Friday, April 27, 2007

Ella and the Speech Delay

I don't think I have mentioned here that lately I have been awfully concerned about Ella's speech, or rather, lack thereof. The other night, I spent about 3 hours on the internet and FINALLY managed to get a copy of the MacArthur Communitive Development Inventory, a vocab list that parents fill out (understanding/saying and understanding for each of 480 words) in order to allow a speech therapist to start evaluating the child's language development.

At 18 months, I had a list of around 30 words that Ella used, which is right on target for language devlopment. On Tuesday, when I did the inventory, I identified 56 words that she uses. That means that she has only picked up around 25 words in 9 months and almost none of those words are pronounced correctly, ie out of context they would probably be indecipherable. Normally, she should have been picking up new words at a rate closer to 10 new words a month up to 2 years of age, with it speeding up after that. When I noticed the slow progress that she was making at the 2 year mark, I wasn't too bothered as I figured that she had simply been developing other skills. But in the last 3 months, I have been watching closer, and now I definitely think that she needs to see a speech therapist. Depending on how our summer schedule shakes out, I think I will try to take her back to the States in a month or so to be evaluated by a speech therapist. I've talked to my pediatrician and friends who have seen speech therapists in France, and they have unanimously reported that absolutely nothing is done before the 3rd birthday. Especially since she is bilingual, and this is an additional difficulty to speech development, I just don't think that waiting to find out what is going on is a great idea. She should start school when she is three, but if she still isn't speaking, that isn't even a possibility. She'll have to be immediately held back a year.

So, in the meantime, I'm doing all the research I can to find different sorts of games and exercises to try with Ella to see if we can't make some sort of progress. Its hard for me to find things that focus on actual speech development and not just comprehension. Something that I realized while filling out the language inventory is that her comprehension is fantastic- she understands all the vocab in both French and English, even the difficult things like pronouns, time (later, before, first/then, etc), quantifiers. Shapes, colors, numbers, letters are all fine. But she can't say any of them, only point to them when I ask.

I was talking to the other moms at music class today and everyone said "But some kids are just slow, it doesn't necessarily mean a speech problem. Don't worry." On the one hand, I know that they were trying to be helpful and downplay things so I didn't worry. I am starting to find this a bit irritating. First of all, speech problems are not imaginary creatures like unicorns or dragons. They actually exist; clearly not every kid who speaks late has one, but someone with a speech problem would have a language delay. Therefore, I'm not a lunatic to think that there is a chance that something might be going on here. I'm not upset or worried, I just spend every single day with her and over several months have been able to watch their children learning new words in way that Ella is totally not doing. A few of these kids are 9 months younger than Ella and even they will watch their mother identify an object and try to repeat the new word. I can tell when Ella has learned a new word by the look on her face, a sort of 'Aha!', but she can't pronounce the sound, occasionally spitting or shouting in frustration. The desire to speak seems to be there, its her ability to create the sound that is not up to par.

I look at this like a rash. If Ella had a red bumps covering her body, I wouldn't just say, "Oh well, it'll clear up eventually" although this is probably true. I'd take her to the doctor and get the appropriate skin cream and help things along. I think that if she has a problem with speech, I would like to see a speech development expert and find out if there is something we can do to help her. I just am finding it incredibly frustrating to not be able to do anything for atleast another 6 weeks. I am hoping when I am in California next week, I'll have time to pop into a big bookstore and find something on the subject.


afoos said...

For speech, Gab is definitely not on target. He says lots of 'words' and understands really well, but he's not wipping out sentences- in English. In French, we can't really say because we never speak French to him, but at the crèche they say he speaks 2 and 3 word sentences. I do know that he's not really on track for speaking and that he will be starting school in September. But, I'm not worried. Bilingual children have a lot to take in. Also, the French and American phonetic alphabets are completely different so the tongue and mouth form different sounds in different places (which is why the French have a hard time with the TH sound)- that can't be easy for a young toddler to develop. My SIL is a speech therapist and even her own daughter, the last of 4 children, was 'slow' on speech and didn't really start speaking until around the age of 3. I'm not going to say don't worry because I still do for Gab, but it does help me to think about the two languages he's learning and it amazes me how he will automatically switch to French with his Mamie and translate words- and that gives me a little consolation.

Nicole said...

That's a really good point about the different phonetics in French and English. I hadn't thought about that being a possible reason why she speaks such gibberish. Ella tends to use the same phonetic sound over and over for lots of different words and sounds- which is one of the signs of a problem in the brain/mouth coordination. She also will say a word a few times by repeating after me and then won't use it ever again. Apparently, at this age they should be able to build their vocab in this way, which Ella definitely doesn't do, or maybe only 1 or 2 words every month. I mostly would like to see a therapist just to rule out any sort of apraxia and find out ways of encouraging her to try new sounds.

WriterGrrl said...

I would suggest hitting Amazon for some good books on speech delay. And find out if you can hire a speech therapist privately for an eval. You don't want to let a year go by and then say, "Oh, I wish I'd started earlier." Friends are well-meaning, but my friends know NOTHING about what an actual delay is. Even my former pediatrician's attitude was "wait and see." It was only when we moved that my new ped got us a dx pronto. BTW, my family is bilingual, and my daughters and my youngest son all spoke early. It's only my delayed son who had/has trouble. I say this not to scare you, but to urge you to act on your instinct. If you think something needs to be done, do what you need to do to get it done.

feist81 said...

you may also want to think about just focusing on phonetic development. a lot of montessori materials are great for this, especially the sandpaper alphabet tiles and alphabet boxes... plus everything seems like a game so you can trick kids into learning