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It’s Therapy Thursday, find out about my reasons for having my 2 year old with Down Syndrome, otherwise known as Big-C, participate in household chores here.
Yes, laundry, for a few reasons. First of all, the minute Big-C was able to move on his own, he bee-lined it to the laundry basket. Full or empty, he did not care before he was 1 year old he was in love with laundry. Second we are a home of two small boys, a mommy, a daddy, and a kitty. We have laundry and we have to do about 5-6 loads a week. Repetition is great for kiddos who are learning, especially for our kiddos with Down Syndrome. With laundry in our house you get repetition. Third there are so many things Big-C can work on and also “help” me with the laundry.
When Big-C was younger and learning to kneel, sit tall, pull to stand, walk, and communicate a laundry basket was a great tool that we had. It would encourage him to sit up, “What is inside that container?.” It would have him reaching over and grasp on material trying to pull clothing out, this strengthened his trunk, shoulders, arms, and grip strength. He was so determined to get the clothes out that he would just grunt and keep trying. This resistance the laundry applies is great for shoulder stability that our kiddos tend to lack due to their hypotonic nature.
As he was gaining his motor skills he would sit tall, then moved to half kneeling, and eventually was able to pull to stand. As he would pull out items of clothing the support of the basket got less and less. At first I would support the basket because I knew he couldn’t maintain his position on an unstable support. As he improved with his core strength and balance he was able to reach into and pull out clothes with less and less reliance on the support of the laundry basket. Of course he fell a little, he tipped over the basket; it’s important to fall because then you get to practice getting up again and again and again. Big-C also used the laundry basket as a push toy which was great because when he needed more stability I could weigh down the basket and when he needed less and less we would just start to empty the basket.
Big-C is now able to walk independently and reach into the basket and haul out almost all the clothing. He still benefits from the stability and strength it takes to pull out jeans, towels, sheets, and my scrubs. I love to hear him grunt and struggle but not give up and get those heavy and held down pieces of clothing out.
I believe that the laundry helped Big-C develop the idea of give and take in communication, also how to say/sign “thank you.” He was always very attentive to others and looking to others for input, the repetition of laundry helped to drive home a give and take sequence. The sequence we set up was that he would pull out a piece of clothing, I would ask for it with my hand out and request of “Can I have it?”, he would give it to me, I would say “Thank you” accompanied with “Thank you” in sign language, he would then mimic the signed “Thank you.” He would proceed to get out another piece of clothing….we would do this for the ENTIRE LOAD. Yes it was boring at times, yes I could have gotten the laundry done faster if I would not have gone through this for every piece of clothing, yes it took him a while to get the sequence down, yes he learned how to say “Thank you”, yes he learned to watch faces and hands for communication, and yes we did increase the challenge once this became boring for him (not me).
Learning with Laundry
Now that he is 2 years old we vary the communication and cognitive challenges; with all of these examples I stick with the same lesson to the get the most out of the repetition and not confuse the kiddo who is trying so hard to learn:
- If the laundry has multiple family members clothing, we label Mom’s clothes, Dad’s clothes, D-Man’s clothes or Big-C (he’s working on saying/signing mine). Big-C now can say Ma-Ma, but sometimes his poor motor planning gets in the way so we continue to practice. He used to be able to say Da-Da and an approximation of D-Man’s name, but now has difficulty making the “D” sound. We think this is because he is thinking of what he is trying to say and darn it that’s harder than not thinking about it (motor planning issue). Practice, practice, practice so that he will figure out his mouth and regain the Da-Da and D-Man’s name. We are also working on Big-C to say “mine” while indicating himself. Learning MINE is harder than I thought it would be. It’s such a great skill to have, Big-C attends a day care and soon will be in an Early Childhood School setting and I want him to be able to speak up for himself, even if it’s just one word, it’s an important word for a 2 year old.
- Big-C is starting to learn colors, so labeling the colors of the clothing with an accompanying sign to represent the color. Obviously we don’t do this with our all white loads, but I do try to do this with the dark loads or the color loads. Black, blue, brown, gray……over and over and over again, he is starting to get it by the end of the load. He has not starting carrying this lesson over into other areas and needs to review with every load.
- Big-C is also starting to learn the labels of clothing with accompanying sign: shirt, pants, short, socks, and underwear. I don’t label sheets/towel loads but just stick to the clothing.
- With all of these we work on sorting the socks, we make a big pile of them and sort them at the end of the load. After doing this for many months Big-C automatically throws the socks into his own pile without me helping. At the end of the load, he does need help matching the socks. We first started with giving him one sock and an array of 1-3 to choose from with very contrasting options after a few practices he was abl eto make the match. Now if it’s not a bunch of just white or tan socks he is able to match one colorful sock to another and pull it out of the pile.
Now that he’s getting bigger we are also working on where the clothing goes when we are all done. First by rooms, Mom’s pile, Dad’s pile, D-Man’s and then Big-C. D-Man (our NOW 5 year old) puts away his own folded items with encouragement. I love it when Big-C watches D-Man do this. Big-C wants to do everything D-Man does. So when it works out we put away Big-C’s after D-Man, by asking Big-C where his stuff goes. He does not totally get it, but guesses where most of it goes. This has just started so we’ll see how he’s doing in about a month. (I could always label the drawers, but it’s low on my to-do list which is very long).
Big-C loves to be a part of this too often routine it also fosters the following skills:
- Vocabulary: clothing, colors, positional terms, family members names
- Strengthening: trunk, shoulders and grip specifically
- Self esteem
I hope you enjoy this third installment of Therapy Thursday posts. Let me know how you incorporate your child’s therapy goals into your daily hectic life! If you missed the previous posts you can find how we set the table and how we empty the dishwasher.