Helping and Encouraging Your Late-Talking ChildMay 7, 2006 Write an essay on this topic.
Popular Products in BooksThe Bottom Line Utilizing early intervention services can be a great blessing for you and your late-talking child.
My daughter turns four this summer, and is becoming quite a chatterbox. I guess lots mothers could probably say the same thing, but I doubt all of them would be wearing the same big smile Im wearing as I write this. It still amazes and blesses me that I have reached a place where I sometimes have to tell my daughter to be quiet or not interrupt. (Okay, I have days when it exasperates me too, but Im still blessed.)
Thats because my daughter was whats known as a late-talker. Very late. Up until just over a year ago, she hardly spoke at all and very rarely made any sounds. She had babbled some as an infant, though I dont know if it was a normal amount or not (shes my first and only child) and at around the age of a year, spoke a handful of words or partial words (like Da for Daddy and dock for sock). Somewhere between a year and eighteen months, she simply stopped talking for no discernable reason that we could see. It happened so gradually that we hardly noticed. Lots of people kept telling us how theyd been late talkers, or a sibling had been a late talker; I learned that my own dad had not talked much until he was about eighteen months old. So we decided to not worry excessively and just let her move at her own pace.
That was all right for a while, but by the time she had her two year old check-up at the pediatrician, right before her second birthday, we were starting to get seriously alarmed. We hadnt been passive parents when it came to encouraging our child with language. Both my husband and I are writers; books and words are important to us. We had surrounded her since birth (well, before really) with good books. We read to her, talked to her, sang to her a lot. We tried hard to not speak for her (as many well-meaning friends and acquaintances kept insisting we must be doing, not knowing they were frustrating me to inward tears) and were enthusiastic whenever she did make an attempt to communicate. Long before we ever sensed there was a language delay, we had begun to teach her some baby sign language because wed read up on how sign language could encourage speech. By the time she was two, she used four or five signs regularly (like thank you and more) but spoke no words at all regularly.
So when our pediatrician suggested that we have her checked by a developmentalist at our local childrens hospital, we agreed. We were scared, but we also knew we needed to be pro-active about our daughters health and well-being. Shes a bright child. More and more, she clearly wanted to communicate but for some reason couldnt seem to. Her inability to use verbal language was starting to frustrate her; she began exhibiting some tantruming behavior that seemed directly related to that frustration. Frankly it was time we got some advice.
Seeing the developmentalist was intimidating at first, but so helpful in the end. No diagnosis was made based on the two hour observation period, other than the diagnosis of significant speech delay for unknown reasons. Yes, wed known that going in, but it was a relief to hear it from someone else, and (to be honest) to hear it affirmed by a professional that we had been doing a lot of things right in trying to encourage her speech. We did have some new concerns when we left the office, mostly because, based on a few other behaviors our daughter exhibited, the developmentalist wouldnt positively rule out a more pervasive developmental problem on the mild end of the autism spectrum. But at least now we were armed with some possibilities for what might be going on with her. Better yet, we were armed with the names of some resources and groups in our county who could help us by further evaluating our daughter.
Our story has a happy ending though I put ending in quotes because my little one is still learning and growing each day! Based on evaluations, we were able to receive free early intervention services from our county. For many months between her second and third birthday, our daughter received weekly in-home visits from a developmentalist and a speech language pathologist, who came on different days. They were FANTASTIC with her. I cannot tell you how blessed we all were by their presence not only their expertise, but their love and care and patience. My daughter looked forward to their coming each week and cried if a visit had to be postponed. They were wonderful at keeping things fun and playful after all, most of the work children need to do as they grow and develop really unfolds through play. Best of all, they supported us in our work with our child, providing information for us about her challenges, giving us ideas and exercises to work on during the rest of the week. Before we got enrolled in early intervention, Id felt like I was at the end of my rope, completely out of ideas about what to do next. After 6 months, we had all grown and learned so much.
