Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Summer Holidays

You'll have to excuse me for not contributing to this blog much lately - it's the school summer holidays and as such I'm catching up on all the outstanding jobs at home before I get back to work in September.

My daughter has been enjoying the holidays immensely. For the first time ever, she has two activities which continue throughout the year without a summer break. So although she has no college and we have dispensed with the care worker's visits for the duration of the summer, she is still attending Bell's Piece and the theatre group. This has actually worked out extremely well - I am always very conscious that while I may be quite happy doing household tasks and painting pictures every afternoon, she is possibly very bored. As she has never shown much interest in sports, play schemes were never much of an option, and another local summer respite group is always fully booked - last time I applied we were offered two days...of sports!

I am very lucky in that she can generally occupy herself pretty well- she never tires of listening to her CD's, drawing pictures and watching the daily afternoon dvd - but this year I feel she is really getting the most out of the summer - two days a week out of the house with friends of her own age, as well as our little outings and activities. I also get a couple of days to myself - a complete novelty & very much appreciated!

I'm also very glad that we have reached the stage in my daughter's life where we don't have to keep up with the school work during the holidays for fear that she will forget everything she learnt over the last term. Six weeks is a very long time for any child, but for a child with Down's it can be a lifetime! When they are in the initial stages of learning to read and write and coming to grips with numeracy, this long summer break can set them back by months unless a little work is done at home. I have been asked in the past by the parents of the children I work with how they can keep up the work and if I could give them any worksheets etc. to take home. I tend to advise them to keep it light - no child is going to appreciate their parents suddenly turning into a teacher when everyone else is out in the sunshine. But you can keep up the schoolwork unobtrusively - keep a holiday diary, getting your child to write a few words in it at the end of each day to tell what they have been doing. Tell them it is to show at school or to grandma etc. and allow them to draw pictures to illustrate it as well ( it's all pencil control!) Have magnetic letters on the fridge or the side of the bath and make a game out of leaving messages to each other. Write shopping lists together - give them the job of holding it round the supermarket and reading the items and trying to find them. Count the apples, oranges, potatoes you buy; get them to set the table, counting how many of each item them will need for the place settings; sing together, incorporating lots of stretchy mouth movements, encourage flamboyant licking of the lips after an icecream - terrific for exercising the tongue. Read stories and comics together - get them to read to you for a change, as much as they are able. It's not hard - you'll be surprised at how easily day to day activities can include valuable back-up work which will pay off dividends when your child goes back to school in September and can pick up exactly where they left off. Above all, have fun and get out and about and give your child lots of new experiences that they will learn and benefit from - all mental stimulation is of value.

Interestingly, my daughter remembers very little of any history and geography taught to her at school - but having been to Rome, Pompeii, Athens & Boston over the past years, she remembers every detail of these trips and just about everything she learned while she was there. It is because she has seen it and experienced it rather than had to struggle to understand a teacher and something in a book which just isn't 'real'.

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