Thursday, August 11, 2016

Therapy Tip-Preparing Your Child for a New Experience

Today is Therapy Thursday-the day I share a tip based upon my experience as a pediatric speech-language pathologist and a mother of a child with special needs.

Today's tip is:

Preparing Your Child for a New Experience

Going new places and having new experiences always creates a little worry for me. My daughter has Down syndrome, an Intellectual Disability, and is minimally verbal, so sometimes new experiences are difficult for her to understand. I have learned that her behavior is better and her anxiety is less when she is well prepared for these new things.

The problem has been trying to explain new things to a child who is minimally verbal. Sure, I can talk all about the experience using words that I know Jaycee can understand. But, how do I really know she understands? Since she is minimally verbal, she is unable to ask questions to clarify things she does not understand. The conversation often seems one sided. I discover how well I have prepared her when we arrive at the new place and I can see how she reacts. At that point, it's often too late to do anything to help the situation.

Like many other children with Down syndrome, Jaycee is a visual learner. She responds well to videos and pictures to help her understand. This has become the most valuable way to help Jaycee understand new experiences and places. The internet and YouTube are extremely valuable tools.

Let me give you some examples of what I have done in the past to help Jaycee.

-When we made our first trip to Six Flags, I showed Jaycee many YouTube videos of the park and rides. As she watched the videos, I narrated what was happening and what she may see or do.

-In order to prepare Jaycee for a pageant for people with Intellectual Disabilities, I showed her all the pictures available online as I explained the idea of a pageant to her.

-When we go to our yearly Down syndrome events, I show her pictures from the previous year while I remind her of what happened before and may happen again.

I do search for the right videos for Jaycee to watch prior to showing them to Jaycee. I don't want to waste time starting and stopping videos with her that aren't what I am looking for, so I do try to do some prep work on YouTube to find the ones that will help Jaycee best.

For Jaycee, I tend to prepare her a day or two before the new experience. The videos are good enough to teach her quickly. She usually does not need to watch a video over and over again to understand. If you feel like your child needs more time, you may need to start using these visuals well before your new experience.

If you are having trouble with your child in new experiences, then I suggest you give some of these visuals using the internet a try. There are many useful videos on YouTube that can help our children understand.

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