To this point, our approach to helping Clara learn to speak has not been much different that our approach with Owen. We describe what we are doing while playing and eating, imitate her sounds, try to connect sounds with pictures while reading books, etc. We have been a little more deliberate in implementation of these techniques with Clara and we have incorporated signs along with spoken language. Both Owen and Clara love the Baby Signing Time DVDs - we watch them frequently and Owen has become quite proficient with most of the signs. Clara has also recently started to receive speech therapy once per month, which largely consists of interactive observation with demonstration of techniques that we can use to further develop Clara's language skills.
At 14 months Clara uses several words in context including yay (while clapping), up, mama, dada, bubby (nickname for Owen), step, go, all done, hi, and baby. Clara also consistently uses the sign for eat and somewhat consistently uses the signs for more and all done. At the end of breakfast this morning morning Clara signed all done while also saying all done - we were very excited. Clara cannot quite get her fingers in the correct order to sign play and love, but she smiles every time we sign love and seems to understand the sign for play.
One of Clara's favorite play activities is to see herself in a mirror (or anything else with a reflective surface). Every time she sees herself in the mirror she waves and enthusiastically says hi baby. She also loves to dance with the baby and give kisses to the baby in the mirror. Recently, she has started to wave bye to our day care provider's son when Ellen picks Clara up at the end of the day.
Clara picked up the word step because she hears it so often during her treadmill training sessions. For the past month and a half Clara has been walking on the treadmill four times per week. We started the treadmill training based on research conducted by Dr. Dale Ulrich of the University of Michigan which indicated that treadmill training could help children with Down syndrome walk months earlier than children who did not undergo treadmill training. She walks for one to two minutes at a time at a speed of one-half mile per hour. Overall, each session lasts only fifteen minutes. While she was initially resistant, Clara has been doing very well over the last couple of weeks, walking for up to two minutes without complaint. Additional information about the treadmill training research can be found here.