Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hope and the future

I am really not sure what the future holds for Matt. I have learnt not to dwell on it too much as so far each stage of his life has turned out different from what I expected. And mostly in wonderful ways...exceeding my hopes for Matt.

Click here to read a news article about a teenager who has RTS. It is a story of how he has found his place in his school community and... well go read it I won't spoil the endig.

It gives me hope.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Matt in concert

Matt's last play group day ended with a marvelous concert where the kids sang some of their favourite songs. Matt was in his element with all the music and movement.

It was heart-warming to see Matt totally absorbed in the songs, doing all the actions and loving every minute. You can see he understands the words and meaning of the songs. He really has come a long way when I think back to last years concert.

Singing the Barney song, and Matt looks at his mom as he signs the HUG FROM ME TO YOU! Precious!

Matt's favourite song was where he got to play his drum. And boy did he beat that drum! The song had different sections where different instruments are supposed to play..the shaker, the wood block and the drum. Matt couldn't contain himself to just play the drum when it was the drums turn, no he played his drum during all the parts.

I don't often post videos as they take so loooong to upload. But I had to share this with you... the first is precious because Matt spontaneously introduces the song. My video camera is not the most sophisticated so the sound isn't great, but you can hear him say "hello song",  then he goes on to say "hello, hello, hello say hello"...

I love this next clip because you catch a glimpse of Matt having a little grinning moment with one of his friends. And it is fun to watch him doing all the actions.

We are so proud of our no-longer-little Matt, he has really exceeded all our expectations this year. Also we are so grateful for the play school environment that has allowed him to flourish.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lasting gifts

Raising a child with special needs often feels like one is trapsing through a wilderness, I have mentioned this before, with few well-worn paths, let alone any tarred roads or sign posts. At times it can be rather lonely as few others are journeying through these parts. So when one meets a person who is willing to journey with you for a season, then you are deeply thankful. And when you realise that, in addition to providing great company, they also come equipped with all sorts of tools and knowledge that make the wilderness less scary, then you know you will forever be grateful that this person walked along side you.

Matt's play group teacher, Debbie, is just such person. I knew from the moment I met her - her warm nature, calm presence and compassionate heart - that Matt would do well in her care. Matt has come to adore Debbie, or as he says Bebbie. There has not been one day he has not wanted to go to school. Matt has grown in more ways that I can imagine - from recognising letters, to forming words and talking, to climbing a ladder, to holding a other children's hands during "Here we go around the mulberry bush", to becoming comfortable with sand and all things squidgy, to understanding what it means to say sorry, to saying hello and bye, to loving books, to completing puzzles, to becoming toilet trained, to learning to count, to realising that other kids are ok to play with. Debbie has been a KEY member of the team of people who have sowed into Matt's life. She has completely integrated him into the group of children in her school. He is treated as an equal, his opinion is sought out, he is expected to participate and give just as every other child. But at the same time Debbie has been able to balance the fact that Matt's learning needs are different and she has helped him become the best Matt that he can be.

I am going to miss my chats with Debbie after school. Helping me see what is "just normal kids stuff", and what "is special needs". Advice on anything from potty training, to where to buy a good sun hat. Giving me feedback on Matt - remembering what he did or said that would be of interest to me. Pointing me in the direction of a pre-primary school for Matt and opening doors where she could. Constantly thinking about how best we can help Matt reach his potential.

So it is with great sadness that I said goodbye to her today after Matt's last day at this school. The sorrow I feel shows just how valuable this experience has been. If it were not of such great worth, it would be easy to leave with a simple goodbye.

It is totally for Matt's benefit that we move on from Debbie's playgroup, as much as I would love him to stay there forever, we know that Matt has more learning, growing and exploring to do. Thus our path continues through the wilderness and Debbie will no longer travel alongside us as she has been for the last 18 months. But though we will miss her , I am very conscious of the lasting gifts that she has imparted to Matt and me; gifts that will stay with us for many years.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Matt = Music

There is something about music that Matt is drawn to on a very deep level. Not just one type of music, but a whole variety. Music seems to help Matt consolidate a learning - often he will ask us to make up a song about a topic that he has just learnt about. After being very excited that there were words for dark and light, he looked at us and said SING DARK! This has happened for a number of topics - whether it is about camels, the park, helicopter or drums. Then Lloyd and I have to become very creative about making up song on the spur of the moment. And we are expected to remember the song for when we are requested to sing it again...and again...and again.

