Multiples and Speech

Chances are you want to provide a wonderful environment for your children to learn and grow. But life is busy. Your multiples (and maybe singletons too) need to be bathed, dressed, fed and nurtured. And when you’re not caring for your little ones, there’s housework, shopping, cooking, and laundry. Perhaps there’s a job too – and the resulting runs to the sitter and daycare.

Luckily, all children learn to talk. It’s something that comes naturally, right? Not always. Some children talk late. Some children need speech therapy. And all children need help from their parents to reach their highest potential.

Learning to Talk – What to Expect

Multiples acquire language just as single-born children do, however, sometimes they develop it at a somewhat slower pace. Even though multiples tend to make sounds and gestures early on to each other, they often say their first word (other than “mama” or “dada”) about a month later than most single born children.

Studies have shown that some multiple born children are prone to early speech and language difficulties and later literacy problems.  Even if your children are developing speech and language skills normally, research tells us that between three and five years, twins may be six months behind their single-born age peers. The good news is that by age five, twins, who do have speech and language problems, differ very little from their single born age peers.*

To multiples, language is a way to bring closeness and intimacy with each other, and can often be very rewarding. In some cases, they appear to talk together using words and sentences that only the two of them can understand. Research has shown this “twin talk” is not a private invented language, but actually a persistent use of immature or incorrect speech patterns. Many children often create some words of their own, or use incorrect vocabulary, grammar, and syntax when they are learning to talk. Since multiples spend a lot of time together, and have a strong desire to communicate with each other, they listen to each other saying words incorrectly. Sometimes, these troublesome words grow more and more distorted and, as a result, the multiples are the only ones who are able to understand their communications.

Twin language is not a cause of language delay, but may be an indication that your child may have a difficult time learning to talk. A British study showed that approximately 50% of twins who have speech and language difficulties may use twin language. Only 11% of twins who are developing language on schedule use twin language. If your multiples are using “twin language” to communicate with each other, it is very important they are also developing the communication skills that are necessary to communicate effectively with others. Therefore, your multiples need to be understanding and expressing new words at least every few weeks and using these words to communicate with others.

Taking Steps to Avoid Delays

It has been documented that speech and language difficulties are more common in multiples than in single born children. However, this certainly does not mean that your multiples will have speech and language delays. Experts believe that sometimes these delays may be due to the social and biological factors listed below that can effect any child, born a multiple, or not. Language is learned by a baby watching the adult’s face, in particular the mouth move and change shape for the different sounds of the expressed words. With twins, triplets and more, finding time to address each child individually in order to give them the best chance to learn proper speech is a challenge but not impossible. Having knowledge of the risk for speech delay in multiples is half the battle. Following are some very easy ideas to help you help your multiples with their speech…..then watch out as they all get gabbing! You probably won’t get a word in edgewise

  1. It is helpful to understand that multiple-birth children are behind their singleton counterparts from the get-go. They, by the nature of their birth, share the available maternal nutrition while in utero and this sharing isn’t always equal. For twins it could a sharing of 50/50, or 70/30, or 60/40 or anywhere in between. For triplets and more, it can be determined by their various birth weights, that not each received equal portions of the available nutrition. As a result, each multiple-birth child begins life from a different position and their progress will not only be different from each other, but will cerainly be different from their singleton counterparts who received 100% of the available nutrition.Solution: Remember never to compare your babies or toddlers to each other and especially to your neighbour’s toddler of the same age. Even though multiples arrive together, they will not necessarily reach the same stage at the same time. As well, there can be differences between boys and girls. As long as each child is progressing, this needs to be your benchmark.
  2. Multiples don’t have as many chances as single born children to interact directly and individually with their parents. Twins can participate in conversations in which they communicate with either the parent or the other twin. Triplets and more can choose within their own group whom they will converse with, as well as their parents.Solution:Try to schedule as much time as you can talking and playing with each child alone. There is no need to schedule special outings if that is difficult (e.g. in the Winter), but instead, use your daily routine activities. While bathing, feeding, or dressing your child, count toes, sing songs and rhymes, and talk with your child. Take a little extra time to change a diaper and chat with each baby as you do so. Take one child to the supermarket. As your child sits in the cart facing you, this is a great time to talk about what you are seeing, feeling, doing, and touching. If one of your multiples has a tendency to talk for the other(s), this will give all of the children an equal opportunity to practice talking.
  3. Multiples often copy each other’s poor syntax and mispronunciation of words. This is because when communicating with each other, they often omit the beginning and ending sounds of words and use short phrases.Solution: Some parents think that their multiples’ mispronunciation of words is cute. Instead, it is wise to give your child many opportunities to hear words pronounced correctly. If your child says a word incorrectly, don’t ask him to “say it again.” Instead, say the correct pronunciation, emphasizing the word or sound with which he had difficulty. For example, if your child says, “Me do to pool,” try saying, “I g-go to the pool.” Emphasize “I” by saying it louder and emphasize the “g” sound in “go” by stretching it. Expand your child’s words or phrases into full sentences. Repeat what your child says and add one or two words. Don’t change your child’s meaning, but, instead, make her remarks slightly longer.

For example:
Child: “hat.”
Adult using expansion: “Yes, blue hat.”

  1. By the nature of their birth, multiples have a unique closeness or bonding. The group offers built-in playmates and as such, parents may not feel so pressured to socialize their multiples as they would for a singleton child.Solution:Give your children many opportunities to interact separately with other children. Try to arrange play dates. These can provide wonderful opportunities to develop social and language skills. Your child may begin to model the speech of other children and communicate effectively with his age peers.
  2. Twins are often born premature and subject to developmental delay. Triplets and more are born even more premature and their developmental delays can be even further, well, delayed.Solution:If you have any questions about your child’s development in any area, at any age, it is important to seek professional help. Expecting too much, or too little, can both be harmful. You might start by expressing your concerns with your pediatrician. This may set your mind at ease if you learn that your children are developing as they should, or get needed help at an early age. There may be some options in your community. If your children are two years or younger, you can call your local school district for a referral to the early intervention services in your area or find listings in your community by looking in the government pages of your phone book under Education or Health Department. If your children are three-five years of age, call your local school district to request an evaluation.

