Family · Just my Thoughts

Language and Parenting

While the language we choose to use as parents is important, I want to discuss language acquisition and parenting.  As Big Little Wolf has indicated, “parenting rocks. parenting sucks. parenting rocks.”

Ever since Becca discussed her son’s lack of language, I have had these thoughts rolling around in my mind.  Parents need to be aware of developmental milestones and when help should be pursued.  These include many things – crawling, walking, talking, words, sentences – but they are not impossible to know what is “normal” and what is not.

Once a milestone is missed, parents need to move from parent to advocate, and usually at the whim of the system.  This has to be a seamless transition as you know your child better than anyone.  You are your child’s best advocate.

I share with you my own experience with not one but several of my children.  With child number one came the first issue.  His preschool, and I was working outside the home full time so he was in a day care/preschool setting, did annual speech evaluations.  The report came home that his teacher thought he should be evaluated.  I didn’t see an issue but agreed.  A speech/language pathologist came into the preschool and tested the kids.  Then, after a couple weeks, a report was mailed home with a request to share it with teachers.

I took the report very  seriously.  I called my pediatrician and made an appointment.  Was my child ill?  Was this a well-child visit?  The receptionist was very confused.  Why did I want a doctor’s appointment?  Well, the biggest reason was insurance.  The insurance company required a doctor’s referral to attend therapy.  The receptionist asked if she could call me back.  She wasn’t sure if this was an appointment or a consultation.  She wanted to schedule me as soon as possible but didn’t now where to put me or my son.

The pediatrician decided that he would do a physical exam so a regular appointment slot was needed.  He told the receptionist to let me know he didn’t believe anything was wrong but wanted to rule out any physical issues.  My son had had some health issues as a newborn – constant ear infections for the first 15 months, problems with the well water where we lived.  I was game for ruling out physical ear issues.

Two big things came out of the doctor’s appointment to the then naive and still fairly new mom – yes, I had three children at the time but still new at it.  The first was there was no physical reason for anything to be wrong.  This was good news.  Then came the other news, which I view now in retrospect but at the time thought was just professional jockeying.  He said that I should not worry about the speech report.  The woman was just trying to make a living.

Then came the twins.  Andy and Elise were as different as day and night from the moment they emerged from the womb.  At 38 1/2 weeks, Andy came out at one ounce shy of eight pounds.  Elise came out at five pounds, eleven ounces.  While she didn’t walk until 14 months and he did at 11 months, she talked or babbled constantly.  He did not.  My thoughts, again in retrospect after parenting for 25 years and researching twins, are that she would help him communicate what he needed so why should he learn.  Then, when he finally did start to speak, there were issues.  He didn’t speak properly.  He, just prior to his second birthday, had  speech evaluation.

Andy had a severe articulation disorder.  I was plunged into the school special education process and into becoming an advocate for my son.  The Committee on Preschool Special Education had just begun taking over what was early intervention from county health departments here.  Thankfully, our insurance at the time, once I manage to bully my way through the pediatrician to get a referral, covered six months of whatever therapy was recommended.  The problem was so bad, so severe that the actual recommendation was for a language-based preschool, not just daily – yes, five times a week – speech therapy.  The preschool recommendation was going to have to wait for the committee.  We started going to speech therapy every day.

By the time Andy’s case was in front of the committee six months later, he had improved.  This is a child whose language comprehension was two to three years above where his speech was.  The committee, through my advocacy, allowed Andy to continue with therapy as it was and to stay in his preschool environment that he was in, which was my goal.  I did not want to split the twins up at the age of 30 months.

What did I learn through all of this and two other children with speech issues later?  I learned that I had the capacity, even then when the internet was not prevalent, to find the information I needed.  I had the capacity to teach myself what was “normal.”  I had the capacity to advocate for my child as I knew my child better than the speech therapist or the committee members.  As parents, we may question ourselves constantly.  We may wonder if we have made the “right” decision.  We should never, though, question who knows our child/children best.  We do!

A caveat:  This is not meant to point fingers at others and their decisions about their own children.  As I said,  we know our own children best.  It is meant as a learning and sharing experience for becoming an advocate for yourself, your family, your children.

15 thoughts on “Language and Parenting

  1. I couldn’t agree more. We do know our children best. And I think that includes intuition about whether or not a “seeming” lag in a developmental area is simply a matter of the child being on his or her own timetable.

