When there are no words …

I posted back in December about the toddler’s speech — or, ah, lack thereof — and then kind of never mentioned it again. In the blog world, it got lost in the shuffle of posts about having a little girl, and ruffles and heartburn and whatnot.

But in our real, day-to-day lives, his speech has been something we think about constantly.

He was 18 months then, and he just turned 20 months the other day. He has added some new signs to his ever-growing repetoire of American Sign Language (frog, soother, star, socks, outside, apple) and has started saying a few more words outloud (yes, apple, hug, up, purple, all done).

But he is still nowhere close to where *they* say he *should* be.
And the few, simple words he does say? Are … not even clear.

Yeth (yes)
Pulllpull (purple)
Ah-pullll (apple)
Uhhhh (uh-oh)
Allllldddun (all done)
Ahhhhhhhhp (up)

At his 18-month doctor’s appointment, I shared this list with our family doctor and told him I wanted my son checked for a speech delay. I said that I wasn’t overly concerned and agreed he could just be a “late talker,” but if there WAS a problem, I wanted to know sooner rather than later — and get him help.

Our family doctor admitted the toddler was a bit behind, and — predictably — blamed it on the sign language. There was a definite undertone of “Why would you teach him to sign if he (probably) doesn’t have a hearing problem?” and a little bit of “See! Look what it did!” to the appointment.

I was pissed politely annoyed.
But at least I got a referral to a pediatrician (what I wanted), so I didn’t freak out.

I don’t regret taking the toddler to sign language classes and teaching him to sign. There is no evidence to show signing leads to speech delays. In most cases, the kids actually learn to talk earlier, so I maintain that the toddler was bound to have this issue anyway.

(When we started learning ASL, the toddler had just turned one — and said virtually nothing at all, except “Da-da-da.” I’ve seen babies younger than one say MUCH more than that.)

Sign language was a hit with the toddler — and our whole family — and it gave him the ability to communicate his needs and wants very clearly. He says about 10 words, but can do at least 50 signs. He answers questions by shaking his head no or saying “Yeth.” There’s never a question about what he wants (except for the occassions when his signs are too complicated, and Darling Husband doesn’t know them).

Yes, he might just be a “late talker.” I have heard many, many stories from people who child (especially their male child) did not speak a word until they were three. I totally believe that’s a possibily.

But there is also the possibility that he has a hearing problem. We don’t *think* he does, because he seems to hear just fine. But you never really know until you’re tested, do you?

There is also the possibility that he has an oral or speech problem. Maybe that would explain his strange pronunciations of even the simplest words? It’s almost like he has trouble saying “up,” and “go,” and it doesn’t get much easier than that.

When we saw the pediatrician, he also agreed the toddler’s speech seemed a bit behind, and said it was a good idea to get him checked out. THANK YOU. He made referrals for a hearing test (scheduled for early March) and a speech evaluation (still on the list to be scheduled), so we’re in the waiting mode right now.

This post might come across as very freaked out or helicopter-mother-y, but that is not the way I’m writing it. I’m mostly just grateful we *did* teach the toddler how to sign, so we can easily communicate with him. I often think of how much harder life would be if he couldn’t sign, and yet still had the same limited speech.

I’m looking forward to the hearing and speech appointments so we can finally get some answers. If his hearing and oral functions are all fine, then great — we just wait for him to “suddenly start talking in full sentences” like everyone always says. If there are underlying issues, then we will at least know about them, and can start to deal with them.

It’s this waiting … and wondering … that is hard.

And I would be lying if I said my heart didn’t crack a little bit when I hear other toddlers — sometimes younger ones — yammering away with dozens and dozens of crystal-clear words.

I don’t want my baby to be a genius.
I just don’t want him struggle, and fall so far behind everyone else.

4 Comments on “When there are no words …

  1. I think the most important point of this entire post is that you are listening to your child! You did what any good mother would do: you gave your child a means to communicate, and when his speech didn't seem up-to-par for his age, you asked the doctor and initiated a referral to be sure. It's smart and proactive … the same as you'd do if your child was showing signs of allergies, physical delays, etc.

    Every baby develops so differently … noting specifically how your sweet boy was (running at nine months!) and is (super monkey!) leaps and bounds ahead of every toddler I know in terms of his mobility.

    So many parents out there would either not notice, or deny that their child *might* be having trouble, but you know your son so well that you were on top of it from the second you detected any issue. You should be proud that you are working to teach him everything you can and you always do what you think is right.

    I'm sure your little dude will do great at his appointments!
    xo

  2. I so feel your pain Heather! My little guy is 14 months now and is barely saying anything. He says Mama & Dada and just a couple of days ago said his first attempt at a word – Car – more like “C-uh”. So many things run through your head and worry about if there is something wrong. People are so quick to judge other Moms on what they are doing wrong instead of giving them the support they need to be strong for their child. I think all kids do things on their own time and develop some things early and some things later – this is what creates their own individuality and uniqueness. Your little guy is figuring things out at his own pace and good for you to give him the opportunity to communicate with you! You are a wonderful Mommy who gives her son the most important thing in this world to help him grow….unconditional love. No need to worry – I'm sure this is just his “normal” 🙂
    Vikki

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