His enthusiasm for music and musical instruments has been a great motivator for learning. So we have created a reading book all about Matt's favourite musical instruments - of which there are many.

Currently the musical instrument which brings Matt the greatest joy is the guitar. He knows the difference between an acoustic and electric guitar. He as a toy version of each, and insists that both accompany him to bed every night. He was given a Something Special dvd which incorporates signing and kids with special needs. In one episode the main character Mr Tumble, plays the electric guitar. Well Matt is just brimming with excitement, and will jam along to the music.

The drum also has Matt's deep affections. He can make a drum out of most things - buckets, bowls, hats, lids and more. His birthday present djembe drum is still be best though - and produces such lovely sound if you beat it correctly. Matt tucks it under his arm and will happily drum away for a good half an hour, especially if we play his favourite marimba music in the background.

Matt is drawn to musical instruments like flies to sticky doughnuts. There has been many a Sunday morning when I have frantically searched for Matt after church. He loves disappearing up onto the stage where the guitars and drumkit are left after the worship. His ultimate treat is when he is allowed to sit on the drummer's stool and put some beats together on the BIG drums. In those moments wish I could capture the joy he exudes and store it in a bottle, and sniff on it when I am next feeling low or overwhelmed with life - it would surely revive the most sorrowful soul.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A bush-wacking mama the midst of all my concerns for next year, I must admit, I am not completely overwhelmed. One of the reasons is that I am not beating down raw vegetation to carve down a path in a completely unknown land. There is a path...yes it is a little overgrown, yes the jungle of the unknown and potential problems is dark around me...but there is a path.

This week I met a lady who has been key in creating a path in this part of the jungle where I find myself. Her name is Glenda. Her son Daniel used to go to the same preprimary school where Matt is going next year. Daniel is a remarkable boy who made a deep impression on the staff and children of the school in his time. Daniel also has Down Syndrome. It was because of Glenda's impassioned appeal to the principal that Daniel was given a chance in join the school. It was because of Daniels personality and his mother's care that, not only the principal but one of his teachers, decided engage in further studies around how to include kids with special needs into their school.

So when I knocked on the school door earlier this year, and I saw the principals embracing heart towards Matt...I know that lady that I need to thank for creating this little pathway is Glenda.

Not only a bush-wacking mama who has carved out a place for her boy in a mainstream setting, but a woman of such sensitivity, courage and joy. She came to my house for a cup of tea, and what was initially planned to be a half an hour chat to meet up, turned into a nearly hour and half visit where we shared stories, laughter and tears. I now count her as one of my friends. Someone I can phone for advice or just to rant or to share a story of triumph.

Thank you God for Glenda and for others who have pioneered in the making this world a more embracing place for Matt.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Meet a young lady with RTS

Follow this link to meet April and her sister Rachel who made the video.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Facing the next step...

This week we went to an open day/orientation day at the preprimary school where Matt is going to next year. I did not expect that my emotions would wrap around me so intensely, like a big, wooly winter jacket - slightly suffocating. I am still trying to process all the feelings - yes there was excitement, but there was mostly fear, uncertainty and trepidation. I love the play group where Matt is now, I know his teacher understands him, and genuinely desires to see him become all he can me. Though I know it is totally unrealistic, a part of me wishes that we could just stay there forever.

But with growth, comes change. And change is scary. There are many unknowns - how will Matt really cope in a classroom of 20 plus kids? Will Matt be lost, will he feel lost? Will he be encouraged to reach his full potential or will they expect less from him because he has a "special needs" label? Will the other kids accept him or not?
I guess it is really the great unknown...questions that can't be answered until we get there, that cause the most fear.

Let me focus on what I do know:
1. The principal as an open heart towards childern with special needs: I chose this school for Matt because the principal was so embracing of the idea of inclusion, and her questions about Matt showed such insight.
2. I met Matt's teacher-to-be, and she really does seem like someone that I can work with in helping Matt reach his potential.
3. The principal has assigned one of the teacher assistants to keep a special watch over Matt. I met her and she seems full of life and very excited to be working with Matt.
4. I do have friends, that I trust, who have had kids at the school and recommend it.
5. I know that Matt does enjoy learning and growing, though it is at his pace.