    My younger son also was slow to speak, and compared to his chatty absurdly verbal brother, the contrast was striking. I was told to evaluate him – and did – they suggested there might be other developmental and cognitive issues (he was 3, and rarely speaking, but perfectly happy). They did note, however, that he had the fine motor skills of a 7 year old (the artist is born… ).

    They wanted more tests, and I said “no thanks, he’s fine, he understands and he’ll talk when he’s got something to say.”

    He is still my ‘quiet’ child, relatively. And he did speak, when he was good and ready. In the meantime, none of us realized he taught himself to read. Discovered, to my surprise, at age four when he spoke up in the car (rare), reading off a billboard aloud, while we sat at a traffic light.

    1. I do think that we learn a lot more about how to parent as we look in retrospect. That manual that should be available would be too stiff, to “canned” to work with children.

      It is good to know when to stand and when to let it flow.

  2. I thought this post was going to be about language our kids use in our presence! (my teen getting quite liberal with this mouth-maybe your next post?)

    Good reminder that we know our children better than the “authorities” not to take anything away from their expertise but instinct is everything!

    1. Anjanette – I am sure I can do a post on language our teens use. I put it in my list. I have stories that will give us both curly hair.

  3. “Instinct is everything!” ABSOLUTELY! Nicki, you were a big part of my support network as I lived thru the advocacy problem with Thomas. It took years.

    Even now, with Thomas at 20, graduating with a reading level higher than our High School’s “average,” it has had lasting effects.

    His own confidence in his ability to read is almost nonexistent. As parents, we know that is a vicious cycle. Upon graduation, his reading level was G12. His retention level has always been high, a compensatory skill developed early. However, as a relatively “new” reader, his reading speed is low. That is only improved with practice.

    I watched Larry’s daughter struggle with reading, not as a developmental issue, but as an interest and in practice. In turn, her skills were not very high as a young adult. Until she discovered a love of reading in her early 30’s. And there is no stopping her now.

    I can only sit back and hope the same for Thomas.

    1. Lisa – yes, I recall the advocacy problems with Thomas. I know how hard it is and have watched parent after parent decide the “authority” knew better because they were educated in that area. Never true…never is a strong word. Seldom true.

  4. I am so grateful to you for sharing this … but it also made me sad, thinking about when my toddler son (now almost 5) was not speaking, and the teachers all got all over me about having him evaluated, how they were not sure, maybe it was a cognitive issue … I feel sad for the amount of energy I spent, the amount of doubt I had … I knew in my heart he was fine – and he is. He has not stopped talking in 2 years. He was just slow to start, and he has a funny accent (he sounds like he’s from Rhode Island is our favorite joke). But he is articulate and verbose, verbose, verbose. My mother jokes she is looking for the off switch.
    But I did not trust myself, and submitted both him (oh, my baby) and our family to a lot of anxiety. I wish I had been more confident that I did know him better, as I now know I did.

    1. Lindsey – I am so sorry you had a bad experience. I remember thinking, when the pediatrician told me that the speech pathologist just wanted to make money with my oldest, that I was a bad mother. We are our children’s best parents and best advocates. We learn, as do our children, from what happens.

  5. The longer I’m a mother, the more I believe in the accuracy of the Mommy Radar. I think we’ve all done what you describe above–listening to the “experts”…and yet the true expert of our child is ourselves.

  6. Your reminder to your readers to always be an advocate for our children is a wise and powerful one – as is your reminder that we know our children best. I sometimes worry that, in my desire to protect and support my sons, I won’t always be the person best able to evaluate their weaknesses. As a teacher, I sometimes saw this phenomenon with my students’ parents. It takes a fair amount of humility, I think, to ask for help for your child.

    1. It is hard to admit that first, there may be something not perfect about your child. It is equally hard to admit that you, as the parent, cannot fix what is wrong. These two factors really play into parents not supporting and advocating for their children.

  7. I’m just getting to this now Nicki. I so appreciate your thoughts on this as well as the comment you made on my post when I read it. I’m trusting my radar for now but I’m not hesitating to take Luke for evaluation if things don’t improve in the next two months. I find nothing wrong with early intervention if needed but also want to give my little guy a chance to develop if he’s just a little slow with it. He has an amazingly articulate sister and sometimes i think she just says the words for him. I’m not SURE though, and would rather know earlier rather than later!

    Thanks again!

    1. Well, that sibling talking for you happens, too. It did with the twins and was somewhat expected as the ties between twins are suppose to be so strong. Then, I thought maybe in my case it was a twin language.

      Early intervention, when needed, is a blessing and you know Luke best!

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