First, God created man, then woman, then babies … and a whole lot of stuff in between. A few centuries later, we also learned that it was in His master plan for babies to speak certain sounds first. This fact may be common knowledge to some people, but to me, I never thought twice about it. I didn’t question why a baby’s first words are usually mama, dada, bubba, and bye bye. In fact, I didn’t really question it until my baby didn’t say mama until he was almost three.
In September, four months ago, Jake was tested by our public school system SLP five days before his third birthday. The evaluation revealed that he was talking on a ten-month-old level and the SLP diagnosed him with apraxia. He promptly began public school speech therapy two times a week for thirty minute sessions.
For the first time since we began speech therapy (nine months worth), I started feeling like we were moving in the right direction because the SLP was taking a logical, structured approach. Instead of entering into a world with a bazillion words to learn, we were starting at the beginning.
The SLP’s plan was to focus on the first consonant-vowel combinations that a baby makes and once he had mastered those, we would form words with those basic sounds. Then, of course, we would be ready to move onto the next set of sounds that are more difficult to say.
At this time, I learned that vowels are the easiest sound for babies and children to mimic. In my head, I envisioned cooing and those little squeals that babies make as practice for learning real vowel sounds. Although Jake giggled and smiled a lot as a baby, I don’t remember much cooing and babbling going on.
He was a quiet and agreeable baby who slept and ate well. He was the kind of baby that got a compliment from every mama out there. I read on babycenter.com that a newborn’s first method of communication is crying. Hmm … maybe from the beginning he wasn’t going to be as easy as he first appeared.
Also according to babycenter.com, basic consonants are supposed to enter the speech equation when a baby is 4-6 months old and it is normal to hear them repeating basic consonant-vowel combinations like baba, mama, and dada. Jake is just now learning these first consonant sounds, which are: b, p, h, m, n, w, t, and d.
For two months our public SLP drilled Jake on these consonants paired with each short and long vowel sound. For example: ba,be, bi, bo, bu, pa, pe, pi, po, pu, etc. After he would say a set of sounds, he would take a turn with whatever game they were playing that day.
In September, these sounds were our first step towards beating Jake’s new diagnosis of apraxia, just as today is the first day of a new year.