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.