That little something that happened was a major breakthrough. It's like someone flipped a little switch inside Lily's brain that said "Speech. It's time for it." She's always been a babbler, and she's had a few words here and there the past year that she used instead of signs.
But during the month of December, just before she turned three, we started noticing that she was dropping signs more and more and attempting new words.
Besides whatever happened in Lily's natural development, I really attribute so much of it to Lily's new speech therapist Edith, who now works with her on a semi-weekly basis. Edith has given us tools to teach Lily, and these tools are invaluable to me. Because although I had helped nine previous children learn to talk, I'm pretty sure they would have gotten it on their own.
Not so with Lily.
And unless you're a parent of a child with special needs, you might not know what I'm talking about.
|new outfit courtesy of Mackenzie, poodle purse from Jo and Mo :)|
Our kids need help.
Is the therapy we give them everything? Or are some things just hard wired ? I think there's a balance, and I think as parents we have to approach educating and helping our kids with that balance in mind. That old saying is true...you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
However - you can give your child tools to learn to do what they want to do, and do it better.
And here's where I think it gets interesting regarding development in our kids with Down syndrome. I'm by no means an expert; I've only been at this for three years. But this is what I've seen ...
Lily WANTS to talk. She is not resisting speech. She is frustrated when she wants something and doesn't have a sign or a word for it, she imitates us talking, she watches signing times videos and literally LIP SYNCS the songs with Rachel Coleman (cutest thing ever!), she tries to verbalize her needs and if she can't, she uses her 150 plus signs to get us to see what she wants - she wants to talk.
So just like physical therapy is designed to put all those motor skills into place to teach a child to stand or walk or jump or kick a ball - speech therapy is helping us to give Lily the tools she needs to talk.
I've read a lot of debate on this issue of therapy on different Down syndrome forums. I've gone back and forth myself about what is useful, and what I already would have done with my child anyway, without the help of therapists. For example, nobody had to teach me to read books to Lily on a regular basis, or sing songs with her, or point to pictures in books and ask her what we were looking at. These were things we did with all of our children, and it just came naturally.
But there are things that I've learned through having therapists in our home that I never would have known, had they not come.
|Karen, Lily's EI therapist for the past three years. WE WILL MISS HER !|
For instance, I didn't know that it was crucial to get Lily to try a variety of textures and foods when she was six months old...most of my babies nursed until they were a year old, and that was their primary food source. If they ate baby food or table food or snacks, they did so on their own, and some ate more than others. But our therapist, Karen, explained how important it was to introduce many types of food - hot, cold, spicy, sweet, crunchy, smooth, etc. - early on, because this would help Lily avoid the food jags that are so typical to Down syndrome. I'm so glad we heeded her advice, because Lily has had periods of time where she completely bucked anything other than her favorite "white" foods (cheerios, yogurt, bread, etc.). But because we had that tool to feeding, we persisted in offering varieties of food, and we're seeing great strides in these areas.
Edith, Lily's new SLP, has given me at least a hundred tools to use with Lily on a regular basis, and I cannot tell you - I CANNOT EVEN DESCRIBE TO YOU - how these tools have helped.
So I'll just give you some videos to watch instead.
And you know what's fabulous? Lily adores Edith. I mean ADORES Edith. She soaks up everything she teaches her, and without fail, we see results immediately. Last week when Edith came, she spent a long time helping Lily to say the "n" sound. For some reason Lily has had a harder time with this sound. I think every one of my kids learned to say the word NO very early on, but Lily just shakes her head. Every now and then she will say nuh-nuh-nuh for "no" if she is really upset, but it's not often.
So after Edith left, guess what Lily did? She went and got her doll, sat her on the stairs in front of her, and proceeded to teach her the sound "n". She held up flash cards, pointed to her own lips, "prompted" her doll by sticking her finger under her chin - and nailed the sound herself.
And that's what a good therapist can do.