"I Love You, Momma" are the most precious words every momma wants to hear from her baby. Today, he said it!!
My baby boy, of four children, has never been a stranger to being accommodated for. His older siblings talk for him, get things for him, run when he says run, jump when he says jump, and get whatever he desires when he points. Our little fellow has never really had to speak for himself.
As a very young baby, I began teaching him basic sign language to encourage communication even before those milestones are even talked about by the pediatrician, as I did with all of our children. At his 12 month appointment, I began to be asked about how many words he knew. He could sign basic needs, "Mom", "Dad", "Please." We continued working on his signing and growing that vocabulary while always speaking to him: asking questions, telling stories, reading books, playing together. By the time he was 18 months old, our pediatrician was beginning to grow more concerned. Sutton had a variety of signed words and a few spoken words. The doctor sited that children should have about 50 words in their vocabulary by this age. 50 WORDS! I was shocked! I didn't know any 18 month olds who had 50 spoken words. Sutton had about 15 signing words and 8 spoken words. I see why the doctor was concerned. We were then referred to our local speak and language organization.
Now, let me begin with Covid 19 was now a BIG time thing and business and restaurants were closed down at this time. Doctors offices and consultations were done one on one or virtually. So, the organization calls and wants to set up a virtual speech and language assessment on my 18 month old. Yep, that's right. VIRTUALLY. Crazy right?? I set up the call and played the game. Three different pathologist spoke with he and I about his communication, gross, and motor skills. It was concluded that his speech was not deficient enough for him to receive services according to the guidelines associated with insurance companies.
Fast forward to 2 years old. We go to the doctor for our routine checkup, and again we have the conversation about Sutton's speech. Since the assessment we had did not help with his speech, the doctor then referred us to a private organization. We again, set up an assessment, but this time it was in person. This pathologist was able to see some deficient, but yet again, it was not significant. Apparently, Sutton's gross and motor skills are advanced which causes his speech to look as if he is lacking in more skills than it actually is. This organization proposed therapy 2 to 3 times a week at a cash payment amount which was more than my house payment.
Speaking with all of these professionals as well as other speech pathologist I personally know, speech therapy with 2 year old consists of playing games, theatrical play, realistic play (Cars, dinosaurs), reading books, and talking a lot. Well, I'm no genius, but I can and have been doing those things. So, we refused services. We decided that we would try a more social path, such as preschool, since he had never been in a setting with age like peers to learn communication skills. Turns out, we began to see some results. We started to hear new sounds and words coming out, babbling in the car, and social cues being used during play. We were pleases, but we still have work to do.
This summer, I have made it my mission to talk as much to him as possible. About EVERYTHING. I narrate my shopping trips, I talk through the bathing process, we play race cars with dinosaurs and ambulances, and demonstrate tongue and lip placement. If this is what I am about to pay a mortgage on, then I am going to try first. We work on his communication, both signing and spoken, intentionally all day long. He is gaining new sounds and words on a regular basis.
Today... today we grew by huge leaps. Today, Sutton mimicked "I LOVE YOU, MOMMA." The most precious words I have ever heard come out of his mouth. Those little, audible, words brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face. He is not saying phrases independently yet, but we know its coming, soon.
I tell this story not to discredit doctors or pathologist or even insurance companies. I don't tell this story to recognize myself in any manner. I tell this story to give praise to my little man who listens to my constantly tell him the same words over and over again and then ask him to repeat them. I want to recognize his hard work. I also want to encourage others who may have children who are struggling with a milestone skill, or just being stubborn, to work intentionally with your child one on one. Even baby steps is still growth.