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Down Syndrome NSW
Level 6/410 Church St, North Parramatta
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T: 9841 444

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Book Review: Helping Children with Down Syndrome Communicate Better:

A paper, book or DVD by Libby Kumin is always much anticipated by our staff - we know that families will gain a great deal from the highly accessible work of this renowned speech and language clinician and researcher. She is, of course, an excellent communicator!

Her new book is no exception. Kathi Beck, our librarian has reviewed it for the Summer 2008 - 2009 issue of our Newsletter, which will be released in December. Here is a preview:

Helping Children with Down Syndrome Communicate Better: Speech and Language Skills for Ages 6-14 by Libby Kumin, Woodbine House, 2008.

To be unable to express your thoughts or feelings or to be unable to participate fully in a conversation is a sad and frustrating thing. Parents and teachers of children with Down Syndrome work to ensure that our children’s speech and language is as good as it can be, but this is often difficult due to lack of access to speech therapists or lack of understanding about what can be done. This becomes more difficult as the child gets older and more complex language skills are needed. Libby Kumin’s new book Helping Children with Down Syndrome Communicate Better: Speech and Language Skills for Ages 6-14, provides a great resource for parents, teachers and therapists to address speech, language and communication difficulties.

As in her DVD, What Did You Say? (2006), Kumin describes the different areas of speech and communication that are problematic for people with Down Syndrome and possible reasons for these problems. In her new book, Kumin also discusses these areas, but also includes other language difficulties, the particular communication skills needed at school and those needed at home and in the community.

There is a big section on speech and language evaluation with examples of reports and therapy plans. In addition to discussing what therapists focus on and therapy activities, Kumin provides many activities that can be done whilst playing games or just in the course of doing the usual chores and tasks in the day. She also suggests titles of books that can be used to work on each skill. For example, she mentions using We’re Going on a Bear Hunt for preposition practice. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae is used for teaching and practicing the use of negatives.

And there are other lists of books for Wh questions and lists for sound and articulation production. There is a section on how to make homemade games to focus on various skills.

Kumin discusses what language is required at school and how teachers can help children communicate better. She includes a chapter on communication and social skills at home and in the community. Teaching conversation skills is examined. She discusses how to know whether your child needs augmentative and alternative communication(AAC) which includes gestures, signing, picture cards, communication boards and electronic communication devices.

This is a very comprehensive book about communication for this age group. It is easy to pick small bits out of it or read through all facets. It is written in the US and hence often refers to US laws about services that children are entitled to and also refers to the US education system. However, these snippets are easy to ignore and do not detract from the other outstanding material contained in the book.

I like the way Kumin emphasises ways to help communication as part of daily life. She makes clear that communication skills can be improved throughout a person’s life and that because speech is difficult for people with Down Syndrome, we should remember that their speech does not indicate their abilities, thoughts or feelings. We need to give them every chance to communicate.

I highly recommend this practical and comprehensive book to anyone who wants to work on or understand speech, language and communication difficulties in school-age children with Down syndrome or even just understand speech evaluations and therapy.

To borrow this book from the DS NSW library, email or call the office on (02) 9683 4333. Borrowing is available to DS NSW members only.

Many other popular Woodbine House titles, from their Down Syndrome list are also held in our collection. Click here for annotated lists of the whole collection categorised by subject.

Woodbine House publishes an extensive list of titles related to a range of disabilities.

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