Words Words Everywhere

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Posted by vera | Posted in Parenting | Posted on 23-12-2009

triplet boysThis morning, I had the great privilege of spending a few hours doing some intensive intervention with two Kindergarten-age triplets.

Jason and Jeremy (or, “Ya-ya-me”, as his brothers call him!), are two of five boys in a “double” multiple births family my husband and I volunteer with.  This family has been blessed with twin boys, followed by triplet boys, all naturally conceived.  All five children are happy, more-or-less healthy, and full of energy!  But, living in poverty, they are already suffering at school:  Having started at a deficit, they are all academically behind, and it is beginning to show in some of their at-school behavior.

Children in multiple birth families are often at-risk for having language delays: With twin, triplet or higher-order-multiple babies or toddlers to deal with and the resulting sleep deprivation and general exhaustion, parents often inadvertently resort to using shortened sentences, depriving these kids of valuable exposure to rich and varied language patterns in the formative years.  We ourselves ended up in speech therapy when our boys were three years old, which served primarily to teach us – the parents – how to properly model language for our children.  Alex and Simon are now both extremely verbose!

But the twins/triplets children not only have a double whammy with their language delays… in addition to having limited exposure to varied sentences and rich vocabulary, they spent most of their first five years at home, living in crowded quarters with few books or other interactive toys.  Apart from a weekly visit to their place of worship, the family is hard-pressed to get beyond their housing project, and the boys all started school with considerably fewer life experiences to connect new learning to than their age-appropriate peers.

Part of our mandate  as volunteers with this family is to enrich their experience base so that the boys have more to connect to as they learn new things at school.  This sometimes involves a trip to the zoo, a visit to a busy market downtown, and today, a few hours with “Auntie Vera”, making French Toast and playing counting games.

Taking just one or two kids at once helps us to focus on fun rather than behaviour management, and so while our own twins Alex and Simon were at winter camp this morning, I spent a few hours with Jason and Jeremy, two of the three triplets in the family.

The boys were delighted as we walked the dog around the neighborhood, pointing out holiday decorations on various homes on the street, and marveling at how tall some of the trees were in at the park across the street.

Each time one of the boys burst forth with some babble of often-unrecognizable but undeniably excited speech, I re-framed the thought, using words I recognized in a full sentence.  “You’re right, Jason, the tree is very tall!”,  “Yes, Jeremy, that’s a Christmas tree!  Look at all the pretty lights!”

After our walk, we made French toast.  This simple act of preparing breakfast offered plenty of opportunity to practice kitchen words.

After we ate, the boys decided they wanted to play “Dee-dee-dee-Dora” games, so we pulled out a version of Dora Candyland, and practiced our colours and counted squares with Dora, Diego and Boots for 20 minutes, before “reading” some simple books together (I had borrowed these from my husband’s friend, who teaches Kindergarten).

An average morning at home need not be bereft of learning.  Using rich vocabulary coupled with excitement and passion can turn everyday experiences into a world of discovery for thirsty, young minds.

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