You Have a Family Member with Down Syndrome, So Now What? Part 4

Copyright © 2012, Stephen Hawley, all rights reserved.

You would not believe how easy it is to create tools to assist your child as she grows and starts going through her milestones.  Sometimes all it takes is a little nudge here or a little prop there to get your child doing new things.  This month’s project is one that you can do with the simplest of materials and tools and carries a fairly big benefit.  It’s a desk:


A cardboard box about 6 inches tall, a foot wide, and 8 inches deep.  The dimensions aren’t critical as long as it is wider than your child’s hips and it is tall enough that when your child sits on the floor, the child’s forearms rest easily on the box or slightly above it. Packing tape.


Using sturdy scissors or a matte knife, cut the flaps off the top on each side.  Flip it over and cut two arches on the long sides for legs.  If necessary, pull off all the old tape holding the (new) top on and put on fresh tape to hold it firm so that it won’t tempt small hands from pulling it off and tasting it.

How To Use

Have your child sit on the floor and place the desk over his legs.  Put a toy or two on top of the desk and encourage your child to play with it.  You can also put a piece of paper on the top so and let him crumple it or tear it or scribble on it.

Why and when might you need this?  At as early as 4 months most typical babies will start to be able to sit up for a few minutes at a time.  This may come later for our kids because of low muscle tone, making it harder to sit up (if your physical therapist hasn’t recommended it, you might ask him/her about Theratogs, which can help trunk stability among other things).  Play placing toys on the desk, you’re putting toys within easier reach without having to bend or flop over.

Early on, you will probably want to put the toys in the center of the desk encourage midline grasp and play.  Later, you can put the toys in the far corners of the desk and prevent the closer hand from grasping the toy.  This will encourage cross body reach and turning, which is a good thing.

One thing to avoid: you might think, “ah! plain cardboard, I can decorate this with bright colors or pictures.  You, of course, know your child better than I do, but you might want to keep in mind that our kids are usually very visually oriented. This means that bright visuals on things that are better off being relatively invisible are not necessarily a good thing.  Save the visuals for the times that they count the most.

As usual, have fun and feel free to share this, but please keep the attribution.


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