Other ideas for improving and encouraging language development in your multiples

  • if your children are 24-30 months or older with very little language or do not turn towards you as you address them, have them checked by their pediatrician to ensure that they are healthy and have no hearing problems.
  • feed the children in their highchairs with a space between them for example, one highchair to your left, one in the centre, on the right. When the chairs are set beside each other, we tend to talk ‘between’ our toddlers rather than make eye contact with each child. Further we may be looking down at whose eating what and how much rather than looking at the child, thus not providing each with ample opportunity to focus and watch our mouths move.
  • involving other adults, such as grandparents, in the care of your children can take some pressure off of the parents and give the toddlers another chance at meaningful conversations.
  • because we are so busy looking after the babies and perhaps other siblings too, we tend to rush through the tasks and “talk into the air.” Pick times and jobs (e.g. grocery shopping with one toddler) when you can slow down, make the necessary eye contact, talk about what you are purchasing and why, thus giving for each child and opportunity to learn and improve.
  • it isn’t unusual to have introverts and extroverts within the group. As a result one may try to speak for the other and one could hold back, waiting for his co-sibling to do the actual asking while reaping the benefits, without speaking a word. If this is your experience, don’t let one child speak for the other. Encourage each child to speak for himself. Praise him when he does.
  • when your child is struggling to ask a question, don’t interrupt or finish it for her. Offer encouragement to complete the sentence (e.g. saying, “I’m listening.”) and then offer praise when she does. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Take the opportunity to repeat the right sentence and/or expand on it.
    Child: See a doggie!
    Adult: Yes, I see the brown dog too!
  • it isn’t unusal to have one (or more) multiple progress rapidly and the other, for example, may have a prounounced tongue thrust. It is complicated when one child moves forward and another doesn’t. Don’t despair if this is your experience. Having the tongue thrust professionally assessed and with timely speech intervention, things will soon be back on track.
  • reading out loud helps a child hear the sounds of words and watch your mouth as words are formed.
  • repeat, repeat, repeat important words and phrases.
  • offer encouragement and positive feedback for a job well done when each child speaks.
  • don’t act instinctively to your child’s needs. Let each voice his needs and wishes.
  • encourage each to tell stories: “Tell Daddy what you did today at swimming (the park).”
  • remember that your children are individuals and will not necessarily do the same things at the same time. Avoid comparing them to each other.
  • several parents have successfully taught their toddlers sign language before they are able to speak. Signing helps them to identify what they want and not become frustrated by not yet being able to form the words. While it is difficult for small babies and toddlers to learn recognized signing, Hildy (mother of twins) introduced her girls to simple signing beginning at age 6-1/2 months. They began picking up the signs by age 9 months and signed their needs until their language skills took over. As Hildy explained: “’ Drink’ or ‘eat’ might be the motion a flat hand towards the mouth.” She noted that her girls were less prone to tantrums, outbursts and fusiness than her friends’ children of similar ages, whom couldn’t always successfully make their needs clear.**

All parents, no matter how busy they are, want their children to grow fully in each stage of development. In order for your children to develop a love of the spoken and written language, it is important to read, sing, and talk to them often. While driving all together in the car, at diaper change or at bathtime are good times to sing and tell stories. When you create a learning environment that is fun, loving, and nurturing for your children, the benefits will last a lifetime.

Bibliography

Double Duty: The Parents’ Guide to Raising Twins, from Pregnancy Through the School Years , Christina Baglivi Tinglof
The Art of Parenting Twins , Patricia Maxwell Malmstrom and Janet Poland
Discussions with Hildy Lesh, mother of twins who used sign language with her babies from 6-1/2 to 19 months old.

Reference

*The Relationship Between Multiple Birth Children’s Early Phonological Skills and Later Literacy
Langauge, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools
Volume 29, Issue 1, Pages 11-23.

**Web Sites for Baby Signing Information

www.signingbaby.com
www.mybabycantalk.com

Multiple Birth Support Sites

About the Authors

Dorothy P. Dougherty, M.A.,CCC-SLP is a Speech/Language Pathologist who has worked with children and adults in clinical and private settings for over 25 years. She is the author of Teach Me How to Say it Right: Helping Your Child with Articulation Problems (New Harbinger Publications, 2005) and How to Talk to Your Baby: A Guide to Maximizing Your Child’s Language and Learning Skills (Perigee/Putnam, 2000). For more information about speech and language development or to contact the author, please go to www.1speechproblems.com .

Lynda P. Haddon, Multiple Birth Educator, mother of 3 daughters, including twins. Working with multiple birth parents, grandparents, researchers, healthcare professionals for over two decades. Author, speaker, multiple birth prenatal educator, writer, bereavement support, creater of her own multiple birth support website at www.jumelle.ca.

We are Bored! Rainy Day Entertainment Ideas

It’s inevitable. Eventually there comes a time when every parent hears the dreaded words, “I’m bored.” When you are facing such a situation and can’t think what to offer by way of distraction, check out the following suggestions and see if something clicks.

Thankfully these entertainment ideas are not necessarily limited to Rainy Days but also if someone(s) is home sick.

If you have an Entertainment Idea that worked for you and your kids and would like to share it, please drop me a line with your idea.

These boxy ideas are used with permission from www.savvymom.ca

I won’t take the TV, but can I buy the box that it comes in? My kids will have more fun with that.

In a world where plastic toys are not so cool (and recycling is), parents are finally getting back to the basics and creating their own toys which encourage deep play and help foster a child’s imagination.

Imagination Blocks: Just think about the number of boxes that come in and out of your house weekly. We know that all of those tissue and pasta boxes can be recycled into crafty building blocks because we’ve seen what our friend Katie (aged 5) has done with her basement. She has literally filled it with a collection of boxes that she uses for building and imaginative play, and we noticed that when kids come over to play—of any age—they have no interest in the other toys. They just want to play with the boxes. Katie’s mom collects the boxes as they come in (shoe boxes and tissue boxes are the most popular). With a big roll of recycled craft paper from Ikea on hand, she wraps the boxes and leaves them for Katie to decorate with stickers or crayons/coloured pencils, etc. Wrapping the boxes with plain paper gives them uniformity (makes them all the same but different) and provides a clean slate for young artists to work on. There were literally hundreds of box-blocks in the playroom we saw – enough to build a decent sized fort. But remember that you don’t need that many to keep your kids entertained, start with just a few and the interest will evolve as the number of boxes do.

