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Disability Awareness for 5 year olds

Practical ideas for parents who want to help their child's classmates and playmates understand more about their child and his/her special needs.


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Teaching Children To Climb Up Stairs
By: Renata Bursten, Dragonfly Staff

Goooo-ing Up!

Teaching kids to learn how to go up and down stairs safely can be difficult, but it can also be necessary. Good stair skills are invaluable for stair users, and the time put in to training could be the time saved dealing with unfortunate falls.

Children with hypotonia (low muscle tone) can be less then enthusiastic about learning the stairs, and many children are frightened by the height of stairs. Still, it is an important skill to master, both for safety, and for the valuable coordination this exercise can help children develop.

Here are a few ideas to try for teaching 'Going Up'.

If your child loves too pull tissues out of the box, set a tissue box at the top of the stairs, and start the child one step down. Stand right behind them, totally ready, and tempt them with the box. Once they have climbed up and pulled out a tissue, give verbal reinforcement and even yank one out yourself. Then, start the child two steps back, and repeat. Keep moving the child's starting position lower down the stairs.

If you watch closely, you will see that three stairs are involved when the child crawls up the stairs. As soon as the child places a hand on a highest stair, help them to bring the opposite knee up to the middle stair. Then the 'push and pull' to bring both knees on to the middle stair, where they balance in the ready position. Assess, and when ready, repeat!
,Children who are stronger on one side often try to use only the dominant limbs. That is a very good way to fall and get a scare! Encourage the use of the weaker side so that they develop more strength and keep good balance.

If the tissue box doesn't work for you, try offering a toy that invites children to see, touch, and listen. The best I have found is the Musical Fantasy. Children with low vision, blindness, or hearing impairment will find this a very attractive target.

Always teach going up before coming down. It is much easier to master, and it is safer. And stay right behind them the entire time. It's for safety, but also many children find a light touch comforting and encouraging.

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Adapting Signs for pre-verbal communication

Many hearing children use Sign instead of or before verbal communication. But what do you do if traditional Signs are physically difficult to master? Adapt them! For example, the traditional Sign used to indicate "I need to go to the washroom" involves putting the thumb between the third and fourth fingers in a fist and waving the fist. If the child can't manage the hand position you could try using a plain closed fist waving instead. Sign-based communication can help improve communication skills, lower frustration, improve manual dexterity, and teach children that hands can be used for meaningful activities. You will find a good group of Sign resources in Dragonfly's book section.


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