My youngest daughter has Down syndrome, and she struggles with identifying words, so after consulting with her teacher, and with her speech therapist, and after reading the developmental books, my wife decided to come up with activities geared towards helping her recognize and repeat simple words she should know by now. It’s amazing to me how much she does know, actually, so this afternoon I ran through the exercise with her to see her level.
The sheet is all about animals. In fact, my wife laminated it for sustainability (and she can use it as a placemat too if needed), and made move able cards to place over top of the sheet as well. On the sheet are photographs of six animals. There’s a dog, a cat, a duck, a pig, a horse, and of course the infamous cow. My job was to point to the animal’s picture and Maddie would tell me which animal it was. She identified all of them this way except for the cow. She called it a dog, refusing to accept it’s true name, which had me truly baffled.
So I tried a different tactic. I asked her what noise did that animal make, and she said “moo,” so it was clear she realized it wasn’t a dog. But why was she saying dog? So I went back after she said “moo” and asked her again the name of the animal. This time she promptly said cow. Perhaps it was just that triggering of the animal sound that made the difference. Cows do indeed say “moo.”
Then we moved on to the back of the cards that held the spelled out names of each animal, something that has long been her Achilles heel. She can generally recognize the individual letters but placing them together in words confuses her. That’s why she spent the better part of five minutes arguing with me that the one that said “cat” was in fact the one that said “cow.” She saw the “c” and didn’t look any further, which became frustrating for her and for me.
I knew she could get it, though, so I moved on to the cat. In two seconds she identified the card that said “cat” as the cat card and placed it on top of the photo of the cat. Then, as quick as you please, she proceeded to identify all of the other word cards by placing them over their correct corresponding pictures. Yes, even “duck” and “dog.” No problem at all. So then I shuffled the cards back up and had her do it over again.
The result: she put down “cat” for “cow” again. So after scratching my head I switched tactics again and went back to the sounds. She correctly identified each animal by the sound they made except for the pig. She kept saying “cuhhh” for the pig. I blame Peppa Pig for that one. Anyway, as we went through each animal sound, she matched it to the animal, and then I had her pick the card with the animal name on it that matched each one. She went to work, and every single card ended up in the right place, but only when I went through the sounds first.
That intrigued me, that she could connect in her mind the sounds the animal makes with the spelling of the animal’s name, but we did it twice, and twice in a row it worked. “Cow” was cow, and “Cat” was cat, and that was that. I gave her a high five because she didn’t just give up. She kept working, and she kept telling me she wanted to get them right. It’s amazing to watch the perseverance of my little five-year-old when she wants to do something badly. It shows me that as she progresses through school and through life she will forge ahead and push herself to do what she feels she can do.
And it also keeps me on my toes, inspiring me to work hard on identifying those cows too.