I need to keep these facts in the forefront of my mind. And when I look at them, I see so much in Matt's favour.

Yes I do still have doubts, I wonder if we are expecting too much for Matt by placing him in a main stream school. I wonder if I should have chosen a school that has smaller classes. I wonder...

But then again, sometimes, when I am busy wondering all these thoughts, I wonder if Matt just might do what he has consistently done up until now - surprise me by totally exceeding my expectations!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I've been published!!!! Very exciting. I was commissioned by a national magazine for parents to write about my experience of finding toys for my child who has special needs.

Follow this link to check it out.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Party Time

This year we decided to have a joint birthday party for our boys. It was a big celebration:

A celebration of Nic's life because he could have so easily not have made it through my pregnancy, and now he is a year old

And a celebration of Matt who is 5 years old and makes us so proud as we watch his personality unfold, as we witness him pushing boundaries on expectations.

Here are some pictures of the lovely afternoon 

We were delighted that Matt's RTS sister, Payton and brother, Sam, could join us for part of the celebrations  

My mom having a bonding moment with Payton

And other friends from church and our neighbourhood celebrated with us too.

 Matt has outgrown his being overwhelmed by big crowds and so had lots of fun, playing and eating!

Nic had lots of fun too!

The birthday cake, well actually lots of birthday cupcakes - 1 cupcake for Nic and 5 for Matt.

 Matt needs no help blowing out the candles!

 Thanks to all joined us and made this celebration so very special.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


This year Matt understands that he is 5 years old
He can show us 5 with his hand
And he can say FIVE

It is great to be 5!

Addition to this post: Matt's playgroup teacher also pointed out to me that
Matt can also count to FIVE

Matt turns 5 years old!

Matt loves all sorts of modes of transport. So for his birthday DAY we took him on the train ride to the beach. Matt's excitement levels were really high, and the train was running a little late. It was a bit hard to contain him (and Nic) at the station!

Once the train arrived, Matt become over-awed with wonder.

On the train itself, he was very vocal, MATT SIT ON THE TRAIN and TRAIN GO and TRAIN STOP and other little comments that I can't remember. It was lovely to watch how the adventure inspired lots of words.

Our desitation was a quaint fishing village, known as Kalk Bay. First we stopped to get some energy-boosting snack for the walk ahead  There is nothing like the nourishment of ice cream on a hot day. 

Nic's first taste of the cold stuff - to say he loved it is an understatement!

Then a walk down to the harbour. Matt walked a fair distance, and then enjoyed the comfort of Dad's shoulders for the last bit.

So much to see in the colourful harbour. Matt is currently as fascinated with boats as he is with trains - so he was thrilled to watch the comings and goings of the vessels.

And then off to the beach. Grandpa joined us for most of the trip, though he only features in this photo.

Matt and Nic get stuck into some serious sand play!

And then home again on the train - much to Matt's delight.

Where have we been?

We have not been blogging, that's for sure. We have been celebrating birthdays with all the time-consuming, yet joyful preparations that accompany such events. We have been trying struggling with limping, and then dying laptops. We have been grapping to get all our old devices - like camera's, printers, internet connections - to make friends with and collaborate with our new laptop. We have been fundraising for our church's HIV ministry. So we have not been blogging.

But we are now watch this space. Starting off we will show you the highlights of Matt's 5th birthday.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Herding Cats

Another blogging mom mentioned a while back that getting her three kids ready to get out the house was like herding cats. I feel like that every time we have to get Matt to a therapy session. Unlike visiting friends where it is acceptable to be 10 minutes late, one really can't afford to be late for a therapy session. So this adds pressure to the preparation process . I often chuckle at the chaos that needs to be brought under control in order to get both boys out the door and into the car. Herding cats is a brilliant metaphor.

Today was no different. Matt's session was due to start at 1pm. We had to leave at 12.45 to make it in time.

11.50 Matt is dressed ready to go and Nic is woken from his nap so that both boys can have enough time to eat lunch.

12.00 Nic's nappy is changed and dressed ready to go.

12.05 Both boys are eating lunch. Mom smiles contently - all is going according to plan. We can have a leisurely lunch as all we need to do after lunch is wipe faces, and a quick toilet visit for Matt, and then out the door. The travel bag is already packed with extra change of clothes for both boys, nappies, wipes, snacks and entertainment for Nic.

