Numicon-Based Math Activities for Preschoolers with (or without) Down Syndrome

Last spring, I read more research by Sue Buckley, Joanna Nye, and colleagues about educating young children with Down Syndrome; this time it was about teaching math. They ran a study in the early 2000s assessing the effectiveness of the Numicon System in helping young children with T21 develop basic number skills.

Their findings were promising:

The key benefits of using Numicon for children with Down syndrome in the classroom are:
• The materials and methods clearly support the development of early number concepts, and in particular the ability to calculate – for some children, using Numicon enabled them to develop these skills for the first time
• It enables teaching staff to ‘see’ what the child is thinking, which is important for identifying both successes and confusions in the child’s understanding
• It can be used to support everyday number skills such as time and money
• It is especially beneficial to children who use a visual and/or multi-sensory approach to learning
• Children are motivated to engage with the materials as they are so attractive, and they develop confidence in maths work as they can succeed with the materials
• The clear structure of the teaching system is useful for teaching staff looking for a way to differentiate the numeracy curriculum.
The benefit of using the Numicon approach was seen most clearly at the stage when the children were learning to manipulate numbers – to add, subtract and multiply.

Teaching Number Skills to children with Down Syndrome using the Numicon Foundation Kit

Of course, I had to go purchase the kit and play math with Junior. And being very pleased with Junior’s progress, I shared the 50-page study with my sister. As many of you know, she also has a young son with special needs. Quickly she emailed me back: TLTR. (Too Long to Read) Can you write up a dummies version?

Of course I can. So this post is for my sister and all other super busy moms who want to know how to teach basic number skills to young kids with or without T21.

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Teaching Children with Down Syndrome to Read with See and Learn: More Free Resources

As many of you know, I’ve been teaching Junior to read using Down Syndrome Education’s See and Learn series. Teaching Junior to read has been one of the most gratifying experiences in all my years of homeschooling because he is so eager to learn. One of the things that keeps him motivated is getting to read new books. Every time I bring home a big bag of new books from the library it’s like Christmas… he’s that excited. Then Junior sits on the floor and digs into the bag, happily flipping through each of the books and lining them up neatly as he finishes each one.

To keep him motivated and to give him continual review of previously learned words, I make him books using the words he has learned from See and Learn and from the Faith and Freedom Primer.

A few posts ago, I shared some books I made to go with See and Learn Phrases 1 and 2. Here are ten free books to supplement See and Learn Phrases 2 and 3.

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Let’s Learn Letters! Early Handwriting Skills for Preschoolers with (or without) Down Syndrome

Last spring, I began teaching Junior to write letters. The more I work with him, the more I realize that he is capable of so much — I just need to find the right materials for him and/or make adaptations.

When all my other kids were preschoolers, we used materials from Handwriting Without Tears. However, while Junior is able to use the Wood Pieces Set for Capital Letters with ease, but he is not ready for the other materials.

So I made my own handwriting worksheets for him:

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Faith and Freedom Primer B – Adapted for Children with Down Syndrome

Here is part 2 of the Faith and Freedom Primer, which I adapted for children with Down Syndrome. The original book, published by Seton Educational Media, has three parts. This is the second part. You can find the first part here.

The Faith and Freedom Primer an excellent tool for teaching children to read high-frequency sight words with fluency. Once a word is introduced, it is used repeatedly throughout the book so you child does not forget it. Junior has learned to read all three parts of the primer, and he is now learning to read the next book in this series without any adaptations!

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The Faith and Freedom Primer Adapted for Children with Down Syndrome

Once in a while I come across a pedagogical gem. The Faith and Freedom Primer is one of these. It is actually a combination of 3 smaller books, written in the 1950s to teach children how to sight read high frequency words. I’ve used it with all of my kids to teach them how to read sight words alongside teaching them how to decode phonetically. The book is a gem not just because it teaches children to read sightwords incrementally and systematically, but also because it portrays the Catholic faith and family life in a gentle and beautiful way.

Since Junior had been learning to read sight words with See and Learn Phrases, I decided to adapt the Faith and Freedom Primer according to the recommendations laid out by Natalie Hale, in her book Whole Child Reading. Junior would often pull the original primer off our bookshelf and pretend to read it, so I thought, “Why not adapt it for him and see if he can learn to read it?”

