In December, this next guest and I became pen pals. April and I share a common thread because we are passionate about reading as much on speech development that we can get our hands on. I think ultimately I really connected with her because we have so much in common. Not only are Jake and Alessandra very similar children, but April and I share similar views and believe there is much more to these kids than meets the eye. April has a few years of speech struggles under her belt and I feel that it is vital that experienced moms pave the way for other mothers. Thank you April, for sharing your story with us today …
I have spent the last 3 years trying to understand why my daughter, Alessandra, has speech and language delays. Did I not talk to her enough? Did I not respond to her sounds? (I read somewhere that it doesn’t matter how much you talk to your child, what matters is if you respond to their talking). Did I anticipate her needs too quickly? Did she watch too much tv? Did I not play with her enough? Did she spend too much time alone? Is she a genius? (Einstein was a late talker.) Is there something wrong with her? Will she just outgrow it? Could I be doing more? It’s exhausting!
When Alessandra was about 2.5 years old I started to notice that other kids were talking way more than she was. I know every kid develops at their own rate but those other kids just had so many stories to share! And some of them were even younger than Alessandra. After our playdates, I would be left feeling like something wasn’t quite right. I couldn’t help but worry. However, even without words, Alessandra and I seemed to communicate just fine. I always knew what she wanted or needed.
I had Alessandra tested through our health services and she was diagnosed as being delayed in her speech. The SLP recommended an early education program supported through the education system (we live in Alberta, Canada). Shortly after her 3rd birthday, Alessandra started school, a program designed by a team of teachers, a SLP, an occupational therapist and a physical therapist. I figured she just needed to spend more time with other children. I really expected she would catch up to her peers by the end of the year.
I saw an improvement in her speech that first year but she still only spoke when prompted with a question or to ask for something she needed (juice, milk). Still no stories. So we returned for another year in the program. She was now 4 years old. Amazingly not too far into the school year Alessandra voluntarily told me something on her own: “I eat cake.” I had just picked her up from school and they had celebrated a birthday in the class. I was so excited.
Alessandra is now 5.5 years old and currently in kindergarten, her third year in the program. Next year she will transition into the regular grade 1 class and I think she’s ready for it. Her speech is still delayed but she continues to improve every day. I can understand mostly everything she says, she socializes more, she shares ideas and tells stories. I don’t worry nearly as much as I used to. I think she is going to be fine.
I think the biggest thing I have learned with Alessandra is acceptance. Wow, that was a hard one for me! The scientist in me thought I would just do X, Y, & Z and my daughter would be fixed. I realized that this is just who she is and instead of trying to fix her weaknesses, I started to encourage her strengths. I think this has made a huge difference in her progress and also reduced my own anxiety.
She doesn’t like toys but she is a whiz with technology. I returned all her gadgets that I had taken away that I thought were the reason she wasn’t talking. She even surprised me one day as we were driving to school when she read all the numbers on the city bus in front of us! I had no idea she even knew them (iPad app).
It hasn’t been easy getting here, I’ll admit. There has been a lot of anxiety on my part but Alessandra has taught me that we are who we are. I’ve become a lot more accepting not just with her but with everyone around me.