You know how every parent out there will tell you not to compare your children’s milestones and behaviors with their own children or other children around you? Because EVERY child is different. Seems so easy to do, right? Until you are the one with a child that is noticeably struggling with something. Then it takes everything within you to not compare your child with other children their age, to wonder what you did “wrong” as a parent, and question if your child will ever catch up to where they should be.
I was that parent.
Research shows that children should start to say their first words around 12 months of age. They should be starting to say a couple of basic words and babbling a ton. When my son, Gabe was a year old, he was “right on track”, according to his pediatrician with his speech and other cognitive abilities. However, as that year went on, Gabe’s speech did not progress as much as it should have, and I dreaded his two-year checkup with his pediatrician because of it.
My husband, Gabe, and I walked into his two-year checkup, hoping and praying that his pediatrician would miraculously forget to ask us how many words he was saying because we knew that 25 words was not going to cut it. Unfortunately, his pediatrician did not forget, and we reluctantly told her. She then proceeded to tell us that a typical two year old should be saying almost 225 words by this point, and that we should consider taking him to a speech therapist.
Although I knew this wasn’t the end of the world, and that he was going to be okay, my mama heart still sank, grieving the fact that my child had a delay of some sort. And instantly the mom guilt starting trickling in.
I knew in my heart that his speech delay did not reflect the type of mother that I was, but at that moment, I felt like I somehow failed him; especially because I was a SAHM, and he was my “full-time job”.
I started taking Gabe to speech therapy twice a week, and I sat in on every session. I observed everything the therapist said to Gabe, and the activities she had planned out for him; soaking up every ounce of wisdom I could receive from her. That way I would be able to work on those activities and lessons at home with him as well. I then went out and found similar learning games or activities that she used at therapy.
Here are some of the learning activities I bought for Gabe that I feel were the most beneficial for him:
One of the biggest takeaways from Gabe’s time in therapy was something that I, myself, actually learned! His therapist taught me how to speak to Gabe. How to speak very slowly, and how to build words in sentences for him. She encouraged me to make sure I was telling Gabe to repeat words and use visuals of words when we were talking together. When Gabe and I would be working on the activities and puzzles that I listed above, I would use the speaking techniques the therapist gave me, and it truly worked wonders!
Example: When we would be working on the “Spell It!” Spelling Puzzle Game together, we would find all of the letters to make up the word. Then as we were piecing together the puzzle, I would slowly repeat what each letter was, and then give an example of a word that started with that letter. Once the puzzle was complete, we would read the word we just created, and then acknowledge that the word spelled the image in the puzzle we made.
Gabe will be four years old in July, and we still have a ways to go with his speech.
However, his speech is leaps and bounds compared to where it was a couple of years ago. So would I recommend speech therapy for a child that struggles with his or her speech?
100% yes! Not only did the therapist help Gabe, but she helped me as well by being able to communicate with my son better! However, don’t allow just the therapist to be the one to work with your child. WE as mothers and parents have such a huge opportunity to help with our children’s delay as well. Even if you are not a SAHM, and you don’t have all day to intentionally practice with your children, you still have time to converse over dinner, or when you are driving doing errands for the day, or even when you are tucking them in bed at night; truly any chance you get to help them will be beneficial.
Do Not Stress Mama
As much as I do believe speech therapy, practicing lessons and activities with your child, and also social interaction with similar aged children, are huge in their speech progression, in my own experience with Gabe, and in my own opinion, I truly believe that kids will reach milestones when THEY ARE READY. Every single child is different. We cannot expect our children to be like everyone else’s.
Yes, help them grow and learn, sit down with your child and intentionally practice techniques, but DO NOT STRESS about it. I learned the hard way, mamas. I felt that weight for far too long of feeling like I had to “fix the problem”, and I blamed myself for something that was never in my control to begin with. You are doing amazing, mama. Your child WILL move past this season of their life! Trust me, one day you will find yourself driving in the car and wondering if they will ever stop talking.
So take it from me; a mom who allowed stress and comparison to creep in…it’s not worth it. So stop comparing every child you see to yours, stop tearing yourself down, blaming yourself, and please stop worrying.
Your child is beautiful, smart, and unique, and they will reach their milestone when they are ready.