Over the next several days, many of us will attend holiday gatherings with family and friends. Having conversations is an important social skill that contributes to our ability to participate in and enjoy our interactions with others. The list below shares tips for supporting individuals with Down syndrome in having conversations at holiday gatherings.
1. Discuss who will be at the gathering.
In the days leading up to the gathering, discuss the names of people on the guest list and the person with Down syndrome's relationship to the guests. It may help to look at pictures of the guests.
2. Make a list of topics to talk about.
Help the person with Down syndrome brainstorm topics they feel comfortable talking about or questions they can ask other guests. It may help to identify topics for specific guests (e.g., asking a niece/nephew about a sport they play or asking a cousin about their new job).
Discuss questions that other guests may ask the person with Down syndrome and practice responding to the questions.
3. Review conversation etiquette/rules.
These "rules" may include maintaining eye contact, listening, having good personal space, waiting our turn to speak, and staying on topic. This handout called My Rules for Conversation
shares information about conversation etiquette.
Reinforce the information discussed in #1-3 every day for several days leading up to the gathering.
When you are at gatherings, consider helping your loved one start a conversation by bringing up one of the topics from the list they brainstormed and modeling a slower pace of conversation for the participants by giving your loved one plenty of time to respond. It also may be helpful to remind your loved one that they can step away and take a break if they are feeling overwhelmed.