Most of you may not know this, but our little Georgie is speech delayed. I could’ve told you this when she was 10 months old, but you may not have believed me like no one else did. First takeway– listen to your mama intuition.
Early Signs G was not an easy baby, she was the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of her sister in every single way. She didn’t sleep through the night, had trouble with bottles and silent reflux, had a genetic scare, and not surprisingly didn’t develop language like most of her peers.
My first indicator that she was “behind” was her lack of babble. Where most kids would make goo goo ga ga noises, she only said “ma ma” and screamed for what seemed like forever. There were no other words or sounds, for a really long time, like past the age of 14 months. She didn’t do animal noises, or parrot anything we said, she straight screamed or screamed mamamamamamama. I know that between 10 months and 14 months seems young to notice anything, but I did. She was not communicating at all. I tried baby sign, and even then she refused to do common signs like milk or more. We all became quickly frustrated because we couldn’t give her what she wanted.
First Time Asking for Help At our 1 year visit, I finally asked my pediatrician seriously. I had mentioned it leading up, because I was noticing a lack of words developing, but at 1 year I felt like she should be saying more than mama for EVERYTHING. Our kind doctor told us not to worry and to just keep working with her, because she was perfectly within the range of what was normal, because really developmentally everywhere else she was perfectly fine. She understood everything we said, she just didn’t say anything back.
Little Things I continued to worry for Georgie’s speech. She finally added no to the mix, and we quickly realized that everytime she was sweetly screaming mama, she really meant NO NO NO. Dada took a couple more months to come out. Animal sounds were still a no go, though she loved to look at them and interact. There was zero parroting, we would try to say everything overstated so that she would try to work on the words, but it was not happening. We really struggled with “milk” and “more”, and really pushed sign language to encourage her to communicate with us. Thank goodness for that because it relieved a bit of the frustration for all of us. Every visit we went, I mentioned her speech, and every time I was told she was too young to tell. That until she was 2 years old they really weren’t behind. The teacher in me struggled with this the most. I knew she was behind, I could feel it in my gut! She began to have tantrums, and pretty bad ones at that, and most kids a lot younger than her were speaking so much more than her! My family started asking questions, and still I tried to listen to the doctors and wait wait wait.
Telling them I needed Help When Georgie was 18 months old we moved to Texas. We got a new pediatrician and the first thing I mentioned to her at our new patient visit was that I thought Georgie was speech delayed. I explained that she was FINALLY babbling at home during play and that her tantrums were getting pretty bad usually when I was trying to decipher what she wanted. Again, she told me that it was hard to tell at this age based on the information I gave her. She gave me a couple of ideas on how to handle her tantrums and that was that.
A couple of months later I hit my breaking point. Georgie had a massive tantrum because I was putting a diaper on her, dressing her and trying to get her sister to school. I did every single thing that the doctor told me to do, I comforted her, let her be for a while, walked away, told her no, I dressed her while she ripped off her diaper and clothes multiple times, and basically forced her kicking, squirming and screaming down the stairs. She head butted me so hard I thought I was going to kill someone. I then had to force her into the car and strap her in, while holding her down with my elbows. It was two hours after I had started dressing her and I literally was sweating from the stress. Charlie kindly got dressed and into the car while I dealt with her sister. As G continued to shriek and finally fell asleep, I called the pediatrician. I begged them to let me come in because I could not take it a second longer. I took G in and my pediatrician checked her ears and observed her. After a lot of talking she finally told me that I should go get her tested. She told me I could go through the state services or go to a local private speech pathology center. I was given all the tools to get my girl help.
Where to Start We struggled with the decision of getting G tested through state services or through a private therapist. Having been a teacher in public schools, I knew how complicated state services can be. There are hoops to jump through and honestly at the time, I was so damn tired of jumping. Before I go into what we did, I am going to tell you what I wish I had done. I should’ve jumped through the hoops, because state services are free or less expensive. Worst case, if they don’t give you services, then you go to the private place as a plan B.
