Saturday 7 September 2013

Oh No! Your Two-Year-Old Isn't Talking!

 Have you ever known someone who has a lot of training and/or experience in one subject, and they therefore think that they know everything about that subject, especially in regards to, oh, say, your child? And they make you feel like your child is constantly under scrutiny, and that if you don’t analyse and correct every issue, your child will be horribly delayed for life?

My mom has some training in learning disabilities, and she has a ton of work experience with children who have learning disabilities. Ninety percent of this training and experience occurred after I was a kid, so I didn’t have to bear under a constant scrutiny for developmental issues (thank goodness).

No, I get the “Hindsight is 20/20” version. In other words, since I didn’t crawl in the traditional fashion—I was more of a bum scooter—we know that my brain didn’t develop properly. I’m not actually sure exactly how I was developmentally delayed as a child, (maybe I would have been a star athlete instead of a bookworm?) but for sure I should have crawled, apparently, and my mom still beats herself up for not knowing that she should have been making me crawl instead of scooting around on my bum. I don’t know—my bum probably had more padding than my knees did. . . .

My kids, however, are fair game for the constant analysis, and just the other day I was reminded of how true this is.

Kid #1 has always been a shy guy, and Hubby and I can always tell when he isn’t feeling very confident about something. He was especially unconfident about Talking. He started to talk right On Time developmentally, but at some point he decided that animal sounds were a way cooler way of identifying animals, and he also decided that consonants were for the birds, thank you very much. Vowel sounds were in, in a big way.

So, time went on and he’d pick up a few more words here and there, but more importantly (to us, anyway) he could understand everything we said. And I mean everything. He could even follow complex, multi-step directions. He laughed and played with other kids, so he definitely wasn’t anti-social. He’s known his colours, numbers and letters since he was two, etcetera, etcetera. You get the point.

At about two-and-a-half, K1 was still not talking like other kids his age, but he was definitely communicating. Hubby and I could see that he wanted to talk, and we knew (and were told by a friend) that once he started talking, he’d be doing so in complete sentences. But, we could also tell that he just needed a bit more confidence in himself to make it happen, and while we supported and encouraged him to talk, we weren’t about to force him to do it (which would probably have shut him down completely).

At this point my mom started subtly suggesting to us on a regular basis that we should get him a referral to a speech therapist. The daycare lady began doing the same thing. Subtle was daily “discussions,” flyers on normal speech development sent home in the backpack, and notes left on the counter with the contact info for the Local Government Agency in Charge of Speech Therapy.

The pressure put on us became rather annoying, so a couple of weeks before Christmas I called for a referral, and we got an appointment set up for the end of January. By the time December and January rolled by, K2 started Talking a bit more. His confidence went up. He started Talking even more. Every day his word count climbed.

I still went to the appointment, and I will admit that I don’t regret going. I learned three important things.

1. Ultimately, my husband and I didn’t have too much to worry about. Go figure.

2. I did learn a great tip: during play, the car doesn’t go down the racetrack until the kid says “go!” for example. After they figure out that they have to say the play-trigger word, they’ll do it. This really got him Talking. In fact, by the time the therapist called for the one-month check-up, she was amazed by his progress. It was like he’d never needed to go.

3. I also learned where Hubby and I made our biggest mistake: we don’t baby talk. IE, instead of saying, “Baby crying” in a sing-song voice, we would say, “The baby is crying” in a normal voice. Apparently baby is easier for babies to copy.

You know how we talk to K2? The same way we talked to K1 when he was a baby.

You know why? Now, you can’t get K1 to shut the hell up! And, he asks some pretty good questions, and your answers will invariably lead to more questions, and he can even solve your puzzle for you:

            (Driving behind a dump truck)
            K1: Where is that dump truck going?
            Me: I don’t know.
            K1: But where is he going?
            Me: I don’t know.
            K1: Why not?
            Me: I just don’t know where he’s going.
            K1: But where is he going?
            Me: I don’t know. I can’t ask him.
            K1: Why can’t you ask him?
            Me: Because I can’t talk to the driver.
            K1: Why can’t you talk to the driver?
            Me: Because he can’t hear me.
            K1: Why can’t he not hear you?
            Me: (Enter some long, convoluted babbling on my part while my sleep-deprived/fogged up brain tried to explain this in a way that a three-year old could understand.)
            K1: But you have a phone in here. (Solution!)
            Me: (Reaching over to turn up the volume on the stereo) but I don’t know his number. (This led to a conversation about how I didn’t know who the driver was, and therefore didn’t know his number (“Maybe it’s eight!”) to call him. . . .)

I mean seriously, he doesn’t shut up unless he’s sleeping.

Sure, there are still a few words that you have to get him to repeat a couple of times before the context of the sentence helps you decipher what he’s said—some sounds are still a bit difficult for him, but generally he can talk so well that even strangers can understand everything he says.

This brings us back to the other day.

Mom was in the kitchen and K1 was talking to her. After a bit she says (and still within his hearing), “He’s still a bit delayed with his talking, hey? There are still some sounds he can’t say well.”

I took three good breaths before replying, “Mom, that’s normal. The speech therapist said that there are some sounds that kids don’t master until they’re in school even, like ‘F’.” (Our doctor said the same thing, but I didn’t think that his non-specialist viewpoint would have been appreciated, so I didn’t mention it.)

“Oh, yeah, ‘F’, and ‘R’ and ‘L’, too, are really hard. They’re the last ones, I guess,” she replied back. “I guess he comes by it honestly, if his dad and his grandpa didn’t start talking until they were three,” she said. (This statement would be true of his Talking in general, but not so much for the sounds themselves—see below.)

“Yeah, and really, he can put together sentences that I don’t ever hear coming from four-year-olds, so I’m really not worried about it at all,” I said. I could see some wheels turning in her head, still, and I wanted to tell her to back the fuck off, but I didn’t want to start our day off by making her cry, so I kept my mouth shut. Thankfully, so did she.

Later on I went online and I found a chart that lays out all of the average milestones for Speech Sound Development. Some sounds aren’t mastered until kids are eight. That’s grade three. That’s five years from now. K2 is having no problems with his Speech Sound Development, thank you very much.

I printed off a copy of the chart, and I’m going to give it to her, and I think that I’m going to have a conversation with her because she’s been analysing K2 on his development, too, but that’s another story for another day.

Talk on, folks. Talk on.

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