Speech therapy for the delayed talker: 101
As many of you know, my 29-month-old, Truman, is greatly delayed in speech. Through the MESD, we had him assessed for early intervention at 20 months, then again in August. Because children are assessed for all aspects of development holistically until age three, we didn't qualify for services according to our score cutoffs either time -- but the women we were working with decided to use "judgment" to qualify us anyway at the second appointment. Maybe it was my persistence? Very few parents (I get the impression) make their own referrals for assessment. Or maybe it's just because Truman is so ridiculously cute.
Either way, we're now getting speech therapy once a week. And because you have to be so delayed to qualify, I thought I'd share my homework with you, so those of you with very mildly delayed talkers could join in the services!
Truman clearly understands most words but had a lot of trouble saying consonants that appear at the end of words, and stringing syllables together. So "mama" is "ahhh," "daddy" is "a-dah," "airplane" is "aarrr," "water" is "ahh-raarr." Our therapist sat with us and we found one of Truman's current favorite books, Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever. We started out with him on the floor, as usual, but soon she decided to put him in a chair with the book on his lap, and put me in front of him.
She took away all his distractions, even finding a pillow to put under his feet so his legs would hang comfortably. She encouraged me to wait to say the word for whatever he was pointing to until he looked at me (although not waiting so long that he would get frustrated or angry), and occasionally remind him to look up. Truman drools a lot when he's trying to talk, so she showed me how to press up gently on his lower lip and remind him to "swallow!" and do simple face massage -- rubbing his cheeks with my fingertips -- to inspire him to use his mouth correctly.
He loved the interaction, and we worked on it for more than 20 minutes, ending with the most syllables he's ever put together: a strange but obviously valiant effort at "police car"! (Something like "ppeessscckah", where before he might say "paahh" or "caaaahhrrrr" but not together. Wow!) I felt like a victor. Later that night, he used sign language to ask for "milk" "please" entirely without prompting. This is progress!
Our homework is this: just 10 minutes (or more) a day, to repeat the reading exercise with one of his favorite books, making sure Truman is looking at me when I answer his mostly-wordless questions. I've been working hard on "milk" and "please" and I think my new goal is to add a new word in sign language every day or too.
I'll keep posting every week or two, if you're interested, and I'd love to hear experiences from other mamas and papas who have been through speech therapy, or who have agonized over developmental delays. Can I just say that the bumper sticker I received as part of my package from the MESD -- "Disability is a natural part of the human experience" -- gives me no comfort at all? The thought though, the thought is much appreciated.
I'll also post at some point on the process of going through evaluation for early intervention, as it's a big process that took me a while to navigate.