Posts Tagged "speech"

So Much in The Silence

Posted by on Sep 19, 2012 | 0 comments

So Much in The Silence

I was recently reminded that there was a time that my child could not speak.  He could not answer a question, he could not share something that excited him, he could not tell me where it hurt.

That hurt.  A lot.

To know your child is in distress and to not know why, or how to fix it, is the pinnacle of parental frustration and anxiety.

I recall looking at him, two years old, standing in his crib to greet me in the morning, wondering when he’d say “hi, mama!”  Thinking that one day maybe he’d just start speaking in full sentences, having had no need for baby talk.  Not ever, not once, realizing something bigger than a speech delay might be at play in our home.

Any day now.

There is a photo I have of Jack that absolutely breaks my heart every time I see it now.  Now that I “know”.  He was eighteen months old, and not feeling well.  I was taking photos of his pout, because I do things like that.  I have photos of all of my children in various states of anger, sadness, happiness and joy, because I don’t ever want to forget even a second of their lives.

I also want a nice, big arsenal for the teenage years.

The photo is gorgeous.  He was a beautiful child (still is), with rosy cheeks and big, curly blonde hair.

What I didn’t know, is that not only did he not feel well, he actually had strep.  At one o’clock that same evening/morning, David had to rush him to the hospital because his 104-degree fever would not come down, no matter what we tried.

What I didn’t know, is that his throat hurt.  He was in pain, and had been, apparently, for days.  He had been sleeping a lot, but not complaining in any way.

He couldn’t, actually.  He didn’t know how.

That event marked a turning point in our lives, where we went from “Jack is just independent and will speak when he’s ready” to “maybe we should be looking into this a little bit more”.

We spoke with his pediatrician about it at our follow-up visit, and were shushed and placated, and pushed out the door with the advice to not to fret about it.  Lots of kids don’t have language until later.  Start worrying when he’s two and a half.  Almost a year away.

A family member had been through Early Intervention with their child, and suggested we give them a call.  What could it hurt?  It’s free, and maybe they could help.  We went back and forth about whether or not to do it, and finally decided to make the call.  Jack was twenty months.

He was assessed by the full team of not only a speech therapist, but a social worker and occupational therapist within two months, and we were assigned benefits for him within four.  We were overwhelmed with what they had offered: five days a week in a collaborative preschool, home-based speech therapy two hours a week, clinic-based occupational therapy two hours a week, and various other interventions we decided not to pursue.

As I’ve mentioned before, speech therapy “unlocked” him.  Jack was speaking within a month of his therapy, and within a year, he was well on his way to being the chatterbox he is today.

But why the other offerings? Why so much for a little boy who simply had trouble speaking?

As the months went by and the reports started coming in, it all started to make sense.

Actually, that’s not true.  They confused us.  Why would a speech delay cause upper body weakness?  Why were both his fine and gross motor functions being called into question?  Why did there suddenly seem to be so much more to be concerned about, just as he was finding his voice?

Well, we know now.  That story has been told.

Sometimes, though, I need to be reminded of those days.  Sometimes when I’m dying for quiet and my house is just so loud.  Sometimes when Jack is asking endless questions about nebulae and how stars are born and just how big is Jupiter in relation to Betelgeuse anyway, when all I want is to shut off his light so I can go watch TV.

Sometimes, I need to remember that when Jack speaks too much, it’s not a lot different than when he didn’t speak at all.

He is now able to tell me when his throat hurts, or he’s bleeding or he needs some alone time. He can tell me when he’s happy and had a wonderful day and can’t wait for our weekend plans. He can tell me he loves me, which I longed to hear for so, so long.

He cannot, though, tell me that he’s stressed. He cannot tell me when he’s had enough.  He cannot tell me when the lights and sounds and noises and cacophony of the world have pushed him to his very limits.  For those times, it’s still up to me to read his body language.  To try and snap him out of the vacant looks and nonstop pacing. To bring him back.

To heal the little boy with blonde curls and rosy cheeks.

Jack never stops teaching me, even though I sometimes get caught up in the noise myself.  He speaks now, but it’s so important to remember when he could not.  He is still the same child, and he still needs me to guide him.

And, for now, to explain the finer points of the universe.


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You are Me as We are All Together

Posted by on Feb 23, 2011 | 3 comments

You are Me as We are All Together

There is an evolution of language acquisition.  Children learn the parts of speech in fits and starts, usually in the same order as other kids.  So what happens when your child simply doesn’t speak before age two or three, and has to be taught everything, rather than pick it up themselves naturally?  Curious things, I tell you.  Curious things.

As I’ve mentioned before, Jack had only about four words by age two (although looking back at video I can make out a few more that we didn’t pick up on at the time).  Due in large part to the awesome Miss Amanda, speech therapist extraordinaire, he began speaking in earnest not long after his therapy started.

Unlike Jack’s siblings, he had no “baby talk.”  He skipped that part and went straight for the gold.  He had his cute mispronunciations, of course.  One of our all-time favourites is “helicopter,” spoken like a tiny Frenchman as “ell-ee-oh-cop-tayr.”  For the most part, though, he simply picked up what Amanda was putting down, and went with it.

As a self-proclaimed word geek, I loved seeing Jack’s language unfold.  I had always dreamed of having conversations with my child, as every mama does, and for the first time it was happening.   And it was happening in a completely unique way.

Lots of small children confuse proper pronouns and genders and tenses.  English is an extremely difficult language, even if it is your native tongue.  Jack is no exception, although he had to learn the difference in genders through play.  Everyone was a boy for a very long time.  In fact, it was only recently that his favourite train Julia became the girl she was meant to be.

One of the hardest concepts Jack dealt with was with proper pronouns.  He referred to himself as “you” for quite some time, much to the confusion of others.  Having a conversation with him was a convoluted affair, trying to figure out which “you” he meant when.

Jack: “You’re going for a walk.”

Me: “No, *you’re* going for a walk.”

Jack, exasperated: “Yes.  You’re going for a walk.”

You see where this is going.

As he learned, he started putting his own spin on things.  He worked out who exactly “you” was in proper context, and eventually stopped calling women “him.”  He even started naming toys and playthings.

This summer we scored a couple of big car hauler trucks at some rummage sales, and adding in the two smaller ones we had at home, Jack created a car hauler family.  He named them Mom, Dad, and Baby (both of the small ones were named Baby).  Several times I have run from one end of the house to the other after hearing a frantic “Moooommmm!!!” only to find an infant truck in search of its mother.  Repeated pleas to change their names have fallen on deaf ears.

Most of the quirks in Jack’s speech are gone now, as he’s five-and-a-half (what?!?) and on to learning French.  Now he’s mixing both languages as he’s learning, and it’s hard to recall the days when he barely spoke at all.  It’s not something I ever want to forget.

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