I cannot emphasise enough the importance of copying. Providing that children have good vision (and this is not always the case in children with Down’s Syndrome), they can learn a lot from copying.
Trudy is fortunate to have a big brother who is not yet at school and who plays with her. She has learned a lot of her fine motor skills such as eating, stacking, playing from him. She watches everything he does and then tries it out herself. Although, this comes with its own sense of frustration as there are plenty of things that Trudy just can’t do yet. It doesn’t stop her though and she has a perseverance I rarely see in children.
We asked Patrick to copy Trudy so that she can take the lead. We put him opposite her in her high chair and asked him to copy everything she was doing. He made noises like her and flapped her arms about! He had lots of fun and was giving her an invaluable opportunity to be in charge.
Copying can be great for development but it is also important to give her the opportunity to take the lead.
There is a proper term for this, which is “intensive interaction”. I learned about this as a professional and saw the benefits for children with little or no language. I always wondered if it would benefit Trudy but I would argue now that the principles are important for any child. There is loads of information about how this came about and how it is practised but, for us, it was a way to make Trudy an active participant in interactions at home. We got Patrick to copy her from a very early stage to make sure that she always had an opportunity to be in control of the conversation. It could be mimicking vocalisations or hand gestures or how she moves her eyes, but the important thing is that you are face to face with her, at eye level and maintaining good eye contact. Through my professional experience, I have learned that many children with little or delayed language can quickly become passive as someone will always respond more quickly than them or in some case for them in a conversation. This is particularly true of Patrick, whose brain works at a mile a minute. Trudy’s independence has always been important to us so she has to learn to participate actively and intensive interaction is a way to promote this.