Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Three Little Words

Ian says three words: dad, mom, and eat. That is also the order in which he first said them. When he turned 15 months and still hadn't spoken, his pediatrician referred us to a speech class for parents. It met for two hours over four Saturday mornings to try to teach parents to teach their kids to speak. We watched endless Power Point presentations about how to talk to our child so they would be more likely to talk back to us, as if we had never spoken to a child before, let alone been one. We did exercises in pairs, practicing what we'd say to our child and predicting their possible reactions. It was torture. Ian continued to do little more than babble, point, and whine, though his comprehension of what was being said to him was right on par with his age.

At 18 months, Ian left the world of daycare (that whole situation is another story I hope to post someday) and started staying at home with me. I immediately started taking him to the library for story time, and also borrowed every baby sign language DVD they had. We started out watching one 30 minute video every day at the same time mid-morning. When the lady on the TV did the sign, I did the sign too. After we'd watched it a few times, I encouraged Ian to do the signs too, though he was not at all interested. At night, I'd teach Justin the signs I had learned, and we'd purposely use them over and over to each other in front of Ian. We'd say "more please" and "thank you" and "play ball" all evening with the hope Ian would try to mimic us. No luck. He had a system of pointing and whining that was working perfectly well and he was not about to change it up.

The first time Ian did a sign on his own was one of my proudest days as a mom. We were playing in the living room and he pointed to a ball he wanted. I asked him what it was, and when he didn't respond I signed "ball" and said it. Suddenly, he looked down at his hands and watched them as he slowly did the sign for ball. I made a huge deal out of it, praising him and being ecstatic. My positive response spurred him to try more signs, and before long he could do "more", "milk", "please", and "book". By the time we took him to his two year pediatrician visit, he had about ten signs, but still no words. He was referred to speech therapy, and started 45 minute sessions once per week.

Ian's little sister was born this past April, and when he realized she was probably here to stay, I think Ian decided he better step up his game. Though he had around 30 signs in his arsenal, this past May he finally said "dad" out loud. Again, Justin and I made a huge deal about it, so Ian probably said it about 500 times without stopping. "Mom" finally came in July, while he was sitting at the table and I was cooking dinner. I remember crying and laughing while he joyously said it over and over; it was the best sound I think I've ever heard.

We hoped these first words would start a landslide that would lead to sentences by the end of the summer. That hasn't happened so far, but Ian is making so much progress, even though it seems very slow. He can put multiple signs together to form sentences, and is much more willing to try new signs when he's shown how to do them. Having been a very talkative child myself, many people who know me have told me that once Ian starts talking he'll never stop, and then I'll miss those days of quiet. I seriously doubt that, since some days I feel like I'm going crazy with no one to talk to while Justin is at work. I long to have conversations during the daylight hours, even if it is with a three year old.

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