12.25 Lunch finished. Mom very chuffed - we are on target.

12.26 Nic's sippy cup is not screwed on properly so most of his juice pours out whilst he drinks. Change of clothes required.

12.28 Mom races with Nic upstairs to put on new clothes. This job should never be undertaken by one person alone as Nic despises dressing and is an excellent escape artist. But what can you do when you are alone - so Mom get focussed on maximum entertainment to distract him whilst changing his clothes. A mildly successful tactic, which means we take 8 minutes instead of 10 minutes to complete the task.

12.30 Whilst Mom and Nic are upstairs Matt decides to undress too and starts playing drums with his drumsticks on the laundry bucket.

12.36 Mom returns downstairs to find she now needs to dress Matt again, only Matt wants to play the drums.

12.37 Mom tries to dress Matt, Matt continues to play drums. Nic also wants to play drums.

12.39 Matt almost plays drums on Nic's head, Mom grabs Matt's arm to prevent damage to Nic's skull. Matt angry with Mom's restraint and tries to bite mom.

12.40 Mom yanks arm away in self defence whilst yelling at Matt, losing a bit of control. Matt starts crying.

12.41 Mom tries to calm Matt and finish dressing him whilst keeping Nic at arm's length. All the while explaining that hitting Nic and biting Mom is not acceptable behaviour.

12.43 Matt is dressed.

12.44 Mom helps Matt go to the toilet. Mom is a little concerned that Nic is being so quiet.

12.45 Toilet business finished. Mom sees Nic playing nicely in the lounge. Relieved.

12.46 Matt wants to take his drumsticks in the car. Fine, Mom agrees.
Matt wants to take the very large laundry basket into car too. Not fine, Mom disagrees.
Negotiation takes place.

12.47 Matt agrees to taking a small tin along in place of the large laundry basket - it can also be used as a drum. Nic has now disappeared.

12.48 Mom finds Nic - he is eating our pets' food in the kitchen. Mom picks up Nic removing the pellets from his mouth.

12.49 Mom ushers Matt outside the front door whilst holding Nic.

12.55 The cats have been successfully been herded into their car seats. Whew! Ok 5 minutes to get there, dang we are gonna be late.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My face is all better now...

It was less than a month since my swing broke. Now I'm all better.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A drag??

What is it about independence that makes most of us crave it and chase after it?

What is it about dependence that freaks us out and that most of us want to avoid at all costs?

Much of society is built upon this. Retirement policies - so that you don't have to rely on your children to look after you when you are old. Disability policies - so that you don't become a burden to your family members should you lose you become disabled. You hear people say "I really don't want to impose!" using this as an excuse to not ask for help. It is considered a compliment if someone says "that woman is strong and independent" - in fact many strive to become this; looking down on those who cannot stand on their own two feet. These don't sound that bad really - what is this blog post all about I hear you asking?

I had a conversation last week that really jolted me. I was visiting a professional person regarding an organisation that I am involved with - nothing to do with Matt. I had Matt with me, and he was happily playing on the floor of this man's office. We got to talking about Matt - this man was very interested and had lots of questions. He told me how he had grown up next to a family who had a boy with Down Syndrome who, because of his mother's dedication to his learning, grew up to be able to live by himself. He made some comment about how great it was that this boy "wasn't a drag on someone" as if this had to be avoided at all costs.

Is it really the worst thing to have to care for someone else? Is it really the worst thing if you can't do every thing yourself? Is it?

For me sometimes the opposite can be worse - being so independent that you never need anyone, that you feel in control and impenetrable that you don't let anyone see your inner being. That you live behind a wall of strength that never allows others to touch your heart. Alone, independent, but alone.

And aren't we as humans designed in such a way that we feel most alive when we are loving someone, when we are caring for someone, when we feel needed and feel thay we are making a difference in someone elses life. Ironically our society puts independence on such a pedistal, and yet it is our very interdependence that gives our life meaning.

Personally I can't ever imagine feeling that caring for Matt will be a drag. Call me naive, but I love Matt and that is how I feel. Don't get me wrong, I am not holding back on teaching him all that I can - I really do want to him to reach his potential. But this isn't because I want him to be independent so that people won't look down on him. So that people won't think he is a failure or a drag. Rather I want him to reach his potential because then he will be most fulfilled and find his meaning in life.

