## Thursday, June 30, 2011

### Making a Picture Graph

As you can see from my last post, the Summer of Socialization, I truly do try to let summer be summer. I am not really about spending our summers doing "school." However, since math is the subject that my daughter (and many children with DS) struggle with, I have tried to make sure we do some math drills. We have done some flash cards and math games to help her remember what math facts she has memorized, but I wanted something more fun. I pulled out our Teaching Math to People with Down Syndrome book and found a fun hands on activity titled "Making a Picture Graph." (You can find it in Book 1 on Page 154)

Gess has been pretty good at reading simple graphs, but she hasn't really made one before. So what we did was ask her family members what their favorite flavor of ice cream was, giving them the choices of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. I wish I had saved the paper on which she collected the data. When I said I liked chocolate she spelled it "chAcAlAte" (yes, even her A's were capitalized). By the time the last person liked chocolate she was a bit frustrated trying to get the spelling right!

Anyway, after she gathered the data from both of her parents, her brother, his girlfriend, her grandmother and herself, we began making the chart. First she colored the ice cream cones the appropriate colors, then she cut them out. (The book has the pictures of the ice cream cones to copy on page 342 but you can use any pattern or make your own.)

Then she had to glue them in the correct column.

And there you have it, Gess' first graph! What a great way to make it, on paper with crayons, scissors and glue. She loves hands on activities!

As you can see, chocolate is the favored flavor in my family, what about yours? Why not let your little one have fun finding out? Ice cream flavors sure sounds like summer fun to me!

## Monday, June 27, 2011

### Summer of Socialization

What a busy summer we are having! Since my last post about Special Olympics we have had 3 weekends of company visit our house.

The first week we had some dear friends from Indiana come through on their way to a wedding. They had their grandson with them and he and Gess really seemed to hit it off. Those two played so well together that the grown ups were able to relax and visit without much interruption. We walked them downtown and took them through the Safari Museum, which is this biggest tourist attraction in our small town. Gess willingly gave up her bed and enjoyed sleeping on her "pallet." In fact, she continues to ask to sleep on one.

The next weekend we had her cousins for 3 days. We love having them around as they all play really well together. Their ages are also perfectly spaced as they are all about one year apart. We pretty much had an 8, 9 and 10 year old for the weekend. For this visit we spent most of our time at the pool, which kids that age love. We had a blast, got lots of sun and Gess again learned about opening her home up to others.

This last weekend my sister and her daughter came, though her daughter is all grown up so there were no little ones to play with this time. Gess did show some signs of growing tired of company, specifically when conversations were loud, however she really did enjoy herself and liked having them around. We also took them to see the Safari Museum. Here is Gess with my sister and my mom and with Osa and Martin Johnson, the adventurers the museum was created for.

This week we are beginning swimming lessons. She took lessons last year but we were still working on comfort with the water. I just never seemed to take her swimming enough last year to get much past that. This year we have already visited the pool quite a bit and she seems much more comfortable with the water. She still has no desire to get her face wet or stick her head under it, so I am not sure how much "swimming" she will learn. My only desire is that she be able to tread to safety if she ever falls in. We will see what this year's lessons bring. I know she is looking forward to it, for when she woke up this morning she ran out of the room saying, "swimming lessons, here I come!" She's ready!

After 8 days of lessons we will then be heading to church camp where we will be spending one night in a cabin and having tons of fun. I shared about our first overnight camp last year and Gess can't wait to do it again!

We are also in the library reading program as well. There Gess gets in on some of the story time adventures, crafts and tea parties. We will warm up to more fireworks and have a picnic with our church on July 4th and just meet friends and family at the park and various other places too. Summer is the perfect time to work on those social skills with the kids not even realizing that they are learning a thing!

Parents of kids with special needs will really appreciate how much these experiences mean, and not only how much fun we have, but also how much "work" they are! Taking a child out of their normal routine can be hard on anyone, and for our kids it's even more so. I have to say, Gess has handled it all pretty well and has really developed some pretty good social skills. Was she perfect? No, but was she any more or less behaved than any other kid, absolutely not!

So for all of you those people who ask homeschoolers, "what about socialization?" Believe me, our kids are getting plenty of it! We go off to study things hands on so much and find so many ways to interact with others that I often joke about how I can call it homeschool when we seem like we are hardly ever home! Have a great, happy and safe summer!

## Friday, June 17, 2011

### Special Olympics 2011

This was our second year participating in the Special Olympics. It still seems to be Gess' favorite time of the year. She had been looking forward to this since we went last year. Being homeschoolers, I was not sure how to go about getting involved as the youth programs are usually handled within the school system. However, Special Olympics is not a public school program and therefore homeschool children are invited to participate.

To find a Special Olympics team in your area you can go to the Special Olympics Website's Find a Program Near You page. That will link you to your statewide organization. That's how I found Special Olympics Kansas. From there you should look for a link to hook you up with your local area. The page for that in Kansas is Find a Local Program.

Through the program we have 2 events a year. Our regional area has it's own Special Olympics events. Bowling is in the fall and the spring track and field is in April. Then we head to the statewide competition the first weekend in June. Last year we met the team up there, but this year they let Gess and I ride the bus. She was really excited because this was her first time on a school bus.

We then got a hotel room. While the athletes can go on their own and stay with their coaches and other assistants, I am not ready to send my 9 year old off with people she hardly knows. They are awesome folks, don't get me wrong, but since she only sees them at practices and events once a year, I think it's best she hangs with us for awhile in the "big city." When we got off the bus we settled into the hotel room and relaxed waiting for the opening ceremonies.

The opening ceremonies are really great. The teams to get to march on the field and hear the cheers and know that those are for them. The thing I love most about the Special Olympics is not that my daughter has a chance to win a medal, but that she has a chance to be celebrated. I love that the people there appreciate that ALL life is sacred and worthwhile. The field march was especially exciting this time because Gess got to help hold the banner for the team.

Then they head to the bleachers and get ready for some fun. There are announcements and recognition of special athletes. There is also some music and good times.

Gess enjoys it until the end when they have the most awesome fireworks display. The noise is just too much for her so we went back to the bus. While it was hot waiting in the bus, I found that inside the safety and shelter of the vehicle she really enjoyed watching the fireworks. That will remain our plan B from now on!

The next day is filled with events. She competed in the standing long jump and got a bronze medal.

Then it was the 50 meter dash for which we had a close race in which she took the silver.

During her down time they have all sorts of games to play, and they also had a petting zoo. Each time you do an activity they punch your card and in the end you get a prize. After some games we headed out to her last event of the day, the ball throw. She picked up another bronze there. Here she is sporting all three medals.

That night there is a special dinner and a dance. Gess has a good time at that, but can only handle the loud music and crowd for so long, especially after a hot and active day! She sure needed some rest.

The final day is the relay race. She was so excited and kept saying she was going to "run like the wind" (because someone told her to do just that). Her team did really well and took the silver. All in all it was an incredible weekend and I am so very proud of my athlete! I know she will be talking about it until next year!