Big and Fast: For the big boxes, cardboard cars are a favourite for the toddler set. Sit the box down, cut out the top and bottom so that all you have is the four sides. Punch holes on either side of the front and rear and attach some thick string front to back. This will form your shoulder straps. You will need to adjust the straps depending on the height of your child.

Next, pull out some paper plates which are the perfect shape and size and attach them to the sides as wheels and one more for the steering wheel. Now let the kids get to work decorating it with racing stripes, wipers and horns. See what you can find around the house to accessorize with.

Walking Tall: We remember making these coffee can stilts as kids and we loved them then as much as our kids do now.

Using 2 empty coffee cans, some smooth rope and lots of duct tape and craft decorating tools, you can put some coffee can stilts together in a flash.

  1. First, empty the coffee cans and punch two holes in the opposite sides of each (approx 1/4 inch from the bottom). Be sure to punch holes inward to keep sharp edges from sticking outward.
  2. Measure the length of rope—it should equal the length from above the child’s knee to the floor. Then double that length allowing enough extra for a knot.
  3. Before adding the rope, allow each child to decorate the cans to their liking. Try different coloured duct tape and markers so each child can make their own mark.
  4. Thread the rope through holes and tie securely so that the knot is inside the coffee can leaving a large loop for the child to hold.
  5. Glue the plastic plastic lid back onto coffee cans with white glue (don’t try the glue gun on the plastic lid).
  6. Invert, grab hold of the rope and see what your child looks like two inches taller.

If the kids are old enough to sew, give them some old fabric and either with the assistance of an adult or precut large circles, give them the Button Box (every home should have a Button Box) and let them sew on the buttons as a face or other design to suit their fancy. It never hurts anyone to learn how to sew on a button!

As another idea on the sewing theme, cut coloured straws into about one inch lengths and have the children thread them together on a piece of yarn to make fun and easy necklaces. Plastic needles are available in most craft stores.

Tips on choosing a stroller for multiples

One of a multiple birth families most important pieces of equipment is a stroller to fit, two, three or more babies, and sometimes toddlers as well. It is also one of the most expensive items you will need. Investing in a good stroller is essential for several reasons:

    • multiple births families tend to use their strollers longer, i.e. not unheard of for the kids to be at least 4-years old. It can be because the babies were premature and therefore smaller at birth or because a parent has better control over where the toddlers might wander. If they can be securely fastened into a stroller this stimplifies the outing.
    • it is impossible to carry two or more tired toddlers, so having the stroller available ensures that all tired kids can be transported with a minimum of fuss;
    • a twin or triplet stroller gets A LOT of use and therefore needs to be of a good quality to withstand a lot of handling in and out of vehicles, and the bouncing of two or more active toddlers.
    • it is tempting to buy the cheaper stroller but keep in mind that your stroller will have to earn its keep transporting two, three or more infants and then toddlers.
    • Buying cheaper may find you 18 or so months later buying another one as the first one gave up the ghost.

Multiple birthd - stroller 2     Multiple births -stroller 1

When considering a stroller, here are some important tips to consider prior to purchasing:

    1. Before making a decision, set it up and down in the store. The salesperson can assist in clarifying the oddiities of collapsing and setting up the stroler. Make sure that you can do it quickly and easily.
    2. Talk a walk in the store using your regular stride. Taller parents have been known to knock their skins on one which does not work well with their stride. Is the handle is too short? Hunching over while pushing a stroller will soon become a pain in the shoulders and back!
    3. Ask what is included in the stroller’s price. Not all strollers come with a rain cover, basket or sun roofs. Sometimes these cost extra.
    4. Double wheels can trap ice or rocks or swivel in opposite directions, making pushing it challenging. Larger, single wheels are an asset in Canadian Winters as they move more easily through snow and slush. It is helpful to know if wheels can be easily replaced if necessary. Ask how they clip on and off and how/where to purchase replacement wheels.
    5. Ask which parts, including frame, may have a replacement guarantee.
    6. A full handle length gives the pusher an advantage in controlling the stroller. The umbrella-style handles are sometimes set too far apart and making pushing them when the kiddies are on board a challenge, especially for shorter parents.
    7. Will it fit into the car? More than one family has pushed their new purchase to their car, a nd….it won’t fit in!
    8. There are pros and cons to each seating style of stroller:
    9. Side by side: Pros: allows you easy access to each baby/toddler when needed. The babies can easily interact with each other and most will fit through store doorways.
    10. Cons: The babies can easily interact with each other and as a certain stage, biting can be an issue or clunking of the other with a toy.
    11. Tandem (front and back seated): Pros: fits nicely through doorways and store isles.
    12. Cons: As the babies grow, it can be difficult to lift up over curbs and it may necessitate a trip around the front of the stroller to lift over a curb. It is impossible to quickly reach the baby fartherst from you in time of need. It is helpful to have the farthest seat positioned facing you in order to be aware of what that child is doing. When facing away from you, the child in front may constantly try to stand up to turn around in order to see what s/he might be missing.
    13. Some strollers are called “twin strollers” but in reality they are for a toddler and a newborn. The area for a newborn does not have adequate space for the legs of a toddler and the toddler area may not fully recline to accommodate newborns.
    14. There are wonderful joggers available for twins, triplets and more. If you like to jog, this may be the best stroller for your needs.
    15. Graduated seat heights make it easier to see each baby in the stroller.

