One of the key things we were told by our social worker, the two adoption medicine specialists, and in the books we read before we adopted was “TALK ALL THE TIME.” Learning language, as it turns out, is imprinted on us by the language we witness as infants. As a parent mimics our babbles back to us, we begin to understand that by mimicing later, we will learn language. The desire to mimic is imprinted in us by just four or five months of age. Since we brought Happy home at 5 months, there was already a chance he would be ‘behind’ in language when the time to speak came. Even though he was in a great care situation with a pretty low caregiver to child ratio, any parent can attest to the fact that there is far more time to mimic and engage in language play with your first child than when you have more children in your care. The same was true, of course, for Happy’s caregiver.
We learned before we left that we should have any potential resources at a minute’s notice before we came home and so one of the resources we knew about and had ready to call was our county’s child developmental services department. They provide early intervention for children under 3. When it was becoming clear to us that there were a few areas where Happy could use some evaluation, we called them out to do an assessment. Initially, we worked on Happy’s smaller movements– he’s a big movement kid with a lot of power but didn’t have a lot of finesse at first. He made really fast strides there and so we moved on to addressing language issues. As it turns out, the first time Happy was tested for language, he tested 5-6 months behind which makes perfect sense since he arrived home at just over 5 months old. We’re pretty laid back and so the delay wasn’t alarming to us, but Happy was so frustrated with us that we couldn’t always understand what he was communicating (parenting the strong willed child, anyone?) that we felt like speech work might be one way to work through some of his frustration in a positive, productive manner so we decided to go for it rather than just wait and see.
Since March, Happy has been seeing a speech therapist in our home once a week for an hour. We sit at our dining room table (see photo of the way Happy’s speech therapist cracks him up) and, as BF likes to say, “Do work.” Our primary goal was to get him to understand that by mimicing us, he learns how to communicate with us. Happy has always been a talker. He chatters all of the time (the family joke is that when Happy starts talking, there will be no stopping him). But when we would talk to him, he didn’t have a whole lot of interest in copying what we said because he hadn’t yet learned that doing so was his road to language. So the first steps was helping him to understand that we could share language. That first speech session was a doozy, though Happy had some words he used readily, he stonewalled our speech therapist and didn’t say one word. He communicated everything through motion. Since then, he has warmed up to the process and understands that we are happy to reward him with a truck if he’ll just say, “truck please” or whatever else seems to be the bait of choice and he plays along. Seriously, though, his language has really taken off in the last month. There aren’t full sentences yet but lots and lots of nouns and a couple expectations that he can express with great urgency– including, unfortunately, “No, mommy.” It’s been a good process for us and one that has yielded a lot of benefits already.
Happy just arrived saying “Mommy” and then telling me something very complicated and urgent about the placemat in his hand. I think we better go talk it out.