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Free Resources for Teaching Children with Down Syndrome to Read

Several weeks ago, I read the book Whole Child Reading: A Quick Start Guide to Teaching Students with Down Syndrome and Other Developmental Delays. If you have a child with developmental delays, I highly recommend reading this book. It’s a fast, easy read with useful insights into how the brain works and many practical applications. The gist of the book is to go in through the heart by using stories and topics that are highly interesting and motivating to the student and then to teach to the brain by understanding how children with T21 learn best.

In the book, author Natalie Hale gives specific instructions on how to format and make your own books so that your kids can read with greater ease and success. So I began making books. I made personal books, because Junior, like most kids, likes to read about himself and his family. I also made books using words from the See and Learn Phrases kits.

Today I’m sharing some of these books:

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Teaching Preschoolers with Down Syndrome to Read – Part 2 (And Why We’re not doing Phonics, Yet)

Last post, I shared some videos showing how Junior is learning to read using See and Learn Phrases by Down Syndrome Education. We demonstrated the first four steps of learning to read using sight words.

Today, I’m sharing videos of the last two steps and discussing why we’re breezing through with sight words instead of slogging through phonics.

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Teaching Preschoolers with Down Syndrome to Read with See and Learn

This post is for my five-year-old nephew, Aidan, whose school has been shut down for the third time this year. Aidan has a lot of developmental delays that mimic Down Syndrome, and virtual school is… well… virtual. So my sister asked me to show her how I’m teaching Junior to read. She lives across the border, which is also closed. So, I made her these videos.

Having a child with Down Syndrome is such an adventure. Never did I think that it was possible to teach a three-year-old with T21 to read. All my other children had learned to read when they were about five, so I figured that Junior would probably begin to read around seven or eight.

Thus, I was both surprised and intrigued when I came across some papers by Sue Buckley and colleagues. She had done extensive studies on teaching toddlers and children with T21 how to read. Based on her research, she discovered that not only was it possible to teach many toddlers with T21 how to read sight words, it was also extremely beneficial. Buckley writes:

Reading activities may be the single most important intervention for promoting the speech, language and cognitive development of preschool children with Down Syndrome….. we are quite convinced that it (reading) is the single most effective way to help children overcome the learning difficulties associated with Down Syndrome.

Buckley, Sue. Reading and Writing for Infants with Down Syndrome (0-5 years)

And,

Children introduced to literacy as a language teaching activity in preschool years reach the highest level of achievement.

Buckely, Sue. Reading and Writing for Individuals with Down Syndrome – An Overview.

Needless to say, six months ago I began teaching my 3-year-old with T21 to read. The goal was to enable him to say 2-3 word phrases without being prompted. You see, Junior can repeat almost anything I say, but he has difficulty retrieving words from his mind without a verbal or visual cue. When he does say a word unprompted, it’s often unintelligible. But learning to read is making a huge difference. Once he learns to read a word, it’s not long before he starts using it unprompted in speech and with greater clarity. Furthermore, his MLU (mean length of utterance) is increasing, meaning his phrases and sentences are getting longer. I can’t tell you how exciting it is for both of us to see him learn to read and speak.

Today I’m sharing with you, step by step (videos included!), how I’m teaching Junior to read.

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Spring Time Printables for Preschoolers with (or without) Down Syndrome

Aren’t you glad it’s spring? I definitely am! So I made this springtime bundle for Junior, all about woodland animals. More pre-writing, first letters, counting, pattern-making, and shape matching with some really *cute* artwork.

Come take a look:

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Music for Preschoolers with (or without) Down Syndrome

Happy World Down Syndrome Day! Earlier this winter, I attended a webinar featuring Dr. Brian Skotko, the director of the Down Syndrome Program at Massachusets General Hospital. He gave a wonderful, highly informative presentation on how to keep our loved ones healthy, boost their cognition, and how we might mitigate the onset and severity of Alzheimer’s Disease. We all know that keeping our kids active is so important to their overall health, but Dr. Skotko’s presentation showed how this is especially crucial for kids with T21.

One of the easiest ways I keep Junior active is by playing music for him. He loves music, and he loves to dance. So we play music and dance several times a day, and he really gets a workout. Bonus: He learns the lyrics and starts singing along, which is great for his speech.

Today, I’m sharing with you his current playlists of songs and dance music.

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