Birthdays, holidays, trips, surgeries, and reduced childcare have been conspiring to decimate my previously immaculate record of regular posting. Bear with me please, I'm working on it.
We just had Ava's second IEP meeting. She's come such a long way.
(Brief review for those who aren't caught up.
We began almost exactly two years ago with her early intervention evaluation. At that time she was barely talking at all even though she was almost two years old. Even more concerning was that she only had a few speech sounds she could make and she couldn't imitate. She was also giving up - beginning to turn to rudimentary gestures instead of even trying to talk.
Over the next several months we started using communication boards and sign language which gave her some tools to communicate and made her much happier. She began receiving services and working with me intensively at home. We all worked hard, and we saw a great deal of progress. She learned new sounds and started using words along with her signs. She made the jump to two-word utterances. Steadily we saw progress.
Six months after her initial IFSP meeting the second one was held and the team identified an additional area of need. Ava had sensory issues that were affecting basic life skills like dressing, bathing, feeding, and socializing. She began to receive occupational therapy in addition to her speech therapy. She continued to make progress in both areas.
Another six months crept by as she approached the age of three where children transition from early intervention to services provided by the schools. We needed to have her reevaluated to see if she would continue to qualify for services. Fortunately, she did and so her first IEP meeting was held. On her third birthday she joined a speech group using the cycles approach. It has served her well and over the next year we have seen so much progress.)
At this point Ava is speaking in full sentences using age-appropriate vocabulary and morphology. She is not at all hesitant to communicate and is usually intelligible. She continues to exhibit many speech errors but the only ones that are age-inappropriate at this point are /k/ and /g/. If you've been following me for a while, you'll know that we've been working on /k/ and /g/ for something like 18 months. I am happy to report that they are finally starting to come in. She can produce velar sounds now. She can do it almost all the time when imitating words in medial and final position and at least 85-90% of the time when imitating initial position. I even hear it pop in occasionally in spontaneous speech. (Okay, very occasionally, but that is huge!) So, finally we are on our way with the velars. Now it is just a matter of time.
At her IEP meeting we decided that the speech group using the cycles approach was no longer the most appropriate setting for her given that she's only working on velars. We are reducing her minutes to 30 minutes a week and she will receive those services via a traditional pull-out method. Her therapist will pull her out of her preschool room for 15 minutes twice a week to work with her on her velars.
I know there is more to work on than the velars, but I am so much more relaxed about it. The other sounds come in later anyway (/th/, /r/, etc.). She's mostly intelligible. I'm going to start homeschooling in the summer, and I think I'll sneak speech work into pre-reading phonics lessons rather than addressing it completely separately during "speech time". She's really have a phonemic awareness explosion enjoying playing with syllables, beginning and ending sounds, rhyming, and alliteration and so working on the speech covertly through a related area of strength makes more sense to me.
In summary, things are good. Progress over the past two years has been phenomenal and I anticipate that she will continue to improve. As I look back and remember how devastated and worried I was two years ago I wish I could travel back in time and provide a glimpse of the future. We are fine. Ava is fine. It has been a lot of work, and a huge commitment. However, even the work has often been fun. Ava enjoys her speech therapy and the friends she makes there. She’s been doing it so long, it is just a part of her life – no different than preschool or gymnastics. It is just an activity for her. I’d say the turning point is when the speech improves just enough that you can understand her most of the time. When everyone is frustrated and in tears because you just can’t understand what they are trying to say on a daily or hourly basis, things are awful. After that, it is so much easier.