While I’ve alluded to the fact that The Little Empress is turning out to be slow to speak, I have been a bit hesitant to talk about it openly. The reasons for this are varied but a lot of it comes down to guilt and feeling like I have somehow failed her as a mother. But I realize that hiding and avoiding a situation only tends to aggravate worry than alleviate it. Rather than worry in private, I figure that it is time to start talking about it and document what steps we will be taking to help TLE overcome it.
The Little Empress had begun to babble pretty early on in infancy and I was always sure that her first word was just around the corner. By 12 months she still had not uttered her first word but I was not worried — surely it was coming soon. But when her 18 month birthday slipped by without “Mama” or “Dada”, I began to get concerned. At her well child check at 18 months, our family doctor wasn’t particularly worried as TLE was obviously alert, curious and capable of understanding what was going on around her.
By about 22 months old, TLE’s had developed a small vocabulary, main filled with simple, two syllable words and a few garbled phrases. Though I’d promised myself that I wouldn’t gauge TLE’s development by comparing her to other children her age, I double checked her development against widely accepted milestones for her age. By my unprofessional estimates, her vocabulary was behind though her comprehension was about where it should be. I asked around online, seeking advice from other Moms. Several Moms advised me to look into early intervention programs through the county. After doing some research online, I found the early intervention specialists in our area.
The setup process took nearly a month from the time I first called to when I finally got an appointment for an evaluation for The Little Empress. The evaluators came to our house today to meet with The Little Empress and to ask me a few questions. They did their interview with me and also played with TLE to evaluate her on several different developmental aspects.
The good news is that TLE’s motor skills are either on target or advanced for her age. Not bad! Her cognitive skills and language comprehension are also on target.
The not so good news is that her social and expressive language skills are delayed. Though she will be celebrating her 2nd birthday next week, she is communicating at the level of a 15 month old. The therapists that evaluated TLE are recommending that she receive group speech therapy to help with both at the same time. The next step will be for the case manager to get back with me to schedule therapy for TLE. Luckily, all the therapy will be covered by the early intervention program.
There was a part of me that wanted to take a further “wait and see” approach to see whether or not she would simply grow out of it. I am feeling a bit relieved and damned glad that I listened to the advice I got to have her evaluated since now I have two professional evaluations on her development rather than my own internet diagnosis.
After they gave me their evaluations, they asked if I had any questions. And I did: Is it my fault for not being more of a talker? I explained that I am a writer; my love is for the written word rather than the spoken. The speech therapist was quick to reassure me that some kids just have language delays for a myriad of reasons and that it isn’t my fault.
As irrational as it may be and despite the reassurances, this was one of my fears coming true. I am an introvert by nature. I don’t make small talk. I keep to myself. I have always worried that my inclination towards silence would be a detriment to TLE. I don’t naturally make small talk. (And when I do, the result is often clumsy at best, embarrassing at worst.) I could spend hours if not days in contented silence, communicating through writing rather than speech. There have been times that I have wondered if I am doing her a disservice by not putting her in daycare, where she would have the opportunity to socialize with other children and perhaps more extroverted adults.
Could I have changed anything in the way that I have raised her so far? Did I not speak to her enough in the womb? Should I have been reading her books from the time she was in utero, as so many pregnant moms gush about? Should I have force-read to her more often when she seemed disinterested? Was it a mistake to turn on the television at all? Were the more games we could have played to encourage her vocabulary? Have I ruined my child forever because Mommy doesn’t sing nursery rhymes?
Granted, I’m probably overanalyzing the situation as I am prone to do. And furthermore, what’s done is done. I have to remind myself that speech delays are common, are not indicative of intelligence and that my daughter is by no means ruined. Quite the contrary, TLE is a happy, vivacious, little thing with a zeal for exploration and adventure. By letting my fatalistic thought process take over, I will only drive myself crazy which won’t help her learn words to express herself.
In the meantime, the speech therapist suggested that I teach TLE some signs to help alleviate some of the frustration she has been feeling. I am hoping that learning to sign what she wants will help with the tantrums she has been having. She also told me to take care to encourage TLE to imitate sounds and taught me how to more effectively communicate with her. I am hopeful to start hearing more of TLE’s words as the days go by