Thursday, May 30, 2013

Easy for You to Say

I have been waiting for Elena to talk for so long…remember her alien voice? I thought for sure back then she’d be “talking” so soon…now here we are & she’s not talking how I expected she would be at this age…

This is a list of her vocabulary that we’ve been able to interpret:

Momma – Mami – Ma

Da-dee or Dada = Grandma – yes, she calls my Mom “Daddy”!

Gaw-cor = Doctor

Geesh = Cookie plus uses a very similar sound for cheese, cheek…& light, go figure

Boowa = Bubble & very similar sound for balloon

Boo = boots – both the Dora character & the foot wear

Eesh = teeth

Do-or = Dora

Do-or while shaking her head = she wants to watch Toopy & Binoo

Bwu = Blue

Bwu while shaking her head = any other colour other than blue

Buppy = up, which is strange since we never say “uppy”!

Nayna = Raina, my aunt

Na-nee = catch all sound that can mean many different thinks

Bwa – another catch all sound that can mean different things

Meh = can mean “what’s that” but is also a catch all sound with a myriad of meanings

For animals, she’ll often make the animal sound rather than attempt the name…and the rest of her communication is made up of grunts, gestures & jibberish. I’m not sure if she’s stringing words together, likely she is but I only understand a word or two. She will say a word while shaking her head meaning “not that” & she'll get frustrated if you’ve missed the head shake & give her the thing she didn’t want. She is trying to sing which is absolutely precious but loves most when we sing songs with actions like Wheels on the Bus, Zoom Zoom, Itsy Bitsy Spider, etc to which she participates animatedly. I’ve even been spared the dreaded toddler habit (so far) of “NO!” If you recall, she use to say, “Nien!” then, “Niet” but for the most part she’ll just shake her head. What breaks my heart is when she’ll hold my face in her hands, looking at me pleadingly as she repeats the same sound that obviously means something to her but I just don’t understand. Often we get by with me asking her to show me what she means but sometimes what she’s saying isn’t showable & she gets so frustrated…but worse than that, sometimes she gets this look of abject guts me!

And that’s the thing! She is SO expressive, even with her lack of language. I can only imagine what it’ll be like when she adds words to all that expression! Her preschool teacher said it perfectly, her emotions are written all over her face!

I know in my heart that Elena will come around to talking but there was that part of me that wondered, “what if?” What if there is some issue? What if I’m hindering her in any way?

We have a wonderful program in my province, Early Words…at Elena’s age, I was able to self refer & have Elena assessed by a Speech Pathologist, all covered under our healthcare.

We were sent a package of assessment forms to fill out prior to our meeting with the Speech Pathologist. The form had a number of lists of words & we needed to mark if Elena understood them or understood & spoke them…seeing it all out on paper like that was interesting…she understood pretty much every word on each list…& the ones she didn’t had more to do with not being exposed to that item than not knowing it, words like babysitter’s name, playpen, coffee…or words we just don’t use, like bad (I’ve avoided using that term feeling it is too negative) & owie/boo boo, we just say hurt, cut, bump, etc…

The first thing the SP mentioned was how surprised she was to see how expressive Elena was. Based on the paperwork, she expected a child that would be a lot more reserved & quiet…& the longer we were there, the more Elena became comfortable & opened up. The SP was impressed with how well Elena had adapted to express her wants, needs & opinions while lacking the language skills to do so.

The SP got right down on the floor to play & interact with Elena & observed that she didn’t try to mimic in any way which generally kids do a great deal. She also found it interesting that instead of pointing at things & labeling them, she brings them to me & has me identify them…basically Elena would make little to no effort to venture out of the small cluster of sounds & words she knows to try new & different ones…but she wants to know, Elena definitely has a thirst for knowledge.

Basically the SP diagnosed that it was entirely fault, I was hindering her! Oh, it’s not as bad as that sounds, lol! You see, I had decided that I would never talk baby talk to Elena…I would always use proper words & language, plus, until very recently, Elena was rarely with children her own age. She was left with nothing to emulate & mimic. My language was too difficult & she just didn’t have the ability to form the sounds needed to speak like me…

The SP explained that I (& my Mom) needed to speak more simply to Elena. She’s not suggesting using baby talk in any way, instead just simplifying how we speak. For example, when Elena would bring me something, like a ball, asking what’s this (Elena knows what a ball is, this is just an example) I would respond with a full sentence, “That’s a ball” & that is too many sounds for Elena to try to mimic so she just doesn’t. Instead I just need to say, “Ball” pause & say it again, “Ball” & pause again then say it a third time…there’s no need to ask her, “Can you say Ball?” or tell her, “Say Ball”…the pause is when she can try & she will in her own time.