Stroller 1     Stroller 2

Now that you have made your decision, here are a few more handy hints from parents:

    1. If your babies are weight discrepant, rotate them with each stroller use so that the stroller wears evenly.
    2. Your stroller is an expensive item. By taking care of it properly, you can ensure that it’s resale value is high. Protect it against the elements and wipe it down if caught in the rain. If you bought your stroller new, it is well looked after (no rust or rips) and it is clean when offered for sale, you might expect to recoup one-half to three-quarters of your original purchase price, depnding on the make of stroller. Advertising through your local Twin and Triplet support chapter (here is a captive audience) will ensure a good resale price.
    3. As noted, expect to use your stroller for up to 4 years, especially if your babies were premature. When the children are older and get tired while on an outing, you will need a place to safely carry them, and the stroller is the perfect place. When they both (all) want to walk, it is a great place to put the diaper bag and/or purchases.
    4. A stroller is expensive but it does make a great collective gift for a Babies Shower or for relatives to get together to make the purchase. They are also available secondhand through local Twin and Triplet support chapters. Sometimes eBay has them for sale as well.
    5. If you need a quick repair for your stroller, check out the local bicycle repair shop. They are usually able to help out.

Places to look for twin, triplet and quadruplet strollers. These are some of the best Canadian Sites I could find. Please note that some sites come and go quite quickly. Happy shopping!

www.babyproofingplus.com
www.mountainbaby.com

….and don’t forget to check eBay and Kijiji. There are some amazing bargains!

Considerations when purchasing or borrowing car seats

As parents of multiples, it stands to reason that we will need several car seats. Many of us have other children as well, so car seats can be a huge issue.

The following has been put together to give you some hints to consider before you either purchase or borrow any used car seats in attempt to cut expenses. If you are in any doubt about the used car seat you are purchasing or borrowing, don’t do it. After all, your most precious cargo will be using these seats and they are depending upon you to help keep them safe.

NOTE: This information is provided as a set of guidelines. If you have any doubt about any used car seat, check with Transport Canada (contact information below) or the car seat’s manufacturer.

  • Car seatCar seats have carried a manufacturer’s date for some years now. The date is usually stamped on the manufacturer’s label on the back of each car seat. Make sure each car seat is not more than 10 years old. Our Canadian extreme temperatures, over time, break down the plastic in seats and, depending upon how old they are, they may not be as safe as when they were manufactured.
  • If a used car seat is 8, 9 or 10 years old, you may wish to pass onit as multiple birth children tend to use their equipment somewhat longer than a singleton child. In these cases, the ‘best by’ date is nearly past and you may not wish to have to repurchase newer seats at a later date, thereby doubling your expenses.
  • Each seat should have its manufacturer’s instructions showing how to install the seat into a car and how to correctly place a child into that seat. No instructions, then pass it by! If you are purchasing a new car seat, keep the instructions to go along with the car seat when/if you pass it along yourself.
  • Assess the interior of each seat. Are any of the straps worn, buckles missing? If yes, pass on the seat. Is the interior pad torn? If yes, consider the cleanliness of the car seat. Hygiene within a car seat, as well as safety, can be an issue.
  • Check the tether strap for forward-facing car seats, i.e. the strap that anchors the seat to the car frame. It needs to be in good condition.
  • Make sure you know if the used car seat has been in a car crash whether or not there was a child in the seat at the time of the crash.Even in the case of a minor accident, there could be stress fractures to the seat. If you can’t determine an accurate history for the seat, don’t risk using it.
  • If you have a car seat that has been involved in a car crash, even without a child in it, it is now deemed unsafe. Make sure that it is safely destroyed. Don’t risk putting it out at the curbside in case someone else picks it up to use. By the same token, NEVER pick up a car seat from someone else’s curbside.
  • Do notpurchase a new or used car seat manufactured in the United States. American seats do not meet Canadian safety standards.
  • Make sure to read Multiple Birth Canada’s Fact Sheet “Car Seat Tips” for other important information regarding car seats and your children. Learn how to assess when each child is ready to graduate to the next size car seat. Remember that each child may not be ready to graduate to the next size car seat at the same time.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON CAR SEATS, contact Transport Canada at 1-800-333-0371 or visit their Website at www.tc.gc.ca/roadsafety/childsafe/notiavis/en/index.htm

When multiples are the bullies…

It is probably safe to say that all siblings argue, fight, and  bully one another.  You may remember your own battles with siblings.  Sibling arguments occur even in loving families. Arguments have an upside (although it is difficult to see any when the fur is flying and your ears are ringing from the taunting and screaming) and can offer fertile ground for learning to compromise, share, take turns, patience, and sometimes for the aggressors or bullies, to feel badly about their behaviour. Or not.

When children fight, a parent may step in for a variety of reasons:  escalation of the argument, things are getting physical (or dangerous such as throwing things) and someone can really get hurt, the fight has no obvious ending, or the fight is taking place during a car ride, making things dangerous and distracting.  A parent may try to mediate, teach compromise tactics or try to make sense of who did what to whom, and perhaps why.  If the argument began in another room or at school, there is no hope to truly figure out how things began.

When the aggressors or bullies are the multiples, things can really get challenging.  Because of the bond multiples have, they may “gang up” on younger, and even older siblings.  As a gang, they can be a force to be reckoned with.  It doesn’t seem to matter the multiples’ genders as they learn that as a group, they are more apt to be able to enforce their will.

sibling-bullying-thinkstock-100526086-617x416A twin Mom shares she has 10-year old twin boys, a 6-year old boy and 3-year old girl.  The 6-year old tries to emulate his older brothers and they, as a team, pick relentlessly on him causing melt-downs and chaos as a result, “you’re too small; you’re too young,” “such a baby” and so on.  They race ahead knowing their much-younger brother cannot physically keep up.  Younger brother does a lot of screaming, yelling and acting out while the two older brothers “look innocent.”

Another Mom of 12-year old twin boys shares that they relentlessly pick on and irritate their 8-year old sister.  The tears and resulting chaos make their home life next to intolerable.

A Mom with a 12-year old boy, 9-year old girl and 6-year old twin boys shares that even though their twins have a special relationship, they idolize their older brother and want to do whatever he does, giving him no peace.  When they have to go to bed before their older brother, the screams of “It’s not FAIR” reverberate off the walls.  With their combined reactive behaviour, the household is in turmoil.