Private therapy is expensive but, we were able to get her evaluated right away, and set up with sessions that next week. I finally felt like I was helping my girl through her frustrations. Our speech therapist was to meet with Georgie 2 times a week for 30 minutes. At first there was a lot of play and observation. Georgie tends to be quiet around new people, I think in part because of her lack of confidence in her ability to communicate. For the first three weeks she barely made a peep, like literally not a little noise. Finally, she warmed up to her therapist and gained confidence. She began to make noises and sounds at home during activities that she does in speech. For example, they would read Brown Bear, Brown Bear every week, and she would focus on her saying “see” at the “what do you see” part. At first it was just “ee.” But, again, for her that was a lot, she never parroted us, she hardly spoke real sounds other than screams. Soon, it was easy to note that G’s problem wasn’t language, as she understood everything, and could “respond” and react to spoken sentences correctly. They began to focus on articulation and doing one to one games so that she is rewarded an act of a game for doing something she is asked to do. For example say “bay” correctly, she gets to open a door to the veterinary hospital and pull out another animal. She improved every single week and the tantrums really did subside almost completely.
Where we are now We are no where near done, over six months in and G still goes to speech twice a week. As we near closer to the age of three I am getting more concerned again. Our therapist reminds me often that she is over six months behind, and to think back how much she has improved in that time alone. We talk every single session, and she gives me tips and homework to do with her. We practice words and sounds that they are working on in speech at home. I also bring in words and phrases that I find we are struggling with on a daily basis. One of our first struggles was milk, still is, but when we began she couldn’t say it at all. No matter what I tried, I never knew she wanted milk and she refused to sign back at me because she was so frustrated. Our therapist worked with me and her to come up with the sound “mmm”. I would say “Georgie do you want milk? mmmm?” and I would sign. Finally we were able to get Georgie to nod and say “mmm” Now we are working on saying the full word milk, because though Charlie and I know what she is saying, no one else does. She is finally making some words at school, and her teachers are happy to hear her little voice sometimes. At home shes a full on wild woman and talks non stop, it’s just not easy to understand her most of the time.
We actually went to get her evaluated by the state intervention services the other day. She did not qualify for services because her language is too good! It’s insane because she struggles immensely still. It really upset me, speech is costly, but I also just want her to have all the help necessary so that when it’s time for her to be in Kindergarten she is playing on an even field. Her therapist was surprised, but not surprised because she is aware how state funded evaluations go. They focus on a lot of language based tests here in Texas, and that really isn’t Georgie’s issue. Her therapist mentioned G potentially having a mild case of apraxia, though it is something we are looking into more.
Thank God for Sisters The most incredible part of this entire trying process, has been seeing how Charlie can understand Georgie 99% of the time. When she had a lot of tantrums and screamed a lot, I would always tell C “be nice, she’s little and she’s learning to talk.” Charlie would always repeat this to anyone and everyone, “my sister is little, she’s learning to talk.” Nowadays Georgie will babble on in sentences, but isn’t articulating well. I used to think Charlie was being a smartass, but really she understands most everything she says and its quite shocking (& incredibly helpful.) I love this bond they share, I appreciate the help it gives me, and I know Georgie feels encouraged by being able to hold a conversation with her sister.
It’s been quite the winding road, and we are nowhere near the end, but I just felt like I should share this tidbit of our lives in case someone else needs to read this and see they’re not alone. If you follow us on Instagram, you probably have heard Charlie chattering away just like her mama and you probably have heard Georgie too, but maybe not noticed that she is struggling. It’s such a private struggle for all of us. At first because maybe you think they’re going to develop, later because no one wants to proceed until they hit a certain age or milestone, and continually because no one wants their child to be the one behind. I have made it my mission to push back as often as possible, to get my kid where I want her to be. I pestered my doctors, I fought with my husband, and I was frustrated beyond belief. I didn’t let it stop me. I am her advocate, and I will always go above and beyond to help my children succeed.
If you feel like your child might be behind or are struggling with the tornado that is having a speech delayed child, I’m here if you need a friend to chat with. I’ll help you find services in your area and I will gladly be your cheerleader through the process!