Another example is when we play, I would have a running dialogue going…"Okay, let’s go play bubbles! This is so much fun! Look at them all! Pop them! There you go! Now you blow! Wow, great blowing…” Elena of course would understand all of this & participate excitedly…but it left her no room to try to learn the words! The SP suggested that I dial it way back…say, “Bubbles! Pop! Blow!” leaving lots of pauses & chances for Elena to mimic me.

In the week since our appointment, I have become hyper aware of how I speak to Elena & really realize that I talk to her like I would anyone else…& I’m now making a concerted effort to speak more simply. Already I’ve noticed a difference!! She is trying to mimic me more & her sound repertoire seems to be expanding quickly!

Having her in preschool in September will make a world of difference too, I am sure. She has been going to the school Fridays with my Mom for a drop in group. I had last Friday off so got to take her & see her interact with her friend, who talks quite a bit. It was amazing seeing Elena attempting the words this little girl was saying!
I really just can't wait to hear what Elena has got to say! I swear, I will never complain that she is talking too much! If I do, you have my permission to slap me!


  1. That's really interesting what the SP had to say. I had no idea that baby talk was so important in language development! It's something I'll definitely have to keep in mind because I probably would have gone the same route as you in talking to my little one as I would to anyone else.

  2. Thank you for sharing this! I'm going to use some of the SP's advice for my son.

  3. That's so exciting that the SP had advice to help you cultivate Elena's language skills. I'm glad she is improving in her speech and I hope she will continue to do so.
    Also, that is interesting to learn that talking to small children and babies should fall somewhere in between baby talk and adult speech.

  4. Very interesting post. I will definitely change the way I speak to B, based on this!

  5. That is so interesting. Elena sounds a lot like my one nephew... He spoke through gestures for a long time. Now a year or so later, he is a little chatterbox!

  6. I was also taught that technique with Carys - model a word, then leave a nice long blank space for her to reply, then model again, and start simply and build from there. Carys was such an observer for so long, and her sister talks NONSTOP, so I've really had to be sure she has some quiet pauses to try to talk. In addition to simplifying your speech, research also shows how valuable the sing-songy voice is that most people naturally use with babies. (Like if you are lifting her up and down have your voice mimic it - high voice says "go up", then use a deep voice and say "and go down!" It is really good for them! I bet Elena will make huge strides really quickly, so exciting!

  7. Butterfly was a late talker. She is still, as for as I can tell, behind in speaking. But she talks! (and sometimes even understood by others except me, lol).
    What I am trying to say is that some kids talk late, for whatever the reason is, but mostly the all end up talking!

    I love the SP's advice. And great that within one week you are already feeling progress! I'm sure that once she's in preschool and with other kids on a daily basis, that her speech will greatly improve!

  8. I love this! So great to hear that Elena's making progress, and I'm going to use some of the SP's tips with Jordyn. I kinda already do, but now I can make more of a concerted effort. Thanks, and good luck!

  9. That's really interesting - a great post - thanks for sharing with us so that we can all benefit.

  10. I'm so glad we have this free service and you are already feeling more confident about Elena's speaking. I have other friends who have been given similar advice. It won't be long until you blog that she's chatting up a storm and you need a break ;)

  11. This program and SP sound very helpful. Wish we had more of that service here. (Oh, take it from someone in the trenches of public education. We have the services. On paper.)

    Before you know it, Elena will be talking to you in paragraphs. Really. :)

  12. wow, fascinating! thanks for sharing, and props to you for being so eager to adjust your parenting... and how wonderful to see rapid improvement!

  13. This is really great information. Like you, my communication style is a running commentary as well so I will need to change that. Thanks for sharing and glad that you are seeing Elena respond well to the new technique.

  14. Thanks so much for sharing this! After reading this it made me wonder if this might be part of Annelise's problem. I never "baby" talked to her and have pretty much always kept a running conversation with her (one of the downsides of single parenting is she's the only one to talk to). She has great receptive language but can't say simple words. Now I'm trying to use small simple words instead of so much commentary.


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