In some cases, multiples will carry this “gang-type” behaviour into the classroom and school yard.   As a team, they can be formidable and the more they look alike (and are dressed alike?), the teachers may not be able to decide who is actually the culprit.  Punishing both, or all, may happen no matter how many were originally involved.

If these stories reflect some of what may be occurring at your house, there are some ways to deflect the gang-style behaviour and hopefully make it less likely to continue

  • first and foremost, congratulate yourself for reading this article.  You have recognized that there are issues in your household and you are attempting to rectify them.  Good for you!
  • avoid referring to the multiples as “the twins,” “the triplets” and so on.  This reinforces the package deal and in truth, they are individuals who happened to arrive together.  Use the children’s names at all times even when speaking to friends, family and peers to reinforce their individuality.
  • not dressing them alike is helpful to all so that they are not perceived as a package.
  • think about defusing the situation by giving the multiples their own rooms (if possible).  This action gives them less time together to scheme.
  • splitting up play dates, errands, sleepovers dilutes their “power” and helps them learn to separate from each other as well as  dramatically changes the family dynamics.  The bonus is that you get to spend time with each of your children in a completely different fashion.
  • try to put them in separate classes at school.  It will help each (all) develop their own friends and give them less opportunity to get together to collude.
  • foster a relationship between your other children if you have more than one other.  This relationship is also special and can become lost within a multiples’ relationship.  Even if they are different sexes, they can enjoy being and playing together.
  • set aside a “King/Queen for a day” day where each child gets to pick the family activities, chores, perhaps menu, outings.  Making each child feel special is great for self-esteem and learning patience until it is there turn to be in charge.
  • connect with other families in your area with children about the same ages as yours so that they can pair off and each have their own special friends.
  • reinforce common interests amongst all the children.  Depending upon their age ranges, it could be the park, colouring, skiing, skating, sports, music and so on.
  • look for at least one special skill in each of your children and help foster that skill, so that they will feel good about themselves and help them stand separate from their siblings.
  • give your other children the tools to handle bullying.  Screaming and crying only makes things worse. Providing tools to help control their environment empowers each child.  There are some good books and Web Sites to help you with those tools.*
  • making each child a part of the solution and not a part of the problem is not always easy, but is in the best interests of all.  With practice, positivity replaces the negativity and again, empowers each child.  No matter how small the good behaviour, focus on it and unless they are putting each other in physical danger, ignore the bad behaviour.  When one of the multiples is praised for passing the milk to a sibling for example, eventually that praise takes precedence and replaces the behaviour of refusing, ignoring or “you didn’t say please” type of behaviour.
  • realize that what is “fair” is constantly changing over time as your children grow and develop.   It will be affected  by the maturity level and capabilities of each child.  A later bed time, for example, may be negotiated and influenced by behaviour during the day, if it is a school night, and the age of the children.  Flexible and changing rules help children understand that some goals are earned and teaches them about negotiating and consequences.
  • try to keep calm.  Children, even young ones, pick up very quickly on the mood and tensions around them and will try to exploit it to their advantage.  It isn’t always easy but keeping calm, using a low voice, being consistent and working together as partners (i.e. Mom and Dad agreeing with how to handle the situation so the children can’t play one against the other) goes a long way to helping the children remember who is in charge.  If you are really angry about something that has just occurred, indicate, “I am really angry right now and cannot speak to you.  When I have calmed down, we will talk about what just happened.”  This statement lets them know your limits and boundaries, and rather than immediately flying off the handle and doing/saying something rash, taking the time to cool down and revisiting the issue at a later time is the wisest step to take.

RESOURCES

Books

  • Parenting School-Age Twins and Multiples, Christina Baglivi Tinglof, McGraw Hill, 2007
  • The Bully and the Bullier and the Bystander:  From Pre-School to High School – How Parents and
  • Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle of Violence, Barbara Coloroso, 2008


Websites

Googling Bullying turns up many helpful sites.  I am not listing any here because they change so often.

Birthday Parties: Planning those important birthday celebrations

The majority of us aren’t required to share our Birth Day with another family member and therefore get to revel in our own celebration with each of us at its centre. Such is not the case for children born on the same day.

If you are anything like me, that is non-creative and can’t bake to save her life, but feel birthdays are special, important and fun to celebrate, then you will appreciate the following ideas for celebrating your multiples’ birthdays.

Don’t limit the celebration to just these ideas – you are no doubt more creative than I – but making the day special for all (singles’ birthdays as well as multiples) of our children makes the memories last a lifetime. And don’t forget to keep the camera handy to record it all.

While some of these ideas will work for any of our children, the focus is on those birthday that are shared.

