The Super Whites The ordinary life of a Super Mum

The Super Whites
Talking about talking

Stella is now 22 months old and still not talking. It is probably a good time to provide the back story for the sake of record keeping. I have only mentioned Stella’s speech a few times on the blog, back when she was 9 months old and Amy started preschool for the first time I commented how quiet it was around the house without my chatterbox! At that time I promised I was going to make more of an effort to talk to Stella rather than addressing my questions to the child who was most likely to answer me! Then around 16 months old I noted the huge difference in speech development between Amy and Stella at the same ages. At 18 months Amy was talking in short sentences and more than met the age appropriate number of words in her vocabulary. At 16 and a half months Stella only had three words, Mama, Dada and ta which she soon stopped saying properly and it became a whisper with a nod of the head. I was concerned but not enough to warrant intervention, second children are often slow to speak, especially living in a house with a garrulous older sister and a Mum who loves the sound of her own voice!

I took Stella to the Dr for her 18 month check when she was closer to 20 months. Her number of words had not increased but she was communicating in a more effective manner, using gestures and noises to indicate what she wanted. My relationship with Stella’s Dr has not improved since she was a baby, it’s a story for another day but his bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired. Previously he said we would wait until she was 18 months to assess her speech, at this appointment his first question was “Is she autistic?” which personally I think is a strange question to ask a Mum. It is quite confronting. What if I was concerned that my child was showing signs of being somewhere on the autism spectrum? Would coming out with it like that make it easier for me to deal with or just throw me into a complete tailspin? In Stella’s case I know she isn’t on the spectrum, she is just a strong, non-verbal communicator. My Dr gave us a referral for an audiology clinic stating that a speech pathologist wouldn’t see us unless we had a full audiology work up. Now that’s fine, I get it, but Stella can hear.

I can ask Stella to go and fetch her shoes and meet me at the front door, and she will. I can ask Stella and Amy who is going to be first to brush their teeth and Stella will race to the bathroom before I have even finished my sentence! If anyone even mentions the word “ice-cream” Stella is over at the freezer pulling on the door handle before you can believe it! We have no doubt that Stella can hear us, it’s just that she isn’t saying much. The good news is that we have noticed an increase in her verbal communication recently. She now uses “down” in a number of contexts, when you pick her up she requests to be put down, she will also ask you to bring something down from the shelf or even use the word in the context of asking you to pick something up after she has dropped it down, in the car. She uses Mama in the right context and often, this is both endearing and quite annoying. I love hearing her call me but sometimes she calls me and is so frustrated because she has no other words to explain what she wants or what has happened.

She says Dada occasionally to Ron but more often when she sees a photo of Ron on my laptop screen saver. Stella says “no” a lot, its actually very cute because it’s the first time that it really feels like she is talking to us. I might ask her if she wants a sleep and she will say “No oo ooo” very emphatically. We play a fun game before sleep when we put her into her cot after a story and she will gesture and ‘ask’ for a book in her cot, we pick up each book on the pile next to Amy’s bed and hold it up to Stella and she says “no”, “no”, “no” to each one until she gets to the one that she wants. On prompting Stella will wave goodbye and blow kisses, she will point to things that you show her, like photos of herself or pictures of animals. She will make an approximate sound of a miao for a cat and can make vaguely discernible noises for dog, duck, frog, horse, sheep, cow.

Stella may not talk or make conversation but she never seems unhappy or not to be getting what she wants. She has just started taking our hands and dragging us over to where she wants our attention and then making grunting noises and pointing at what it is she needs, a cup of milo milk or a biscuit or a yoghurt. Twice recently Stella has communicated something quite complicated using just a kind of jissshhhh noise, like shhhhh but with a guttural sound. She alerted me to the fact that a large spider was crawling across my car window, then a few nights ago she pointed out where her missing dummy had fallen and just yesterday she told me her car seat wasn’t buckled up correctly by using the same noise. I now stop what I am doing and pay attention to her when she makes that noise, its usually for a good reason!

The other word Stella has been using in context for a month or more now is “num-num” for her dummy. We think this is adorable because this is what Amy called her dummy when she was about a year old! Stella is quick with a cuddle and because she usually wakes before Amy, she reserves her biggest hugs for her sister when she comes out in the morning. One of my favourite moments of the preschool days are when we arrive to collect Amy in the afternoon. Usually the children are sitting up in the top room playing a game or having a story read to them and I tell Stella to go and find her sister and she runs up ahead and then looks around and when she sees Amy she runs over and pats her head and says “amma” which sounds like “Mama” to the uninitiated.

So, Stella at 22 months has these words: Mama, Dada, no, down, numnum and a noise that she makes for please (sounds like “eeeeee”) and a noise she makes for Amy (amma). Most guides to early childhood and speech development suggest children should have between 20 and 50 words by the age of 18 months and by the age of two they should be using these in short sentences. By this measure it’s clear that Stella is delayed but is she delayed for a reason, or just by personality! I postponed the initial appointment for a hearing assessment because it just seems crazy that she might not be able to hear, she knows exactly what we are saying. But now our second appointment is coming up in ten days and I am wondering if we just pay the money and have the full audiology assessment and go from there, or if I should cancel the hearing appointment and spend the money on a private appointment with a speech therapist who can give me the heads up if they think there might be some real speech issues going on or at least give me some suggestions as to how we should be handling this at home.

I am not worried as such about Stella’s speech but as she is approaching that special age of two where frustration and irritability become a toddler’s middle names, well I would rather we address the issue as soon as possible. Any intervention is best done early and I could really do with the reassurance that Stella is perfectly ok, just choosing to do things in her own time.

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14 Responses to Talking about talking

  1. Pingback: Taking the next step | The Super Whites

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