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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Speech therapy & the current status

 Q&A from the sidebar--

"I would love to hear how Tess's speech is coming along.  Any therapy working better than another?"

So let's say you adopt a child from an orphanage.  Maybe the child is 8 or 5 years old.  Of course you'd expect to deal with language and speech issues.  Probably even if the child was 4 or even 3 years old you could expect to have to have language delays.  How about adopting a 2 year old?  Would you expect to need speech therapy if you adopted a child at this age?  How long do you think speech therapy would last till your child was "caught up?"  How about adopting a child younger than 2?   I remember learning something about "imprinting" in college, but I still can't remember the detail or what ages if effected?  How about a baby?  Maybe younger than 1 years old?  Even with language delays, do you think a baby would catch up with their peers pretty quickly?  Ya... me too.  Somethings just don't do like I expected.  As a matter of fact, it's better just to expect the unexpected when adopting institutionalized kiddos.  

Tess came into our arms the day after her 1st birthday.  If you've been following for a while, you probably know that for the first 2 years after T&J came home, I was neck deep in therapy sessions for my sweeties.  At best it was 5, and at it's worse it was 9 therapy sessions per week.  Feeding therapy, OT, PT, speech, attachment, behavioral, cognitive therapies... it was all I did for almost flipping 2 years.  Some therapies they graduated out of, and others they didn't.  The cost of the therapies were covered through our state's Early Intervention program, a federally funded program for children ages birth to three-years-old, for children that may be falling behind.  Both T&J easily qualified.  Then T&J turned 3 years old and qualified for a different early intervention program, one for kiddos ages 3-5, that requires them to enroll in a preschool.  As much as I was opposed to sending my babes off on a school bus each morning and being away from them, enrolling them in preschool, was the only way they would be able to continue the state funded therapy sessions.  

Jude still works on speech as well.   You'll hear a bit of him in the videos below.  He's hard to understand, but like most mama's, I can usually understand him when others have a tough time.  Jude probably isn't the best speech role model for Tess!  I think this is one of the way they are similar to twins.  And they also seem to understand one another when other's can't.  Twin-speak?  I'm not sure.  But a consequence of adopting two kiddos at once for sure.  

So now, I am admitting that I am the biggest mama loser of all time.  I'm not really a part of Tess's speech therapy anymore!  And truth be told, I'm kinda enjoying this therapy hiatus.  After two packed years, I was burnt OUT!  I will say that both Livy and Patch also had speech therapy when they were younger because of repetitive ear infections, and many of the strategies are just a part of our regular home life, like articulating target sounds, and repeating back phrases or using baby sign when they were younger.

So I tried to get Tess to talk a little and video it so you'd have a better idea of her progress.  Never fails that she clams up as soon as I push record. Really, this girly "talks" all day long!  But the beginning of this tape has a good albeit brief example of her continued baby jargon.  She's been rattling off lengthy non-sense baby jargon for almost 2 years now.  In the last few months, we think perhaps her "baby jargon" is actually full of inarticulated and pronounced words and phrases.  It's tough to pick out the actual words.  

And never-you-mind my reaction to her "naughty finger."  I'm lucky that after my reaction she didn't keep flipping us all the bird for months to come!  Liv and I are cracking up behind the camera!

Tess's receptive language, (what she understands) although good, still needs to be worked on a bit.  But that mostly comes through time and interaction.  Most of the active therapy is working on her expressive language and getting her to string together more than 1-2 words.  Any 3+ word phrase is a winner!

The second video was done just a few days ago.  You'll see she still reverts to a couple baby sign, eyes, eating, when she pretend chews.  And just when you think you know your kiddo, my fearless Tess, suddenly developed a fear of flies!  Who knew?!  But if I have to listen to myself say shoo fly one more time, I might shoot myself in the foot!  I added some text in case you can't understand her.  There's a lot I can't understand either.   Gotta give it up to Tess who keeps "talking" all day long even though she's rarely understood.  

Bunny trailing... remember the food issues?  We're still working on that too.  Here's also an example of Tess eating a grape.  It's only about the 3rd one she's ever eaten.  There's a moment when she first bites into it, where you'd think it was poison!  But I'm pretty successful now in getting her to eat at least 1 bite of fruit at every meal now, even with a little bribery at times.