  1. Sometimes our babies are born on the either side of midnight or perhaps in different years, i.e. 31 December and 1st January. At least this way, everyone has their “own” day. You may consider two separate parties in this case or some families will do separate parties nevertheless, a week apart (or sometimes, two days following each other). I never found I had the stamina nor the inclination to subject myself.. I mean to organize, two separate parties. Important Note: For two (or three) separate parties, and depending on the natures of your children, you might need to make absolutely sure that each party, if held separately, does NOT in fact fall on one of their actual birth-days! This could open a Pandora’s box of fallout because one might feel that they had “one upped” their co-multiple(s), and we don’t want to go there!
  2. The first birthday is often kept fairly low-key and may be limited to family and close friends. We gave each daughter a cupcake for her first birthday and kept the camera rolling as they “dug in.” We still cherish the photos.
  3. I always made sure each child had her own cake – yes, there should always be ONE CAKE PER CHILD. This is so important for a couple of reasons: 1) Why shouldn’t they each have their favorite flavour? As impossible as it may seem, not everyone prefers chocolate; 2) With two (or three, or four) cakes, you can focus on each child individually – bringing in one cake at a time with lit candles and singing Happy Birthday for each child, singly. Each child needs to feel special on their birthday, even though they are shared. I broke this “rule” once in our daughters’ lives – I had to go a wedding on their 11th birthday and just couldn’t deal with the visitors in the house, getting ready for the wedding as well as making and decorating two cakes. I didn’t get about to baking a cake until about 3 and a half months after their birthday – and they particularly enjoyed reminding me of my failure. Heavily greased with a coating of guilt, I finally took a large, rectangular pan and divided the cake into two with icing, cross corner to cross corner. I iced their names and ages on the cake, we sang Happy Birthday twice, whipping the cake away in between to reset the candles and focus on the other child. Luckily my girls love to laugh and the opportunity to begin again, with the same cake, provided us all with some jocularity and good memories.
  4. You may have gathered by now but in case I wasn’t too clear, I prefer One Party. I just didn’t have the energy for two parties and truly admire those who will go to the lengths of preparing two separate parties. Nevertheless, we did have really neat party themes. One year we had a Tea Party using their toy dishes. We had applejuice, grape juice and various flavours of Kool-Aid ‘tea’. I made teeny, tiny sandwiches and cookies, to fit the small plates. Everyone could serve themselves and were thrilled at playing grown up. Note: Use a white, double sheet for a table cloth. It doesn’t matter if stuff is spilled and goes right into the washing machine. Oh yes, and everyone came in their best dress up clothes. You might pick similar themes for the party for boy/girl combinations, say Bat Man and Wonder Woman or G.I. Joe and Barbie. Once again this allows a focus on each child but within the same party context, on the same day! ?
  5. We always had each child sit at one end of the table, surrounded by the invitees of their choice. This, too, allowed for the focus on each child individually.
  6. For other party ideas and depending upon the ages and interests of your children check out the following in your local community (most of these places will do everything for you, including loot bags): Wave Pool, Cinemas, Community Centres, YW/YMCA, Athletic Clubs, Museums or Library. You can “rent” Magicians, Clowns, “Scientists”, and Reptile Specialists (unless these are off limits for you ?). On our girls’ 13th birthday, they each invited one friend and we went White Water Rafting. My husband took the day off work and we had a trip to remember. It was not only a wonderful experience, but also a great family outing.

Individual, Happy Kids: Priceless!

Have you got Birthday ideas that worked for you or Birthday photos and you would like to share them?  Please send me a note and I will be pleased to add them to the list.

Household Tasks: Teaching the Kids to Pitch In

Sharon Schnupp Kuepfer, Mom to five children ages 4 to 10, including twins, is the author of a book Homeschooling Moments and Child-Friendly Recipes: A Collection of the Unique Adventures of a Mennonite Family. The following hints for encouraging children to assist in the day-to-day household tasks are adapted from her book and an article in The Toronto Star (27th April, 2002).

Delegate – Each child takes one weekday to help with lunches and suppers. Sharon’s oft repeated rule: “If everyone does a little bit, no one has to do a lot.”

Assign new jobs periodically – As the children get older, they can handle more challenges. A five year old can easily handle the job of bringing the laundry down to basement on washdays. By aged three, Sharon’s twins were capable of putting the clothes in the washer, then transferring them to the dryer. To make the job easier for them, she bought them a two-step stool. They were thrilled!

Assign the same task for long periods – Not only does this lighten the workload, it makes the children competent in their assigned task. Sometimes they may even enjoy the task. At 9 years old, her daughter had had floor care for a year. Not only did she become adept at floor cleaning, she advised that she liked her job.

Use the five-minute motto – Sharon told her children that a job shouldn’t take more than five minutes. It is helpful to a child to realize that a job doesn’t have to take “half a day” to complete. Five minutes to empty the dishwasher, five minutes to sweep the kitchen floor, five minutes to sort the laundry, five minutes to wipe down the bathroom. Soon the jobs are done.

Kids complete chores even if there is company – Company kids are invited to join in the tasks, but don’t have to. Often when company sees your own children working, they will pitch in too. The timer is set for five minutes and everyone works like mad and Sharon finishes what is left. *Everyone contributes to the mess and everyone contributes to the clean-up. 

Let them work when the mood strikes – Sharon wanted to spend some time with her only son. “What shall we do?”, she asked him. “Let’s organize the closets”, he responded. While Sharon had had a play task in mind, she didn’t argue with his suggestion.

Be a role model – Even when the kids were not in the mood to work beyond their regular chores, Sharon cleans regularly. In this way, the kids observe that there are other tasks around the house that also need attending to.

Be consistent – Sharon notes that she is a stickler for having the tasks completed. Unless the child is very sick (or has another good reason), tasks must be done!

Make moves and minutes count – Sometimes multi-tasking is really helpful and even the children learn how to double up on their chores. Sharon’s seven-year old daughter advised “While I am waiting for my hot chocolate to get warmed up, I do my dishwasher. This way I have less to do later on.”

Make sure you have the right cleaning and organizing tools available – Make sure that you have the right tools on hand to complete tasks. Purchasing a good dust mop, for example, saved Sharon’s daughter a good deal of time daily when mopping the floor. It’s no good to begin cleaning the mirrors or glass, for another example, if you do not have the right products on hand to do so.

Multiples in School

Pat Preedy became interested in school issues around multiple birth children in 1992 when nine sets of twins showed up at her school in Solihull, West Midlands, England to begin primary school. This brought the number to ten sets when added to the set already enrolled.

Pat Preedy, Ph.D., Key Note Speaker, Multiple Births Canada Conference, Ottawa, 23rd May, 2003, Submitted by Lynda P. Haddon

Pat began working with Professor David Hay of Australia and together, luckily for parents of multiples worldwide, created an important resource Web Site,www.twinsandmultiples.org, for parents asking the important question: should they be together or separated? Taking their research even further, Pat and David have also provided important feedback for educators in assisting each co-multiple to be the best they can be.

