Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ethan's Speech

Ethan is steadily growing in his speech and language. It’s slow progress, but very encouraging. I’ve made it my top priority to do daily therapy with him, which I call “Talk Time” and he calls “Ba /D/” (after the first 2 consonant sounds we worked on together). And he continues to meet weekly with a professional therapist.

He enjoys the therapy, even though it is work for him. What we all take for granted as easy sounds, copied by babies even under a year old, are work for Ethan. I can see his concentration as he watches my mouth closely to copy what I’m doing, or tries his hardest to remember what I showed him last time.

We began by taking consonant sounds he could already say, and having him go back and forth between them to practice agility. So his first exercise sounded like /b/-/d/-/b/-/d/ and /t/-/p/-/t/-/p/. Then he practiced vowel sounds. Next we put together his easy consonants with a vowel, so they’d sound like “doo, dee, dah.” At the same time we also began introducing actual words, with their own pictures, that followed the pattern (for example “me” and “bee”) and encouraging him to use those words in daily life.

Because /t/ and /p/ are not voiced sounds, Ethan finds it easiest to combine them with a vowel if he whispers the whole thing. If he doesn’t whisper, his /t/ can come out sounding like /d/ and /p/ becomes /b/. He’ll get it eventually. He gets better at it every time.

We’re now also including combinations where there is a vowel followed by a consonant ending. And I’m stopping Ethan as much as seems reasonable, during his daily communication, to encourage him to try using actual words, now that he has the building blocks to do it.

I’ve been encouraged by his ability to say words when prompted, like “bunny,” “frog,” and “banana.” But the most encouraging thing lately has been his own attempts without outside help.

The other day, he wanted a cup of tea. For the past few months, his word for tea has been “bee,” but “bee” has also been used for any word with an ee sound in it (please, bee, cheese, etc.). So I generally have to clarify with him what he means. This time, he saw a brief glimpse of confusion on my face and before I even asked him what he meant by “bee” he said /t/ and I knew what he wanted.

And yesterday, he was hungry in the afternoon and showed me a piece of pretend bread. I said, “Oh, you want bread?” He said, “No, toe.” I couldn’t believe it. He wanted “toast” and without having ever practiced that word or even talked about it, he was able to say the first two sounds. I happily gave him some toast, even though we were about to sit down to dinner, because I was so pleased that he’d said “toast”!