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Case in Progress

Cameron: Looking to pre-school

It is time for our Cameron to look ahead to pre-school. She is our darling little girl with Down Syndrome born in November, 1997. Last November, at the age of two it was time to assess where she might be developmentally in the next year and where her educational needs might best be met. Many new questions need to be answered.

First, let's look at what Cameron has achieved in the recent past. Just propr to her second birthday she began to walk independently - a few steps at first, and then she just took off on her own. It was a wonderful Christmas present for her parents. Up until then, she had been doing the "bear crawl" - with her bottom stuck high in the air and hands and feet flat on the floor. She would pull to stand on furniture and cruise along, but was tentative about going solo!

At two, Cameron's speech was still markedly delayed. She could say "hi" and "baby", and used signs for "open, more and all done" appropriately. She was easily frustrated with her inability to express things to her mom and dad.

Our biggest concern, however, was that Cameron would not eat solid foods yet. She would eat only baby food, and she preferred the stage 1 pureed variety. She continued to tongue thrust, which was greatly interfering with her eating. She would often use her tongue like a finger to touch and feel things. Her hypotonia, a significant symptom of Down Syndrome, includes the musculature of the tongue and around the mouth. It was determined that she needed to strengthen these muscles for chewing.

Cameron and her family continued to work closely with the speech therapist, who was making great gains in getting Cameron to turn on her voice and use it appropriately to communicate. Cameron also was working with an occupational therapist who was working with her to desensitize her mouth and tongue - to be able to feel and tolerate a variety of textures in her foods, and then chew them.

The occupational therapist used a variety of instruments to develop these muscles, such as straws, horns, items that vibrate, toothbrushes of differing textures, and bubbles. All of Cameron's therapists worked closely with her family to remind her to "put her tongue in" and not let it hang out of her mouth.

As Cameron's physical development stabilized and she became confident about her walking, running and climbing, her speech began to emerge more and more. She began to acquire more words, and use signs appropriately as necessary. Her attention began to lengthen, and she was more and more attentive during her therapy sessions.

In the county where Cameron resides, we begin to address possible preschool placement at the age of 22 years. Cameron was assessed just prior to this meeting to help everyone project where Cameron might go to pre-school at the age of 3. The transition meeting is held with the parents, therapists, the local school district personnel, and personnel from the County Office of Education.

We had been working closely with Cameron's mother to let her know what educational options were available to meet Cameron's preschool needs. At the transition meeting, all the options for educational programs were presented in detail. Since this meeting was held in May, as that was when Cameron was 30 months, her mother decided to wait to visit all the classrooms she is interested in next fall when school resumes. At that time, there will be other new children, newly turned three and learning to fit into a new classroom. Her mother felt she would get a more realistic impression of each situation at that time.

The primary option Cameron is being considered for is the Un-designated Special Day Preschool class. This preschool setting will allow Cameron to be with her peers up to 17 hours a week. She would be able to learn in a classroom setting and have activities such as music and recess with typical children who attend the State preschool at the same location. She will continue to receive speech therapy, possibly occupational therapy, and have her academics taught at preschool. Cameron's parents are very excited about her being able to go to school.

The plan for our last six months with Cameron is to work closely with her family on school readiness. Feeding also continues to be an issue, but is much improved. The speech therapist is working closely not only on words, but on building the musculature around her mouth so that she can tolerate more varied foods. The child education specialist is working with her on increasing her attention span and attention to tasks, overcoming frustration at difficult tasks, sitting at a table in a chair quietly and working, using different materials such as PlayDoh, coloring, and scissors, and turn taking.

Cameron is a beautiful and happy girl who became a big sister again recently. Due to her new baby sister she has learned to put her finger to her mouth and say "shhhh" when she sees a baby. This is the type of environmental learning that she will be able to utilize at preschool.

We are excited for her to go to preschool in the fall. And strive to prepare her and her family for that bittersweet day in November.

We will update you at that time about Cameron's skill levels, designing her Individual Education Plan, and transition into the class. If you have any questions, comments or would like to contact this family, please send me an e-mail.

Julie Loe

From the local newspaper:

One From the Heart

Our family will celebrate the third birthday of our daughter, Cameron, on November 10. What's so special about our daughter's birthday that I should let the readers of the Tribune know?

Well, on this day our lives take a major detour. You see, Cameron was born with Down Syndrome and a heart defect. Hear heart was repaired successfully within five months, but her having Down Syndrome with obviously last a lifetime.

As we approach her third birthday we are preparing for the transition from early intervention services to preschool services. From the time Cameron was two months old she has been receiving ongoing therapy from Pediatric Services.

I would just like to express my gratitude to Julie Loe and her staff (especially Leigh Hicks and Linda Millar-Smith) at Pediatric Services for the countless hours they have spent with Cameron these past three years. Without their dedication to helping the many children with various types of disabilities, Cameron's future probably wouldn't be as bright as it is today.

We have close to the same expectations for Cameron as we do for our other three girls. We are grateful to be living in a time when there are services available to our kids with developmental disabilities and other disabilities as well.

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Last modified: January 26, 2013