Pat began her talk by explaining that she and David had identified three main categories of multiples: Extreme Individual, Mature Dependent and Closely Coupled. Here are the traits as they identified them:

Extreme Individual

  • likes own friends, doesn’t share friends
  • plays mostly alone
  • opts out of the interaction if his co-multiple is successful
  • polarises his/her behaviour, goes to extremes (angel/devil)
  • is excessively competitive
  • dislikes co-multiple(s)
  • refuses to dress alike
  • tries to dominate

Mature Dependent

  • shared and separate friends
  • are happy either separated or together
  • supportive of co-multiple(s)
  • has developed as an individual with own identity
  • may choose the same or different interests from co-multiple(s)

Closely Coupled

  • unhappy when separated, want to be together most/all of the time
  • respond to each others’ names/group name, e.g. “Twinnie”
  • cannot recognize his/her image in the mirror
  • uses twin “language” (cryptophasia)
  • each slows down/speeds up to keep together, especially in school
  • few or no individual friends
  • combines to form a unit
  • dress and behave identically

Pat presented some ways to assist and support multiples in becoming individual thinkers, both by parents and educators alike

  • make individual eye contact so that each child is aware that you are speaking only to him/her.
  • use the child’s name at the beginning of the sentence, followed by your request or instructions. This gets his/her attention and there is no confusion for the children as to whom you are addressing.
  • ensure that each child speaks for her/himself and that the other does not do all/most of the talking/responding.
  • if you are having difficulty in “getting through” to one, both or all of the children, use play to engage them in conversation. Through playing a game with them, the parent or educator can create scenarios and engage a child, asking how they might respond, or what they might be feel if such a such a situation were to arise. When done through play, most children will let their guard down and express what they are thinking. A play situation vs an actual situation permits relaxed feedback from the child.

Pat reminded us that one of the “problems” experienced by multiples is their lack of privacy from each other. Pat cited an example: if the parents send one multiple to camp, they are usually sending two or three. Hence multiples do not have the same experience as if only one child was going to camp. Sent together they do not have time away from each other, are not encouraged to make individual friends or develop individual interests. They are inadvertently set up to continue to rely on each other and hence experience a lack of privacy from each other.

Pat stressed that both parents and teachers have the ability to assist multiple birth children in becoming the best they can be. Both need to be aware of the categories of twins as identified above and into which category each set of multiples may fall. When it can be determined as to how the multiples may be linked, both parents and educators can be properly assist and support the children reach their full potential. Pat advised that failure to recognize the challenges that multiples face from either being together or separate in their early schooling years is “unconscious incompetence.”

Pat’s talk was well attended by 100+ delegates, mostly parents, whose children are at or near school age and whom want to make the right decisions regarding their children’s class placement. Even though advance notice of Pat’s presentation was made several times to the local School Boards, including those up and down the Ottawa Valley and Eastern Quebec, attendance by educators was disappointing and pretty well limited to those with multiple birth children.

Schools don’t yet realize the part they can play helping/supporting multiple birth children and their parents with placement challenges. Nor do they recognize their important support role in assisting multiple birth children in making the transition into school and in separating from each other. The lack of representation for Pat’s Key Note and Workshop presentations from daycares, educators, principals and School Boards reinforces for me, that Boards underestimate and may not recognize the importance of their roles in class placement decisions, in being informed regarding the issues around multiples in school and therefore indeed function in an “unconscious incompetence.”

Multiples in School: Parent Tips

Two concerns that arise for parents with multiple-birth children are whether they should be in the same class at school or separated, and which type of placement would benefit each child’s personal development.

In some schools there may be enough classes of the same grade to facilitate each child being in separate classes. It isn’t unusual for some schools to make the blanket policy that all multiples must be separated. In order to assist you with your decision making, the following offers some considerations for both leaving the children together as well as for separating them.

Pros to Separation

Although there is no substantial evidence to support the policy that multiples must be placed in separate classrooms in order for them to grow and develop as individuals, there are sometimes some circumstances which would indicate that separation is advisable. Here are some examples for when separation may be in the best interests of each child:

  • constant “togetherness” is hindering the development of social skills in one, both or more;
  • a “division of labour” exists;
  • insensitive comparisons by teachers, peers or even each other have led to feelings of inadequacy in one or more of the multiples;
  • the multiples form a “power unit” which is causing disruptive behaviour;
  • the kids use their multipleship to exploit, cheat or play tricks;
  • one or more of the multiples appears to resent the lack of privacy resulting from sharing a classroom;
  • one multiple proves to be a constant distraction to the other;
  • in opposite-sex multiples, the female is overprotective or “mothering” of the male co-multiple;
  • in skill grouped classrooms where the abilities of one multiple are far above those of his co-multiple; and
  • the multiples WANT to separate.

Wise parents and educators will realize that some of the above issues may be evident in one year and not the next. Evaluations/observations of multiples’ behaviour and development need to be regularly monitored.

Cons to Separation

Sometimes there are valid reasons for keeping multiples together:

  • major emotional upheavals may have occurred within the family, e.g. death, divorce, moving house, etc;
  • only one classroom is available;
  • unequal education due to two different teachers employing different methods of teaching;
  • multiples are at or near the same skill level in a skill-based classroom.

Recommendations regarding school placement

  • It is not recommended separating multiples who want to be together. Forced separation can damage self-esteem, inhibit language development and delay learning.
  • It is not recommended to automatically separate multiples in their first year of school. Such a separation adds to the stress of starting school and may actually increase the multiples’ need to be together.
  • All multiples need as much independence as they are ready to handle. Multiples flourish when allowed to separate on their own timetable. Together or not can be evaluated each year. As the multiples grow older, they themselves, will also have input as to whether or not they should be together.
  • Encourage multiples to choose separate classes and/or other activities as they gain confidence in the school situation.
  • Decisions as to whether or not the children should be together is best made by a “team” approach – the parents, the teachers and the principal. Educators need to realize that parents know their children best and it is important, for an easy transition to school, that a parental opinion be considered.
  • If multiples are in the same classroom due to lack of other classes, they can be in separate settings within the room;
  • The placement of each set of multiples needs to be evaluated on a family by family basis, placement evaluation needs to occur on a annual basis with parents, teachers and principals included in the decision-making. At some point, the children themselves will also have input into the decision.

