Friday, March 16, 2012

My kid doesn't talk. Fine.

Brandon is 18 months old and doesn't talk. Or, to be more specific, he doesn't speak English, or any other known language. Actually, baby babble is a known language, at least among the 6- to 24-month-old set. 

He says exactly one word, and it's Dad, or "Da" and he uses it interchangeably, regardless of gender, meaning that I am Da, too. Oh wait, he says dog, but without the "g" sound, and bird without the "d". But that's just in the last couple of weeks.

Generally speaking, this is something we should be concerned about, because typically, kids his age are "supposed" to be saying upwards of 10-20 words, and according to some websites, even stringing two words together. 

So am I spazzing out? Nope. So unconcerned am I about this kid's speaking abilities (or lack thereof), that it wasn't until he was about 14 months old that it even occurred to me that, hey, Brandon hasn't really said anything! Has he...???

Our house is so loud and crazy sometimes that's it's hard to tell who is talking, screaming, yelling, or not. With Ethan's constant strings of questions, comments, stories, and other 5-year-old musings, it's easy to feel all filled up on "kid-speak" for the day - by about 1 in the afternoon. And he gets out of school at 12:30. But even if Brandon was an only child, I probably still wouldn't be too concerned about it. Actually, I probably would be more concerned, who am I kidding? The first kid is put through the wringer as far as worry and the marking of milestones goes.

But with Brandon, who is 3rd in line, I'm significantly more relaxed and when I finally started noticing that he wasn't talking, I thought about why I wasn't concerned, and these were the main things that came to mind:

1. He can hear just fine. Hearing impediment is not causing any kind of speech delays.

2. He understands most of what anybody tells him, and follows directions. 

3. He is a great non-verbal communicator. After I realized this, I paid more attention to his non-verbal communications and realized that he almost doesn't need to talk because he is able to relay, through action, pointing, head shakes, and hand gestures pretty much anything he needs. I'm sure there is also our ability to read little kids better, since he's our third, affecting this, too. 

4. He does try to make words, meaning he's not physically incapable of talking. The muscles in his mouth work. He babbles just like any other baby. 

5. According to my 12-year-old niece, "Brandon is like, really smart. {giggle} He like, knows things {giggle giggle}". My niece is super cute and I get what she's saying. He's a pretty quick study. And I'm not saying that to brag, because who really cares if he's smart or not, I'm just listing all of the things that went into my own evaluation. 

So, at Brandon's 18-month well-baby check-up, I told his pediatrician, "I'm not concerned, but you should probably just know that Brandon doesn't talk. As in, he doesn't say any actual words. Except 'Dad'". And then I went down the things listed above and the pediatrician was nodding her head the whole time. When I was done, she said that those things are the things they would be looking for to determine why he isn't talking. And since those are all good, he's most likely just a slow starter on the talking end. Which is fine with me! 

Apparently, there is expressive and receptive language. Expressive language is essentially the ability to produce speech and receptive language is the ability to understand what is communicated and follow commands. To be able to receive language, essentially. And, while the two are equally important, if a small child is up to par on the receptive language, it is not as concerning if they are not as up to par on expressive language, but only up to a certain point. If, by age 2, Brandon is not talking, then we're going to have to look into whether or not he might have something going on. 

His pediatrician also said that children either grow the number of words in their vocabulary on a slow, gradual slope, or stay pretty flat-lined for a while then suddenly shoot up in some language explosion. To show you what I mean, I pulled up Microsoft Paint and drew an extremely professional-quality graph for you. It took hours. You're welcome.

I promise there will be more graphs in my future posts. Even though it was hard to write with that electronic pencil, I feel that the result was extremely professional-looking. So the blue line denotes the gradual accumulation of words that we typically (in my experience) see kids do. The green line is apparently what Brandon is doing: taking his sweet time because he gets most needs met through non-verbal communication and everyone talks for him anyway.

His pediatrician also said that a big part of learning speech is to look at the child when talking to him or her, so they can see your mouth moving and forming words. So reading 7000 books a week is not the only way to pound speech and words into your child. You have to put in some face time.

So this is a good example of why it's important to be aware of the general guidelines for major milestones, but not obsess over them. I've learned to just keep a loose idea of when kids are supposed to do things so we can just make sure something isn't wrong, but kids will start doing their thing when they are ready to, and some do some things way later than others. And like my awesome graph explains, either way is fine!

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  1. I didn't talk until very late. I didn't need to - I had three older brothers who were HAPPY to talk for me. lol.

    I can totally wait for the baby to learn to talk. At least this way I can "guess" that he's thinking "I love you Mummy, you are the greatest Mummy EVER, and I thank you so much for all you do for me"

    Totally better than the eventual reality of "go away" "no" "mine" "more" and "now" etc.

    1. Kylee, you are spot-on! Way to have a very healthy take on it all! :)

  2. I work with two yr olds, and have had children in my class who have started the yr (sept) with as few as 2 words and ended the yr (aug) with same (or very close to) amount of words as their peers. If your son was in my class, I would have said not to panic just yet...(even at 24 mon)

    1. Thank you, Vanessa! He still calls me daddy, but he's kind of showing some growth. He's nowhere near where he's *supposed* to be, but he's doing so well still in all the other areas that I'm just like, whatever. He's fine. And, he's the third.... ;-)

  3. He is fine.

    oh and he's a boy. girls are more verbal. I'm expecting the same. my guys in a bilingual home. that tends to delay speech.

    anyway he'll be talking your ear of soon enough

    1. Thank you, and All true, especially yes, he WILL be talking my ear off soon enough, and that's yet another reason why I'm not too concerned about hurrying him along! :-)

  4. crazy graphing skills! :D as a former teacher, i get this stuff pretty (i certainly am not a doctor, though!). so with my inquisitive tot pointing and saying, "that?" about everything, he has learned to look at my mouth while i tell him what "that" is. if he can't see my mouth, he charges across the room, takes his pudgy, goobered-on, sticky hands and turns my face toward him, and repeats, "that?" just to get a close-up of my announciation. he's already a dork, at only 16 months.

    1. Awww, I love your little guy! Brandon grabs my face and turns it towards his when I am not paying attention to him. And we wonder why we have breakouts of acne... heehee.

  5. so, a little late to the party, but just found your site yesterday (thank you pinterest) anyway, my middle child Brody turned 2 at the end of january and wasn't really talking very much, while his big sister had started talking at 12-13 months and hasn't been quiet since, so i was pretty anxious about it b/c i wasn't expecting him to be so different. he was, however, a good direction-follower. now he's almost 3 and has begun more of a parroting style but also chats it up on his own. whew, encouraging for me w/now our 9 month old and a baby on the way to have the different ideas of milestone expectation. ugh. ps have read thru past posts and you are right on and hilarious. none of my friends have kids so i feel like they can be harsh with judgment for the dislike of any/all kids at times. not every rotten thing they do is cute haha -fallon

    1. Yay, happy to have you here! Glad that you found my blog and are enjoying it, and that you've been encouraged to have different milestone expectations! And congratulations on the new pregnancy!

      Hope to "see you around" on here in the future! :-)


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