Our middle child Kyler, has been in speech therapy since he was 17-months old. At age six months, I noticed Kyler’s babble was a throaty gargling sound. It didn’t sound like your typical baby gibberish, but since he was so little I didn’t think too much of it and took a wait-and-see approach. Fast-forward to his first birthday, and there were still no words. Fifteen months, nothing. At this point I knew Kyler needed professional help and was referred to our local Small Talk program. Our speech therapist, Sarah has been a tremendous resource for us. Not only has she helped Kyler directly, but has equipped Justin and I with tools to get him talking. She also was able to pinpoint the root cause of his speech delay. In Kyler’s case, his abnormal babble hindered him from developing different sounds, which later prevented him from uttering words. Kyler has since discovered his throaty sounds were a dead-end, has had relearned how to babble and now most exciting- words!
Progress had been slow going up until six weeks ago, where we have since seen so much improvement. He is imitating us, expanding his vocabulary, and communicating verbally daily. While he is still behind and his enunciation can sound like an Ariana Grande song #jokessheisamazing, we are thrilled with his progress! There is no sweeter sound in the world, than his little voice.
Even though Kyler’s delays have been minor compared to the challenges many children face, I have learned a few things. The first thing I have gleaned from this experience is to celebrate your child’s individual progress. While my friend’s two-year old daughter may talk in complete sentences, I can still celebrate Kyler saying “Hi!” As much as possible, I try not to compare him to his peers, but focus on his accomplishments. Secondly, I empathize with the heartbreak that comes when your child struggles. Seeing Kyler’s frustration or having to explain to caregivers and kids his speech issues is painful. While I feel no embarrassment or shame whatsoever, I feel the ache in knowing my little guy is having a harder go. Next, I remind myself that these challenges do not define him as a person, his intelligence or worth whatsoever- or me as a parent. Lastly, these past few weeks have reminded me that he will get there. My father, brother and I all had delayed speech as children and ironically we all use public speaking in our careers. The journey is worth the effort.
Specifically for parents of children with speech delays, the greatest advice I can give is to speak and listen to your child regularly. My husband and I realized that after awhile of Kyler coasting through life with the mute button on, we didn’t really converse with him like we should have. Since he wasn’t speaking, we subconsciously just assumed he didn’t understand us/or wanted to communicate [kind of like when someone gives you the cold shoulder]. Once we became aware of this unintentional tendency, we actively began to engage him. We listened to that babble as intently as if it were a TedTalk and chatted to him all the time despite getting no reply! More than the therapy sessions and at-home exercises, this was the game changer.
For all my fellow parents of kids who struggle- be kind to yourself, patient with your child, ask for help, hustle for results and be encouraged that it all will pay off!
Kyler, we are so proud of you!