I have to remind myself that her very first words were less than a year ago at 34 months old!  I didn't hear mama till she was almost 3 years old, and as much as I tried not to admit it, that was really hard for me.  And that's where it stands right now.   We're still working on Tess's speech!  Adopting institutionalized kiddos, I always expected to have to deal with some language issues.  So I wasn't surprised (and in fact considered myself so pro-active) when they qualified for speech therapy.  But I had NO idea that we'd still be hard at it 2 1/2 years later.  At times, I still slide into worry, like when I hear other kiddos adopted at the same age, who talk so clearly.  And especially when we're around other littles who jabber away in lengthy soliloquies about the vast tundras of the northern regions of Arctic circle... or Lego's.  Speech does just "come" for most adopted children.  I really wish our children were among the children that didn't have to deal with speech issues.  But they do.  It is what it is and no amount of worry is gonna fix that.  

But now I can envision a time where speech won't be an issue for Tess.  Maybe when she's 5 or 6 or 10 or 35.  And for me, emotionally, this is a BIG step.   In hind site, this therapy journey, and the whole parenting special kiddos from hard places, really has been more about me, and learning how to joyfully surrender to the Lord's plan.    
To enjoy the here and now God has given me, and be the best me with what I have at this very minute. 
To enjoy every single moment of this gorgeous blessing God has given me to parent, 
my daughter,
my Tess.  

PS-I'm so sorry about the horribly annoying, grating sound of my voice.  It's all I can do to post it here!  I swear I do not sound like that!  I have a much more sultry, Kathleen Turner-ish voice... in my imaginary bubble world.  


  1. Great post about speech. Yup, we thought speech would just come. But, it hasn't and it has been really hard work every day, every minute. And it's paying off big time - Maggie said alligator today at speech and I almost fainted !

  2. Thank you for sharing. If there is one thing I'm learning about adoption is to go in prepared, but without expectations and that it will still be different than what you plan for. I love seeing T and J in the first video (the second one tells me it is private) and personally thought it was kind of nice to hear a cyber friend's voice--even if it doesn't accurately represent your real voice.

  3. Cedar-I think I got the video clip figured out. I always have so much trouble loading.
    And ya... I'm 99% sure I have a Kathleen Turner voice and NOT the squeaky awful-ness that depicted here. I don't leave the messages on our home phone's answering machine.

  4. I laughed about the voice comment- I think the camera must do something to our voices! Although I answer my phone and have people ask for my mom-HELLO, haven't lived with her in years :o)

    She is sooooo precious, I love her little voice, and she is speaking Tessanese. One day she will wake up and tell you things in full sentences, and it will be beautiful music to your ears.

  5. I 'feel ya', My oldest 2 have been through years of Speech Therapy and it is such a long road for some kids. But your video's had me laughing at the adorablness of your children, so so so love these guys. Tess's facial expressions crack me up! *sigh*

    And you voice probably really does sound that way! We all think we have low sultry voices.....but who are we kiddin' ! LOL

  6. At the very last sentence of the second video clip, I think Tess might be saying "with a stinger in it." She is such a cutie! It is good to hear she is making progress.

  7. Thanks as always for sharing with such honesty and transparency-our Hannah has too struggled with speech and will certainly not be caught up by age 3 and it is scary and overwhelming but it truly is those struggles that will make us stronger! Keep working Tess-you've come a long way!!

  8. I just stumbled onto your blog and first off... I love your pictures! They are fabulous and your kids are so adorable!

    We have been going through speech problems at our house too. OUr daughter was brought home (from Guatemala) at the age of 2 and a half and has been home about that long as well. Sometimes when she's taking with people they look at me in total confusion and I have to explain she has trouble speaking. It sounds like baby talk or a made up language at times. I even had one person ask me if I thought she had autism.

    We too put our daughter into preschool because she could get the therapy she needed. It was like pulling teeth to get it privately. (That or paying a fortune!) your blog and thanks for sharing about your sweet kids!

  9. my brother could not speak clearly untill the age of 7 but now he is fine


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