Friday, September 30, 2011

Updating September

Somehow an entire month has slipped by - again. Rather than go in and try to write posts for every event we have experienced during the past month, I'll just round them all up in one.

First and foremost - Jacob was chosen as student of the month for his class at the end of August. For the very first month of school! We couldn't be prouder of him and he was absolutely ecstatic when he found out. He has been doing amazingly well in First Grade. He loves his teacher, his class and Math! At Jacob's school, they have "SuperStar Assemblies" every month. The entire school comes, parents are invited and honestly it's like a big party. They recognize the kids that were chosen as students of the month from each grade, they announce winners of various contests they have held throughout the month, a student or group of students will perform and they play fun music and dance! They teachers at his school are young for the most part and they all really seem to love their jobs. They get dressed up in crazy outfits and dance with the kids. It's great that they make learning so much fun. It makes such a difference to the kids when their teachers are happy to be there and make those six or seven hours they spend together every day fun and interesting.

Later in September, we all came down with a stomach bug. It was brutal and none of us were able to escape it. Aaron got it the worst (of course). He ended up getting it three separate times in a two week span. I think we are just now all fully recovered. I am trying not to complain too much because it was the first illness any of us have come down with since school started. Considering our history with germs, we are doing pretty well.

Aaron has made some great advances this month too. He is definitely developing his independence and I have discovered that he does much better at therapy if I am not around. So I have been sitting in the waiting room when we go to therapy at the clinic and just stay in another room when we have therapy at home. We got him a (very large) bean bag chair for his birthday and his Speech Therapist has been very impressed at how much better he is able to concentrate when he is sitting on (in?) it. Because he has so many sensory issues, sitting in the bean bag chair calms him and allows him to use his brain to complete the task she is asking of him instead of going in a million different directions just trying to keep his body in the right position in the chair or on the floor. The physiology of it all is kind of complicated, but I'm just glad it's helping!

I think that now that he is steady and comfortable walking, he is making some great strides in other areas. This isn't an uncommon way for children with DS (or any children really) to learn and develop. When he is really working hard in one area (gross motor, fine motor or speech), the others may lag behind. But now that he is walking well (and Lord help me - nearly running), he has really come a long with with his speech and fine motor skills. Just this week he was playing a game with his speech therapist and he was correctly identifying three different colors - doing the signs and trying to say the words - and then putting the toy "swords" into very small slots with no trouble. It was quite incredible. Just a few months ago he couldn't even make a pincer grasp or put a peg in a pegboard! He is really trying to talk a lot more. It may not be intelligible to anyone but us, but the fact that he is trying and developing new sounds all the time is like music to my ears.

So my mission now is to keep challenging him. I am trying to create different games so he can identify colors and shapes and we are starting to work on the alphabet. Figuring out what he comprehends and what he doesn't is hard since he isn't talking much yet, but I have seen glimpses that he understands a lot more than I may think he does. So I'm trying to come up with activities that he can do so he can demonstrate what he knows without talking.

My first project is going to be a felt color board of sorts. I plan to make a board with three color pockets on it (probably red, blue and green). Then he can put objects that are the same color in the pocket. We may also try attaching velcro to the back smaller objects so he can stick them on the felt pieces. I am going to make it large enough to hang on the wall at his level. He responds so well to visual cues, that I think this will be the best way for him to work on these skills. Of course we will practice saying and signing the colors as well, but this way he can show us what he knows even if he can't say it. Hopefully it will be a success. I'll post pictures once it's complete!

Finally, tomorrow is the first day of October. To most people this means Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Halloween. But to me, October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month! I am going to attempt to participate in the "31 for 21" challenge again this year. Bloggers who are touched by someone with Down Syndrome attempt to raise awareness by writing blog posts about DS every day in the month of October. If you are interested, I'd love to have you follow along and share your thoughts!

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