As a parent, I think when it comes to talking about our children, it is only natural to worry about their development. We want to make sure they are keeping up and when we notice that they may not be, we stay quiet. Perhaps that’s because we are a little too proud, maybe embarrassed or even a little afraid that if we ask for help it may lead to judgement.
This was exactly how we felt at first when we started having our suspicions about Cassidy having a speech delay. However, after facing this head on and talking about it openly, I quickly realized just how common this can be AND yet how very little it is often talked about.
So, with this being said, I wanted to write this post to break the silence, create a community, give guidance and most importantly, show you there is nothing to be scared of.
From the time Cassidy was born, we never had any concerns regarding basic developmental milestones. She rolled around, she took her first steps at 11 months, said “dada” and “mama” and then would just talk in her own little language all day long. However, around the time she was turning 18 months, I started noticing how she wasn’t quite where she “should” be in terms of language. At 18-months, the CDC says that most kids “should” have about 20 single words in addition to many other things. Well for Cassidy there were probably only 5 clear words we could understand from her at the time. After consulting with our pediatrician, we decided to wait a couple more months and get closer to her second birthday before taking any steps. It was explained to me that a lot can happen right before two so it was best to just give it time. I agreed with this and decided to wait.
Well come October, 2 months before she’d be turning two, Cassidy still hadn’t made much progress and had no more than 10 full words. I knew by this point that she wasn’t exactly where she needed to be. She was still talking (more like babbling) in her own language but when it came to using real words, engaging with other kids her age, and even basic pronunciation, something was off the mark. I knew it was time for us to get a second opinion and see if it would be worth it to have her get help.
Thankfully in New Jersey, you don’t need a doctor’s referral to have an early intervention evaluation done so I was able to set that all up myself. I’m not positive how it works in other states but I’d assume it’s probably pretty similar. When it came time for Cassidy’s evaluation, it was done in 2 separate meetings. The first would be the actual evaluation with Cassidy and then the second was the follow up, where we’d review results and create a plan of action if she did in fact qualify.
**I’ve heard from a lot of mamas that have said that during this point, that many children may actually not qualify because what you think is a delay might actually be quite normal. Obviously that didn’t happen for us but all I can say is that if this ends up being the case for you and you feel it is incorrect, don’t be afraid to push!**
The evaluation in itself was fairly simple. A team of 2 people came to our house, one would play with Cassidy while the other sat at a computer observing and recording notes/scoring. They’d do structured assessments with Cassidy, using toys and fun things, but then also ask me questions as well. These questions were targeted to identify things such as language concerns, social concerns and fine motor concerns. Yes, even if your child is only showing delay in one area, they will take a look at it all. Just want to point that out so you aren’t concerned if you notice them looking into a different area of observation.
Oh, and lastly, because this entire evaluation is state provided, it was free! Another reason it’s totally worth having done if you feel there is any concern for your child. There is literally nothing to lose!
As you could have guessed based on this post, Cassidy did in fact qualify for early intervention therapies. The results of her evaluation showed that she had the language ability equivalent to an 11-month-old (not good for being 24 months old) but when it came to things like her fine motor skills she actually far exceeded her age (this is actually something I have heard can be quite common in kids with speech delays). Makes sense considering what a monkey she is with climbing everything. As for social development, we concluded that her lack of engagement wasn’t so much an issue but more a result of her not fully understanding when she hears other kids speak. Again, made total sense because she looked at kids like they were speaking a foreign language.
It was determined from here on out that she’d have early intervention therapy 1x a week here at our house and then additionally, 2x a week she would go to see a speech therapist. A speech therapist isn’t always necessary for each kid. Cassidy, however, has improper tongue positioning and needs to work on the muscles of her mouth, which will ultimately help with vocabulary and pronunciation of words.
For the past 4 months, that is until recently with the whole COVID crisis, Cassidy was having her weekly sessions. When our E.I. therapist comes to our home, she brings a whole slew of toys, puzzles, books and more. Basically, its likes Christmas morning for Cassidy because she gets so freaking excited to be able to play with things she’s never seen before. It during this time that our therapist uses things like mimicking, repetition, pretend play and more to help nail home some new words. Each week varies because it all really depends on how Cassidy is doing that day. Sometimes she does shut down because it may be a lot for her to absorb but when that happens, our therapist is so great and understanding to know when/how to give space and get her to open back up.
As for Speech Therapy, again up recently, we were attending our sessions twice weekly. Each appointment is only 30-minutes, short enough to teach and keep Cassidy engaged. These sessions are a little different because we focus more on activities that help Cassidy’s mouth muscles. We blow bubbles, sometimes eat food, drink out of various straws, and more. It’s actually super interesting to watch because they have so many tools to help get Cassidy on track.
Ultimately with everything, we have a set of goals we are aiming to achieve in the next year up until the time Cassidy turns three. At this point, we will then reassess her and if we feel she still could benefit from continued early intervention, she will get that help at our local pre-school, which is run out of the public elementary school.
Since beginning, the change we’ve been able to witness in Cassidy has been extraordinary. She has more than quadrupled the amount of words in her vocab but has also flourished when it comes to engaging with others, following direction and establishing independence. While we still have a ways to go, this entire experience has been nothing but positive.
If you are at all concerned about your child’s speech or any developmental milestone, I would highly recommend bringing it up at your next pediatrician appointment. OR if you don’t want to wait, give your state health department a call to get an evaluation scheduled. Trust me, I know how scary it can feel when you worry about your kids. I really really get it! However, by taking the initiative, I advocated for my daughter, got the help she needed, and have watched her thrive ever since. As for myself, I proved I could unleash my inner bear, putting all fears aside, I was able to speak up for my daughter, when she couldn’t do so herself!