Whenever I am around my brother's family, I feel a little overwhelmed. He has seven children, yes 7 children. (No, they aren't weird but I guess they like kids.) The noise and activity level of 7 children is quite different than what I am use to experiencing. I am starting to be known for saying, "You kids be quiet," whenever we get together because my ears and eyes aren't use to all the sounds and sights they give off.
My house is much different. My 4 year old son is inquisitive and talkative at times. He's starting to get to where I can hold a short conversation with him and get some decent responses back to questions.
Then there's Jaycee. Jaycee primarily signs, gestures, or uses her communication device to communicate with me. She says "mama" when she's mad or if I tickle her. Sometimes, she'll sign mom instead of saying it. Bye-bye, papa, bubba, uh, yeah, and high are words she can say well. Dada makes an appearance once in awhile, usually with prompting. 90% or more of her communication isn't verbal speech. It's other stuff. I can't have conversations with her very often. Whenever I ask her a question that isn't related to food or television, I am usually ignored. Sometimes, she will surprise me with an appropriate response. But, I can't talk to her like I can my son. I can't ask her how school went. I have to ask questions in the context of knowing what signs or words she knows on her device.
Car rides with Jaycee....silent. I can't have her sign in the vehicle. She can't speak. There's only dancing and music in the car but not many words. When Jaycee & I are alone in the house, which happens when she's home sick, the house is mostly silent. She will tell me what she wants to watch on television or she'll mention a friend at school she misses. But, she doesn't initiate a conversation with me. There is no long back and forth exchange. We cuddle, watch movies together, and take walks to spend time together instead. But there isn't much talking. There are times when I have been in the house with Jaycee all day that I just want my husband to get home so I can talk to someone who responds. And boy if he doesn't listen to what I'm saying, he gets it!
Silence breads more silence. I expected that as she got older, she would try to vocalize more or start to say more words. Occasionally, something new pops out, but there's been no spurt in expressive vocabulary. I have noticed that the longer she stays silent, the less I ask her to say words. I have become discouraged by the silence of our days.
As a speech language pathologist, I often make recommendations to families of toddlers with delays in language. If I were giving myself advice and being brutally honest, here is what I would tell myself in order to break the silence:
1. Create an atmosphere that encourages any kind of vocalization.
Over the years, Jaycee has gotten frustrated with the fact that she can't speak due to apraxia of speech. I have gotten frustrated too! She quit trying to talk, and I, for the most part, quit asking. But she won't try if I don't expect some sort of vocalization. I need to start trying again. Try any word, any sound, any simple thing until she repeats something.
2. Find new ways to practice words she's already saying in order to build her confidence.
We are well settled into a routine of what questions I ask or what choices I give her. We do this out of routine, which is good. But breaking the routine and adding in some new ways to practice words would help her.
3. Keep asking her questions.
I get discouraged when that she doesn't respond to me. It makes me want to give up. If 9 times out of 10 someone ignored you or talked about Barney instead, you'd probably give up too. But, when she does answer a question, it's magical! I should let that 1 time inspire me instead of letting those 9 times defeat me.
Let's see if I can follow my own advice without getting frustrated and discouraged....