour and try to teach your child what to do instead of what not to do. For example if your child throws a piece of puzzle on the floor, instead of “no throwing” use “put it on the table”.
Provide opportunities for your child to physically explore the environment and encourage movement as much as possible (don’t make things too easy by handing her everything). Despite the mess, let your child explore food and let her feed herself (under supervision of course). Water, sand, paint, playdoh and all sorts of messy play are also important to tackle any sensory issues and to improve fine motor skills.
Break instructions into small steps using simple language and slowly increase the difficulty as your child matures. Also, pull back physical and verbal prompts as soon as possible, if your child is able to complete a task don’t do it for him, this way you’re promoting independence and showing him how able he is! It gives him a chance to feel proud of himself and you will feel it even more!
By Dani Dowling
Dani runs the SKIP programme from Tuesdays to Fridays at The Down Syndrome Centre. Dani is a Speech and Language Therapist and Audiologist originally from Brazil. She obtained her degree in 2000 from the University of Sao Paulo (USP), Brazil and is a Member of the Irish Association of Speech and Language Therapists (IASLT). Dani has been living in Ireland since 2004 and has worked with both adults and children. She has over fifteen years experience working with children with Down syndrome.
If you are interested in finding out a bit more about SKIP or about making an appointment for an assessment please contact the centre on email@example.com or phone (01) 661 8000.