Liam is 22 months and a bit now. At this age, his older brother was speaking in full sentences and having in depth conversations with us. It seems that since that point he's only expanded his (incredibly massive) vocabulary and refined verb tense usage. Really. That's Xander. But Liam hardly talks at all. There's no happy medium: I have one I cannot get to be quiet and one that I cannot get to talk. Don't talk to be about normal ranges, because I don't have it here.
At 15 months, Liam had no words at all and was screaming in sheer frustration. So I called and got him put on the list for a speech evaluation.
Yes, many people told me that "it will all work out" and "I know a kid who didn't speak until he was three, but then spoke in full sentences and never shut up after that". I know of people like that. I know that there are many cases like that, truly. But the fact of the matter is that any kid who is late to talk has a 50/50 chance. Of late talkers, half are what the speech world calls "late bloomers". They catch on and talk just fine, in time, without intervention. The other half just do NOT.
The trick is that you cannot know which end your kid will end up in. My brother was sent to preschool at 4 to learn to speak, and he had no end of trouble with school. (This also follows, as the kids in the 50% who don't learn on their own are at an astronomical risk for difficulties in school.) Plus, I am a proactive person. Best, I thought, to have him on the list and not need it than to decide later that we do need it and then have to wait.
Turns out that at the time I put Liam on the speech list, it was 9 months until he would get services. At Christmas, they told us it is now 12 months. Astounding. Speech therapy is underfunded and overburdened...obviously.
So he got on the list and had his initial evaluation 4 months later. Not bad. It was determined that he was normal in every way, except expressive speech. These are the easiest kids to "fix", but there is still another 5 months to wait until we can see a therapist. To make up for the gap (he'll be re-evaluated in April and potentially get services then), we have been placed in a program that teaches us the basics of teaching speech. It's called Target Word.
We've been doing Target Word since the end of November. When we started, Liam had 3 words. He now has 17. I counted this morning (I keep a current list). It sounds like Target Word has been successful, right?
I'm not sure. For one thing, I feel like this seminar course is not exactly equipping me to teach speech. I mean, the speech therapists do four years or more of schooling to do this, right? Ray and I get 5 in class sessions and 2 video taping/critiquing sessions (the first one we didn't get to video tape, because Liam had a fit over just going there and taking off his coat, so we didn't manage to get the video going). Don't get me wrong: they have a lot of suggestions and give clear instructions, but I rarely feel like I am doing it right.
Plus, I wonder how many of these words he really understands. Sure, he has said it to us, but is it repetition? Does he understand it? Do I count words he has said once or in one context? I feel lost. And I feel like I am sitting here and waiting for some magical breakthrough that never comes.
Plus, how much of this expanded vocabulary is due to the tactics of Target Word and how much is really just time? I wonder.
And this morning I had a breakdown after the class. (In private, with Ray. Not in the class and with the instructor, mind you.) I told him all of these doubts. He said he thought it was working and had no idea I had doubts. I kind of begged the universe out loud for some sign that this kid was getting something out of this effort.
Because most of all...I just want to be able to talk to my child and have him tell me what is going on in his head too!
Tonight, before dinner, Liam had a bowl of chips. He was sick last week and refused to eat, so our doctor recommended encouraging his eating and increasing his salt intake with chips. A little unorthodox, sure, but he loved them immediately, and unlike the still untouched Pedialyte, it worked. So he kept coming back and wanting more. Pointing to them and holding out his bowl.
Okay, little man, let's work on a word you've used before, but seem to have dumped and use these Target Word tactics.
So I got down with the bag and said, "More chips! More!" as I gave him small portions of chips and made him come back again and again. "More!" Finally, he seemed done, and marched off. Bowl in hand. Not one word uttered.
And was back 3 minutes later, holding out his bowl, pointing to the chips, and finally...."MORE!"
He did it 3 times, before I put them away and caused a temper tantrum. (Dinner was only15 minutes away.)
After dinner, we sat and read (I am not joking) 12 books.
I taught him signs for doggy and flying, since he was interested.
Another opportunity to use another Target Word tactic: instead of charging through, when there are words that you've used over and over again, just pause and wait. Count to five if you have to. As long as they are interested, just pause. It'll probably get to the uncomfortable silence point, so this takes effort and control. I did it. Twice.
And got "woof" and "balloon".
I am still not 100% sure that these methods are working. I still feel woefully inadequate with this task (hey, I didn't have to work to get Xander to talk: I just talked to him and he responded). But they are obviously not hurting.
I'm trying my best, my dear Liam. I'm trying to slow things down and get you involved in conversation. I am trying to pause and give you the room. I am just trying...