It didnt happen overnight. My daughter still had months of no talking. She built her sign language repertoire to about 40 words before she really began talking in earnest. When it finally happened at the age of 2 years and 9 months, her language acquisition seemed almost explosive. I tried to keep up with her burgeoning vocabulary (Id been keeping a journal on her communication progress) but after a while she was adding so many new words and phrases per day that I couldnt keep up. Even after she began talking, certain words and sounds were difficult for her (and still are she still sees an SLP regularly). But the impasse had been broken, and shed found new freedom in communicating. Thank you, Lord!
We never really did get a diagnosis. In our case, we decided not to push too hard to find one, especially since everyone who saw our little girl professionally kept telling us that whatever she might have was atypical. I still think its likely that she has a form of apraxia, but were doing all we can in the way of services and help for her right now thats possible, and in our particular case we havent need a diagnosis to do that. In other situations, however, I can see how a diagnosis might be necessary and helpful in getting services you need.
No two children are exactly alike in their growth patterns, temperament and challenges. But based on our experience, which Ive only recounted briefly here, I do feel I have a few words of advice to share if youre the parent of a late-talking child.
Dont be embarrassed to get help or feel youre being an excessive worrier. Especially if this is your first child, a lot of people will pooh-pooh you and tell you to relax and not worry, that your child is just marching to her own rhythm, etc. That very well may be the case. But it may not. If youre uncomfortable with your childs lack of speech by the time he or she is eighteen months old, then its worth consulting your pediatrician. Dont worry if your friends and relative think youre being a worrywart. Its worth checking. In our case, we gave it a bit of time between eighteen months and two years to see if something would begin to happen. When it didnt, we knew it was time to really seek some further professional guidance.
Dont believe it when people tell you that using sign language will hinder speech development. Its simply not true. In fact, its quite the reverse.
Don't rule out the possibility that your child might have a hearing problem. Even a slight or partial hearing loss can affect a child's ability to imitate speech. Once we realized there was a problem, we had our daughter go through full testing with a children's audiologist. Since she tested just fine for a full range of hearing, we knew her challenges were rooted in something else.
Enroll your child in early intervention services as soon as you can, preferably no later than the childs second birthday. Such services are often available free through county services. Its easy to put this decision off in the name of hoping you wont have to. But you know what? Its not going to hurt your child to play some learning games with a developmentalist or a speech therapist, and in fact it just might help. If it turns out that your little one really was just a late-talker or a bit slower than expected in some developmental area, then youll find that out soon because theyll quickly catch up. You might not need the services for long. If it turns out that your child has a serious or more pervasive developmental problem, the sooner its identified the more likely they (and you) will get needed help and encouragement. I remember realizing, before our daughter turned three, that it felt as though we had a team of people cheering her on. We did. What a good feeling, and what a truly necessary help if your child does have some serious delays.
Remember you know your child best and youre her best teacher. It sounds silly, but its important that you get involved in the process of helping your child acquire language skills. Watch the professionals when they work with her. Ask questions about how you can work with her yourself when theyre not there. Play games with her, read to her, talk to her, and listen to her carefully even when shes just making noises and not really talking yet. Keep a journal of her progress.
Educate yourself! Read articles and books. Theres a wealth of online information out there, including forums for discussion and encouragement amongst the parents of other children with speech delays (and speech disorders). Educating yourself is also the best way to learn the jargon of the specialists. It can feel fairly intimidating to hear certain words and acronyms thrown around when you dont know what they mean. Read, but also dont hesitate to ask questions. As you strive to build a team of caring people (friends and extended family as well as professionals) who can encourage your child in her efforts to learn to talk, remember you and your spouse are the head of that team. Educating yourself can also provide information on some other avenues you may want to explore to help your child, such as nutritional supplements.
Make sure you have at least one trusted friend or family member you can just talk to (and cry with) about your worries, concerns and hopes. It meant so much to us to know other people cared. It especially meant a lot to us to know that others in our church and among family and friends were praying for our daughter. We used to ask people to join us in praying a slightly revised version of this verse from the Psalms: Lord, open her lips that her mouth may proclaim your praise.
Im so thankful that prayer has been answered!
This has been an entry in mmcphee's advice write-off
|Read all comments (11)|Write your own comment|