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Monday, June 14, 2010

Talk to me baby girl: Speech delays and adopted kiddos

I thought a little update on Tess and Jujube would be in order.  Both are nearing their 3rd birthdays, and I guess we'll start with Tess on this post.

As of this post last October, speech was still a reason for frequent prayer.  And to be truthful, despite Tess being 2 1/2 years old, weekly therapy sessions for 18 months, and much "homework," her speech didn't really progress.  Ironically, Tess "sings" frequently.  She can pick up a melody and jibber-jabber away to music like none of my other children.  She excelled in "baby jargon," which is just a long string of nonsensical babbling complete with voice fluctuations.  It left many people and sometimes us thinking that if we just concentrated hard enough, we'd be able understand what she was saying.  Many folks seriously asked us if she was speaking Vietnamese.  Not so.  She just got stuck in the jargon phase of her speech for a very long time.

I honestly don't think that Tess grasped the entire concept of communication, and this led to a lot of screaming and violet temper tantrums, (Yes, I used the word violent.  She often hurt herself by flailing around during a tantrum.) and emotions that shifted on a dime.  These were the ways that Tess communicated.  Her screams, screams that could have CPS running to our doorstep, were just her way to say, I want this or I don't want that...  Eventually we learned to calmly say to Tess as she shrieked, "Tess, use your words."  And eventually she learned to mutter one of the few words she had to express her desires.
Blankie which still calms her when she's upset
More which can mean SO many things
Up wanting to be picked up
Then the screaming stopped as quickly as it started.

In April, something in that gorgeous little head of hers finally clicked.  In April, she finally seemed to grasp the concept of communication.  And finally her speech started to grow.  I'd say in these 8 short weeks her vocabulary is probably nearing 50 words, and she's even putting 2 and very occasionally 3 words together.  Prior to April she had only about 5 words.  She still screams at ear splitting decibels.  But is gradually replacing this bad habit with the use of words.

Tess's speech is still greatly delayed, but it's coming, and like I said, she understands the concept now, and this is the best part.  This development also seems to be affecting her development in other areas too.  Her temper tantrums have lessened both in frequency and severity.  She's eating better because she's more in control of what and when she eats.  Her flash back reactions to the music box, which I originally talked about here, is still existent but definitely getting better.  Her knee jerk reaction to scream and flail when she wants something or especially when she is frustrated, is still there but slowly that seems to be changing too.  And she smiles and grins and giggles and laughs and in general is so much happier.

Completely self centeredly, one of the hardest parts about Tess's speech delays, was a complete lack of the word "mama."  Rationally, I know this was just a delay of speech, but my egocentric heart had a tough time accepting it.  Adoption isn't about me and my feelings, but it still hurt.  After about a year of trying to teach her mama, I gave up.  But then it started to click.  Yesterday, she was up early, and we cuddled on the couch as I tried to wake up.  She repeatedly patted my chest and looked into my eyes... Mama she muttered each time, making sure I was still there.  Just one word.  Just the best word in the world.


  1. Oh Nancy. Tears. So happy she knows who you are to her, AND is saying it. What a gift to you both. I can just see that patting cheek moment and feel how happy you must have been.

  2. Such a sweet development. So happy for you :)

  3. What a sweet, sweet moment you had with your baby girl.

  4. Oh my goodness, Nancy! Thank you for your sweet words on my blog. Somehow I had lost track of your blog..but no more!!! I will be following you everyday. Your photos are amazing!

    Hard to believe that the rough time we shared together seems so long ago now. Crazy. Ha--yeah..the nun. Nuts.

    Thanks for sharing this post with us. River also had some problems and I know for me, not hearing the word mama until just recently was a hard one for me as well. A lot of people just don't understand...but yay for progress. How wonderful!! xoxo

  5. This post brought tears to my eyes also. :) I can see the happiness in Tessa's eyes and Jude's. Yes, "mama" is an unbelievable word to hear your child say for the first time. I am thrilled for you "mama to Tessa."

  6. I've just started reading through your adoption posts, but this one brought tears to my eyes and I had to stop to comment. I am so glad to have "met" you online. I really do adore your Tess.

    I'm also glad to find someone that doesn't think everyone should adopt. It has been bothering me a great deal that I feel like I'm the only one.

    Have a happy weekend.

  7. It took our Zabi over a year to say mama. She would call everyone else by their name, but not me. She turned 6 in April and has been home for 1.6 years now. We struggle to understand her limited speech daily, although she has made huge speech strides! But oh my, what a sweetie she is! Donna


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