Some Additional Considerations

  1. If your children look a lot alike or very similarly, dress them differently to make it easier for both teachers and peers to easily identify them. Different hair cuts or styles for girls can help too;
  2. Avoid referring to them as “the twins” or “the triplets” as this labels and reinforces them as a group and encourages the public to see them as such rather than the individuals they are;
  3. For parent/teacher interviews, make sure each child is described in comparison with their peers and not solely as compared to each other;
  4. If possible, scheduling parent/child interviews separately can be helpful in allowing you to focus on each child individually;
  5. Be a positive voice for your children and recognize their individual strengths as well as what may make the situation more challenging vis-à-vis them being multiples.

Pat Preedy (UK) provides this important note for Parents: “The critical thing is developing “mature dependence” which needs to begin as soon as the children are born. For multiples who are mature dependents, it actually doesn’t matter whether they are together or apart – they function as individuals and enjoy being a multiple.”

Sources

  • Multiples in School , Multiple Births Canada, Revised 1999
  • Placement of Multiple Birth Children in School , A Guide for Educators, National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc., 1991

Additional Resources

Multiples in School Support Kit, Multiple Births Canada www.multiplebirthscanada.org

Website

www.twinsandmultiples.org, Educational Web Site for Multiples in School, Pat Preedy, M.Ed., B.Ed. (UK) and Professor David Hay (Australia)

Books

  • Parenting School-Age Twins and Multiples , Christina Baglivi Tinglof, 2007
  • The Joy of Twins by Pamela Patrick Novotny, 1988
  • Twins, Triplets, and More , Elizabeth M. Bryan, 1992
  • The Art of Parenting Twins , Patricia Maxwell Malmstrom and Janet Poland, 1999

 

Multiples in School: A Guide for Educators

Parents of twins, triplets or more face a challenge as their children begin school: should they be together or separated?

Some schools have a policy based on the separation of multiples. Such a policy doesn’t allow for input from the parents nor the children themselves. Not all multiples want to be together and some do well together and need to be able to at least catch a glimpse of their co-multiple across the room to be the best they can be. The important thing is for them to develop “mature dependence.”

In order to assist Educators, the following offers a brief overview of both points of view, i.e. together or separate, and provides additional research material at the end of the article.

Reasons for Separation

While there is no substantial evidence to support the policy of separation in order for each child to grow and develop as individuals, sometimes circumstances exist which would indicate that separation is advisable. It is helpful to recognize that some behaviours may be an issue one year and not the next.

  • Their constant “togetherness” is hindering the development of social skills in one, both or all;
  • A “division of labour” exists;
  • Insensitive comparisons by others have led to feelings of inadequacy in at least one multiple;
  • A child’s problems are attributed to the fact that he is a multiple;
  • The multiples form a “power unit” causing disruptive behaviour;
  • Multiples exploit their multipleship to cheat or play tricks;
  • One multiple appears to resent the lack of privacy resulting from sharing a classroom;
  • One multiple proves to be a constant distraction to the other(s);
  • There is (excessive) competitiveness between the multiples;
  • In opposite-sex multiples, the female is overprotective of her male co-multiple(s);
  • In skill grouped classroom activities where the abilities of one multiple are above that of his co-multiple(s);
  • The multiples WANT to be separated.

Reasons for Not Separating

  • Major emotional upheavals have occurred within the family – i.e. death, divorce, move, new siblings, etc.
  • Only one classroom is available;
  • Unequal education due to different teaching styles of the educators;
  • Multiples are at or near the same skill levels in a skill-based classroom;
  • The multiples do NOT want to be separated. Forced separation, with all of the other “firsts” children face, especially in their first year of school, can add undue stress, regression and affect self-esteem.
  • Separation in the first year of school should not be an automatic decision. The added stress of separation with all of the other firsts (e.g. leaving Mom, rules, increased noise levels, schedules, new friends, etc.) might actually reinforce their need to be together.
  • Allow multiples as much independence as they are ready to handle. They flourish when allowed to separate on their own timetable.
  • Encourage them to choose separate classes as they gain confidence in the school situation.

Tips for Teachers of Multiples

  • Encourage them to sit apart for different class activities if they are in the same classroom. This assists you in identifying who’s who and discourages them from completing each other’s work;
  • Look for differences in the multiples, not sameness, e.g. voice differences, left/right handed, birthmarks, hair growth. Being able to address each multiple by their individual name, assists them in recognizing that they are individuals;
  • Refer to each child by their own name. This helps you identify each child and sets a good example for their peers to also address them individually;
  • Expect differences in test scores, neatness, behaviour but don’t be surprised if they are very similar;
  • Avoid insensitive comparisons, e.g. “You are not doing as well as your twin.” This sets up both multiples to have poor self-esteem;
  • For parent/teacher interviews, compare each child to their peer group and not to each other;
  • if you are having difficulty in telling the children apart ask the parents to dress them differently. This helps everyone recognize their individuality.
  • If one multiple (especially monozygotic [identical] multiples) is markedly behind his co-multiple, investigate the cause:
    1. Check to make sure that each multiple is doing his/her own work.
    2. Plan a conference with the parents to explore the situation.
    3. Don’t rule out the possibility of a learning disability in one of the multiples.

Recommendations Regarding School Placement

It is best if each set of multiples is evaluated each year to ascertain which is the best situation for them, i.e. together or apart. The final decision as to which it will be needs to be made by the parents, the teacher, the principal and at some stage, the children themselves.

Compiled and adapted from “ Placement of Multiple Birth Children in School, A Guide for Educators” a publication of National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc., 1991

Additional Resources

Multiples in School , booklet by Multiple Births Canada,www.multiplebirthscanada.org
Multiples in School Support Kit by Multiple Births Canada http://www.multiplebirthscanada.org
Twinline Services, “ Twins in School: Together or Apart”, Berkeley, CA, 1983

Website

www.twinsandmultiples.org, Educational Web Site for Multiples in School, Pat Preedy, Ph.D., M.Ed., B.Ed. (UK) and Professor David Hay (Australia)

Books

  • Parenting School-Age Twins and Multiples , Christina Baglivi Tinglof, 2007
  • The Joy of Twins , Pamela Patrick Novotny, 1988
  • Twins, Triplets and More , Elizabeth M. Bryan, 1992
  • The Art of Parenting Twins , Patricia Maxwell Malmstrom and Janet Poland, 1999