There have been times during the past 5 years, when Matt's needs have been too big for me to manage on my own. I had to examine my own attitude to independence and 'having it all together'; and the fears I had around asking for help. When I did rely on others - I found three amazing things happen. First, a lot more got achieved than I could possibly have done on my own. Second, my friendship with the person who helped me out deepened in a beautiful way as they saw they were meeting my need. Third, I watched in awe as the person helping me started to shine as they used their gifts, time and talents to bless me. It really didn't seem like a drag at all.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Matt's speech renders parents speechless

Matt is sitting in the bath tonight, playing with a big red toy boat.

He signs MAN
...follows this with a confident spoken SIT
...then a less confident ON (signs it too in case we didn't hear)
...a pause, then THE (whispers this because its a newly acquired spoken word)
...and ends with a triumphant and bold BOAT.


A five word sentence!!!!!

Matt was super chuffed with himself and went on to repeat it once more. Lloyd and I speechless - not because we are surprised by our clever boy, rather the emotion of the moment was particularly overwhelming.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


More more he called & signed as I pushed him on the swing. Big swing he joyfully cried out, meaning that it was going really fast. Matt hardly gets much time in his swing at home these days because Nic tends to crawl in front of it. Nic was asleep then so Matt and I were having some uninterrupted bonding time, and Matt was enjoying his quality swing time.

And that is when it happened, the rope holding the one side of the swing up snapped. In mid-flight. At great speed. Matt toppled over, landing on his head as this swing dragged him backwards. Oh that I could have reached out fast enough to break his fall. The image still haunts me.

I was convinced something would be broken - an arm, a cheek bone, his skull!!!! Matt was screaming! Sometimes being a mom is really hard.

Once we both calmed down, I asked him to move his arms, fingers, toes, neck, head and any other body part I could think of. I was astounded to conclude that, beside the huge bump on his head and the very nasty grazes on his face, he was intact with no serious damage or broken bones.

This all happened yesterday.

Matt seemed in good spirits today. Although a number of times I would here him say & sign - sometimes to me, sometimes to himself - swing broke. When he looked in the mirror he would touch his graze and quietly say sore, swing broke. I think he is trying to process it all. As am I.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Review: Look at Me

If you want to be inspired to rise above the challenges that have been thrown your way...

If you want a fresh new look at people with disabilities...

If you want to be reminded of how we can change perspectives - your own and others...

If you want to be encouraged that you can change how people view those with special needs...

...then you must get your hands the book Look at Me

Marlene le Roux is an activist for disabled women in South Africa. She had a dream to break the stereotypical view that society has of the disabled by publishing a book that showcases disabled women as sensual, sexual, feminine, powerful and creative. She compiled the life stories of 28 women who have a whole variety of disabilities - from being cerbral palsy to being quadraplegic to being blind. A highly experienced photographer took gorgeous photos of each of these women highlighting their womaness above their disability. Each photo is accompanied by the woman telling her life story - such courage, such determination in the face of giant hurdles, such perseverance through trials, and such achievement when many doubted.

It has inspired me to raise Matt to believe that he has a valuable role to play in our world.

It has inspired me to teach him to stand up tall against all the challenges and hurdles that come his way.

It has inspired me to build his inner strength and resilience so that he can truely reach his potential despite the society we live in.

It has inspired me to not be ashamed of his syndrome, to inform and educate all that I meet, and to invite them to see all of what Matt is, rather than all that he isn't.

Potty Update #4

Exciting news: Matt told his teacher at school that he needed to make a poo - he said the word "poo" loud and clear. He sat on his potty and did his thing! First time at school! So proud of him.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Potty Update #3

I can't remember when last I had to clean up dirty poo undies! How cool is that!!!???! Matt has gotten really good at telling us when he wants to make a poo. He loves sitting on his potty. It takes him a while to get the job done - if we ask him if he has finished he is able to firmly tell us that he is not and he wants to sit longer. He is very chuffed with himself after each time he goes - I am so proud of him.

He is able to stay dry as long as we take him to the toilet regularly. He is happy to use toilet in public places now which is such a relief. If we ask him if he wants to wee, he will almost always say no, even if he does. If we forget to take him, he will have an accident. I think he still needs to learn to differentiate between the different sensations. We are not in a rush, we know he will get there. We are thrilled with the progress he has made, and loving that we are totally out of nappies during the day now.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A distraction? Or a signpost?

