Monday, January 23, 2012
We are so thankful to report that Sophie is developing well with only minor delays in some areas. Until age 2, doctors and professionals make an allowance for her premature birth when considering her development. For example, since she started walking when she was 17 months, they considered that she started walking at 13.5 months (since she was born 3.5 months early). But once a premature baby turns 2 years old, they would like them to be caught up with full-term babies their actual age. So, when Sophie turned 2, a teacher who visits our home on a monthly basis suggested that we have her evaluated for speech and language development. This teacher comes out as part of a program we are involved in called Parents as Teachers. It is available to all families and is provided through the school district where Ryan teaches. She comes for Sophie and Sally and gives us fun ideas for play activities to try that are age appropriate and educational. So when she made that suggestion, we had a non-profit organization called Rainbows came to evaluate Sophie, and she did qualify for services. Just to give you an idea of where she is: at age 2, she had a vocabulary of about 25-30 words and did not use 2-3 word sentences. Most kids at that age have a vocabulary of about 50 words and use 2-3 word sentences. I cannot say enough about Rainbows and how amazing they have been. Their services are FREE and they come to your home. So far we have had 3 visits with our speech therapist, and she has been great! She has been focusing a lot on Sophie's eating habits (which have always been a HUGE issue for her) and helping us understand that it is normal for preemies to have problems eating and drinking. This has been very helpful to us. Before this experience, no doctor has explained how often and commonly these problems occur and really worked with us to find solutions. Sophie had a very difficult time transitioning to solids and, to this day, has a hard time with a lot of different textures. She also drinks very very little (usually 10-12 ounces of milk a day--this is including milk I mix with cereal to feed her). She will eat a little when she is hungry, but will not feed herself very much food in one sitting. I have to spoon feed her a lot, which she HATES, but tolerates if she is really hungry. I could do a whole post on our struggles with her eating, but basically it has always been hard. I wish someone had explained to me sooner that this might happen with her, because it would have alleviated a lot of stress and wondering on my part. Why is she like this? Did we do something that caused her to be this way? Should I take the advice of other parents of normal-eating kids or defer to my mommy instinct that something is just DIFFERENT about her and try my own ideas?
In addition to working on her eating habits, the speech therapist offered us a bunch of ideas on how to get her talking more. I LOVED so many of these ideas that I wanted to share some of them. I feel like they could be helpful for any kid, delayed or not. Here are a few:
-Don't anticipate your child's every need or desire before they have a chance to communicate it. Otherwise, they won't bother trying. (You may know what they want, but encourage them to communicate it before you give it to them)
- Delay responses to your child's pointing, gestures, or babbling when he wants things. Wait for 15-20 seconds, and then respond. If he attempts any meaningful words, respond right away. Show him that they payoff for attempting to use words is much greater--things happen faster.
-By age one, never talk baby-talk to your child. Even when he mispronounces a word in a cute way, rather than say it back to him, pronounce it correctly and use it in a phrase.
-Always make your child feel good about making the effort to speak. However, if he uses unintelligible jabber, never pretend to understand and never talk for him by guessing at or interpreting what he says. You need to be honest and let him know you don't understand. Example: "You talked. I like that, but I don't know what you said." Shrugging shoulders.
-When reading to your child, rather than read the printed words, shorten the phrases. Example: Shorten "When Billy came home sick, he went to bed." to "Boy sick." or "Feels bad."
-Use parallel talk to describe everything in your child's surroundings. Example: "When your child is playing with a ball and then daddy comes home, you might say, "roll ball--get ball--pick up ball--daddy home--run to daddy--Billy wants up."
-Talk out loud about what YOU are seeing, hearing, doing when your child is within hearing range. He does not have to be right next to you or even paying attention. Use slow, clear, simple words and short phrases. As you wash dishes-- "hot water--pick up cup--dirty cup--wash--wash--wash the cup--cup is clean"
I was guilty of not doing many of these. Hope they might be helpful to some of you moms! Also, programs like Rainbows exist in most cities, and if you want to have your child screened, oftentimes they will do it even without a reference. Even if you think nothing is wrong, it is a great idea to have a child screened in all areas. Early intervention really is KEY. Kids who receive services for delays at a young age (birth to 3) have a MUCH greater advantage to those who don't receive services until school age. If you have any questions or would like to know more just leave a comment! I can e-mail you.