When my oldest daughter was first born she had a lot of complications and ended up spending 28 days in the NICU (you can read her birth story here). Based on her birth we knew there had been some amount of trauma to the brain, we just didn’t know how much. Luckily, our daughter has mainly had a hard time with speech. But her speech was really really delayed. At the age of two, she had only five words, and I was really worried she’d never learn how to speak.
Until my daughter got into speech therapy I would stress every day about her speech. She was also hitting her terrible twos which was a really hard time for all of us, especially her. To not be able to even slightly communicate your needs would be so trapping, I could only imagine how frustrated she was. All those big emotions and a lot of uncertainty on how to tell mom and dad what was going on.
Speech therapy was something I wasn’t super excited to be taking my daughter to, at first. It was another appointment to add to my already busy schedule. That first appointment was a hard one because they had to test her and she didn’t respond to most things. The first six months after that was also slow progress. She would get one word a week on average but still had a hard time understanding what was being spoken to her.
I felt like such a failure for not being able to help her learn how to speak. Here I had this beautiful, sweet little girl so full of life and expression and I felt she was so held back. I felt it was all my fault too. Maybe I wasn’t doing enough reading, maybe she wasn’t listening to enough nursery rhymes, and maybe she was watching too much TV. To be honest, she was definitely watching too much TV. Children under two are basically not supposed to watch any TV.
It was just really hard to see other kids in public speaking, and understanding what was being said to them, and then to see my daughter not able to do that. It wasn’t her fault. But it hurt to have people notice and ask why she wasn’t able to speak. We’d hear stories about how some children couldn’t talk until they were three, but we knew for our daughter it wouldn’t be as simple as turning three to help her talk.
We were making progress though, it was just slow. When my daughter was almost three I remember sitting at the kitchen table with her and trying to get her to call me “mama”. She finally looked up at me and pointed and called me mama. She did it several times after that and I just cried because I had waited so long to hear her call me that. I think from that point on is where she really started to turn a corner. Her words really started to pick up and I could tell she was slowly starting to understand more.
She now sings songs all the time, and talks all the time (even if we still don’t fully understand what she’s saying). Understanding what people are saying to her is where she is slacking more in, but she’s doing a lot better. She’s a great little helper and can usually help get me things that I request. I think most people can’t understand the majority of her words, but I feel like I can understand about 90% of what she says.
She is still about a year behind where she should be for her age, and doesn’t have a lot of sentences over 3-4 words. She still has a hard time between choices, but these are all things we are working on. We definitely have a few more years of her in speech therapy, but I’m honestly super grateful she’s in speech therapy. It has helped her language, and her in general, to bloom. I have loved seeing her improve and become more interactive.
I don’t know how many parents have children with language disorders, but if your child deals with that know you’re not alone. And you can do hard things, or even things you’d think would be impossible to do while a child is still really nonverbal, like potty training. This is a very difficult but special time of life to be able to help our children through their own hardships.