My son (i.e. The Ankle Biter) was born on September 3, 2007.
As of today, he still hasn’t really formulated more than 10 words in his vocabulary.
Now, I realize that in the grand scheme of things this isn’t that big of a deal. And it’s not. But you know what? I want him to talk. I want him to communicate with me on more than just a hand-signal basis. I want him to grow up too fast.
And that’s the thing: I know that I’m totally being selfish about this. I mean, what’s the big hurry? Why should it matter at all? My son understands 90% of what I say to him…he can pretty much tell me what he wants to tell me with hand gestures…so what if he can’t say more than 10 words?
Still…I wasn’t alone in my expectations. The Ex was a little concerned, too. Although I probably shouldn’t use the word “concerned” in there…that would suggest that something is wrong. There isn’t. He’s just taking his sweet ol’ time. He’s a “slow talker”.
Talk With Me
That’s the description we were given when we went to a program called Talk With Me. Basically, this is a group where…for four weeks…parents and their kids get together with a couple of speech-language pathologists and try to encourage more verbal-language behaviors.
Jesus…when I write it down like that, it makes me sound like some kind of psycho-dad who’s one step away from forcing his son to participate in beauty pageants and then appear on an A&E program to defend my actions.
The Ex and I decided to attend the first session together because we both wanted to make sure we were on the same page on the things we learned and the things we’d pass along to the Ankle Biter. The first session didn’t include him as it was specifically for the parents.
We learned that there were different stages to a child’s communication skills. And after going through the session, we really didn’t feel too bad about where Ankle Biter was in his development.
- The first stage is when a baby begins to interpret language. It’s called The Explorer stage. This is when he/she is picking things up and touching stuff and just trying to get a feel for the world around them. It’s at this point that the parent should be throwing some easy words their way as a way to associate items. It’s this stage that a parent can really remember the bewilderment of their kids and seeing their eyes light up at certain toys or items.
The next stage is called The Communicator stage. Now here is when the toddler begins to tell you what he/she wants through non-verbal communication. Doesn’t want to eat that? They’ll turn up their nose and shake their head “no”. Wants to play with that toy? They’ll point to it. Thirsty? Hold out their sippy cup and they’ll reach their hands out for it. To me, this is where being parent just starts to change from “hard work” to “hard work with a bit of fun” because now you’re beginning to communicate with them…however slight. It’s here that repetition of specific words for specific actions becomes extremely important. Even if they don’t say much, they begin to understand.
Next up is probably the most exciting stage: First Words. I mean really…what dad’s heart hasn’t melted the first time he’s heard his child say “dada”? Even if they mumbled or stuttered or just blathered on nonsensically, it’s one of those situations where you tell the world, “Hey…my son just said DA DA!!” This stage is where you want to begin over-pronunciating words so that they hopefully pick up things and begin to not only associate items and actions with words, but they begin sounding the words out themselves. Once they say one word, this is where you may want to add a second word to the item or action. If Ankle Biter is lying on the floor and says, “Up” with his arms outstretched, I could say, “Want up?” Maybe the next time he’ll use both words together. That’s the thought process, anyway.
The stage I’m hoping Ankle Biter gets to next sooner rather than later is The Combiner. As you’d expect, this is when the child is putting two small words together, and it’s up to you to attempt to help them form more of a sentence. At this point, grammar elements are considered “add-ons”. So if Ankle Biter is pointing at a dog barking and says, “dog bark”…maybe just stress that the “dog is barking”. It doesn’t seem like much of a big deal, but this is how a child learns to combine words in an adult way.
Not quite yet...
There are two more stages that are awhile away for Ankle Biter…Early Sentences and Late Sentences. Basically, this is where you help your child go from three- or four-word statements to full-on grammatically correct sentences. Needless to say, we’re not quite there yet.
So once The Ex and I finished the four-week class, we really thought that Ankle Biter would immediately move to Late Sentences and skip everything else. Obviously, that hasn’t been the case.
He says words like “up”, “fall”, “door”, “dog”, and “dadda” (it’s clear…trust me…lol). I guess I’m just wishing he’d say more. At first I thought he was just being lazy, but realistically he hasn’t really been given a reason to say anything more at this point.
The Ex and I understand exactly what he wants 90% of the time. He understands 90% of what we say to him. He’s an absolutely amazing kid. So what if we can’t sit back and wax poetic about the upcoming NFL draft? All in due time…I just need to be patient, I suppose.
Dare to dream