Parents dream big things for their children. And sometimes we even flatter ourselves that they want to follow in our footsteps. Hopefully we are giving them good footsteps to follow!
When Noah was 18 months old, he had some words and even fit within the normal range for speech if you put him at the lower end of normal. We waited. He turned 2. There were some more words, but he never hit that elusive ‘word explosion’. I waited to hear him start combining words. He turned 2 ½ and it hadn’t happened. My dream for Noah was simply that he would be able to talk. My fear was that he wouldn’t. I was reluctant to go to playgroup as my heart would catch when I heard other children of Noah’s age speaking in sentences. Noah couldn’t even tell me what he wanted most of the time and would cry and cry and cry because he could not make himself understood.
Yet thankfully, I am not still in that same place. Noah is no longer in that place. I am starting to dream things for Noah beyond the acquisition of speech. 18 months has made a big difference and he is now four years old. I have learnt a lot more about speech disorders. We have been regularly attending speech therapy sessions locally and now with a specialist in Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Daily drills and practice are starting to pay off and Noah’s speech is becoming clearer. In the last 6 months several significant milestones have been reached – two syllable words, growing vocabulary, the first sentence and being able to request things….and wait for it…..THREE SYLLABLE WORDS!
This started with Noah becoming increasingly interested in all things doctor. He proudly points to me and says,”Mum. Do-tor!” He has a toy doctor’s set and has learned how to use all the instruments. Techniques needs to be refined a little, especially examining throats. He says,”Aaaahhhhh” and shows you how to open your mouth…and then shoves the whole torch into your mouth. We all get bandaged if we have the slightest boo boo. Noah even bandages himself. The kid can do a pretty mean ankle strap, if I do say so myself. (He must’ve had a good teacher!) If bandages are not in sight, then a roll of toilet paper will do.
We wonder if we have a little hypochondriac on our hands as he runs for band-aids or medicine for the most minor ailments. Noah had an infection recently that needed antibiotics. When I told him he would have to take some medicine to make it better he jumped up and down and yelled out,”Yay!” At least I didn’t have to force it down his throat!
A favourite bedtime story is about the Flying Doctors and three times a week he wants us to read the Good Samaritan from his children’s Bible because it’s got cool pictures of a beat up guy getting medicine and bandages. And those stories of how ‘Jedus’ makes people better are pretty cool too.
Apraxic kids are great at charades. You see, while their tongues trip them up and they can’t get their words out clearly, there is nothing wrong with their understanding. They get quite inventive with acting out words and communicating their message. Noah naturally prefers my real stethoscope to the toy one and when he wants it, he pretends to put ear pieces in his ears, put an imaginary stethoscope on his chest and mimic the sound of a heartbeat – “m mm, m mm”. Now, stethoscope is a pretty tricky word for most kids to say. Imagine my surprise when one day I held up my stethoscope to Noah and asked,”What’s this?” and he answered,”Ste-a-cope!” It was a proud mum moment. Not only is Noah showing interest in my career, but he managed a three syllable word.
So, my friends, words are coming. They are being joined together to make small phrases (with pauses between each word as Noah still has to think hard to get the sequencing right). Vocab is expanding all the time. Words and sounds are getting clearer. We still have a long way to go and my heart still catches when I hear other kids of the same age chattering away. And even hearing younger children reaching the milestones we have worked so hard to get to. Don’t get me wrong – I love hearing little kids chatter. I just can’t wait to hear my own little munchkin chatter. But instead of fear about Noah’s future, I now have hope because we have reached milestones I was fearful would not be reached a little while ago. He is going to make great progress in the next two years. His voice is being found and released bit by bit. We are finally getting a little window into his thoughts and feelings.
So, is my dream that Noah will become the next Dr Swan? No way! But I am dreaming that he will be able to speak clearly and confidently and find his place in the world doing something he loves. As tools are his biggest obsession, I’m guessing mechanics, building or engineering! Meanwhile, we’ll try and add to those 3 syllable words with some medical vocabulary – ot-o-ope, med-i-in, mom-e-ter…
PS. We are still waiting for ‘c’ and ‘s’ sounds to appear consistently in words, thus the missing consonants in some of Noah’s pronunciation.