Just last weekend I was doing some research watching some old home videos trying to see differences between the speech development of Ava and Michael. The major thing that stood out to me was the ease with which Michael could combine words. Ava struggled to do so. A couple of days later I wrote a post on the topic.
Since then, Ava has begun combining words. Frequently. Many times each day. She will do it in imitation succeeding about half the time. She’ll also do it spontaneously. Last Saturday morning, when we picked Ava up from my parents’ house, my dad said, “Listen to what Ava can do.” He told her, “Say Papa house.” Ava then repeated, clear as day, “Papa (small pause) house.” I was amazed and excited and so proud. We heaped praise upon her. As we were driving home the little show off then said, “Mama house.” It was the beginning of something new.
We were walking into her school where they’ve decorated the entryway for spring with construction paper flowers. Ava stopped, pointed, and said, “Pink flower. Red flower. Purple flower.” Seriously! Who is this child? She likes to label things by owner. So, “Mama shoe. Dada shoe. My shoe.” She even said, “Mama no shoe,” once. It’s crazy.
Now, I don’t want to give the impression that all of this is coming out perfectly or easily, or that she is successful all the time. It’s still pretty obvious that combining words takes effort. Many speech sounds are being left out and the words don’t at all sound like adult pronunciations would. She also doesn’t succeed all the time. Often, when asked to say a two word sentence the words will still come out as two of the same word. And she still uses one word sentences most of the time. However, this is a huge breakthrough. She is using two word phrases some of the time. I guess the tapping and encouragement made sense for her. I can’t believe this is the same child that scored at the four-six month old level in speech and language only two months ago.
So what does this mean? Well, I still believe that we are dealing with a disorder. The history is too atypical for the speech problems to be a simple delay or just due to the hearing loss due to the fluid in her ears. I do think, at this point, that I feel fairly safe in saying her disorder is on the milder side. Children with a severe disorder work just as hard, and don’t have the same kind of response to intervention. If I had spent two months working intensively with Ava and had seen very little progress that would indicate a more severe disorder. Given the extent of her delay two months ago, I feared something quite severe. I told my family that I wasn’t going to make any predictions though until I saw how responsive she was to intervention. I told them I’d know more in 3-4 months. Only two months later I can say that she’s been very responsive so far and that is a very good sign.
We’ll continue to work with her. She still needs to fine-tune many vowels. She’s missing lots of consonants as well. I’d like to try to start to get her to add final consonants to the ends of her words. And, of course, we want her to continue to use those two word phrases and to add more of them gradually increasing to three or even four word sentences. I’ll consult with Ms. J this weekend and let her expertise guide me in determining which of those things is most important and guide me in how to best achieve those goals.
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