I stumbled upon this blog by Rachel Held Evans, and was drawn to a post that she wrote - Blessed are the Uncool - in response to very sad incident where a boy with cerebral palsy and his mother were escorted out of a church service because he was making a noise, and was thus too much of a distraction during the worship time. She writes a challenging post about Jesus' response to those deemed by the cool people as "distractions". It is really worth a read if you are interested in God's vision and heart for the church.

There were a couple hundred who commented on this post in particular. It was one lady's story in the comment section that reduced me to tears - for it reminded me that God doesn't value people in the way that our society does; God's love is much bigger than I can imagine; and that God has plans and purposes for Matt is His kingdom that are beyond that which I can plan or hope.

Here is the comment written by a tender-spirited lady called Sara Harding:

"I was a volunteer in my single days at a family camp for those with disabilities. Joni Erickson Tada was speaking and this man named Geoff, who was a head injury survivor kept moaning very loudly, so loudly that it had become a total distraction. You know what she did? She asked that he be brought up on stage. Then they asked him what was wrong. He had been listening to Joni's talk about how God uses broken people to heal a broken world. And he had started crying loudly for this broken world! I cannot express the profound spirit that fell on that place then. Joni prayed with him for our broken world. And his face, his face was all shining! He was looking up through his tears and there was a look on his face I will never forget, and I doubt any who were there will forget it either. I can't even share the story without breaking down, words just can't describe it. So I try to think of that whenever there is a distraction in church by the "uncool." What was accomplished through his tears, through the uniting of everyone in prayer, what strongholds of the enemy were defeated because of a distraction."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


These aren't just funky blue insoles to make Matt's shoes look hip. These insoles have given Matt the gift of stability. He was fitted with them at the end of April and in these last few weeks we have seen a real improvement in Matt's walking, jumping, running, stair-climbing and his general ability to remain upright and not stumble. It has been fun watching him confidently approach steps. He now loves jumping - he will bounce around the house with much laughter. His confidence in running has meant increased enjoyment of ball games with dad.

Matt's orthotist has a very impressive electronic mat that can sense the way in which someone walks. He gets Matt to run over it a couple of times, and then his computer shows exactly how Matt is overstepping on the inside or outside of his foot, and which part of this foot he uses in the different moments of his stride. That way he can create an insole that best supports Matt's foot. In addition the orthotist provides an extensive follow up, making alternations if necessary - each time checking how Matt's feet are working using his electronic mat thing. I am not sure if I explained it all clearly and correctly- but it was really impressive. And it has made such a noticeable difference in Matt's stability.

Thanks to Matt's physio, Pam, who recommended we pursue this for Matt.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Teach reading to teach talking

One of the exciting things that we came across at the RTS Conference was from our short clinc session with a Dutch Speech Therapist who has worked with a number of different RTS kiddies. She has found that there are similarities between RTS and Down syndrome kiddies in terms of learning speech. And therefore techniques to support kids with Down syndrome have proved helpful to RTS kids.

Teaching reading to teach talking is probably the single most effective intervention for helping children with Down syndrome to overcome their learning difficulties. Quote Sue Buckley and Gillian Bird 

From what I understood is that the emphasis should be on helping Matt recognise the whole word, as opposed to first getting to know the letter sounds and then building those up to words. As he learns to recognise and read words, she reckons, his speech will benefit.

This ST recommended that we start a book with Matt where he participates in it's development. On each page we draw a picture that he has expressed interest in, and then write the word below it, as well as a sentence of 3 or 4 words. Basically this will be the level of his understanding, not his expressive language. As he helps create the book, the topics should inspire him and capture his attention. The benefit will come from repeated reading and seeing the words. 

I am still learning the mechanisms and process of how teaching reading supports kids in learning to talk. Here are some useful links on the topic:

We got started right away, even though we were still on our trip. We talked to Matt about what he had seen during the day and created our little "book" out of a note pad. We have since put the pages into a file with some photos prints to add more fun to the story telling. Matt has really taken to it and we read this "book" whenever he wants. I hope to start on a 2nd book - focussing more on his day to day experiences.