Slow and steady wins the race.
Last month I posted on here in regards to Oakley's speech (the original blog post can be found here) I explained my concerns, what action I took and that in fact I was right in doing so, we since have received some wonderful support from our local children's center and health visitors. Oakley's review was bought forward, a further review done and a hearing test booked in (which we have in 2 days, eeeek!) I had so so many messages after that blog post I cant even begin to tell you, so many concerned mamas feeling the same way I did, too scared to say anything, mostly with the fear of sounding like an over the top mother. We shouldn't feel that way, albeit we do! So here's and update, and it comes with IMPROVEMENTS, which is all I could of hoped for at this point, as well as a new mindset for me but I will explain that too.
So for the past 4 weeks Oakley has been taking part in speech and language classes, nothing too intense just a 90 minute 'stay and play' style session with different play stations, all headed up by a lovely lady who has been trained in children's speech and Language. We were referred to this class after Oakleys review flagged that he was exceeding in all areas except his communication and speech, in fact he was way below average. I wasn't sure what to expect, I wondered how much they could possibly teach him, especially for free. I was pleasantly surprised to find that yes although initially the problem lay way HIM, actually It was ME that needed the correct tools to encourage him in a way that I hadn't been. I told them all the things we do, I gave it the 'but we talk to him ALL the time' Which is true we do! and 'Hes always busy, we take him here, there and everywhere so he socializes a lot' Also true! I think in hindsight I didn't want to be judged, or deemed a bad mum because he wasn't talking, laughable now because I know Ive done nothing wrong. I just needed some small techniques to help me along the way.
So here's some changes we've made... (Albeit small changes and somewhat silly changes but believe me, they have helped) This is in no way meant to be patronizing, I too was a little put back, especially when the lady in charge was correcting me as I spoke.
- Questions:Without knowing it I was asking too many questions; When playing with a football I would ask (In mum voice, you know the one) 'What are you doing? Are you playing football?' Well durrr mum, it looks that way! So instead now I would say 'Wow, your playing football! Oakleys playing football, well done.' Simple right? Simple statements rater than questioning something he is already obviously doing, a little repetition to make it even clearer then the praise.
- Options: Choice is good, I think we get so used to knowing our little ones inside out that we like robots know exactly what they want, exactly when they want it. I would pour Oakley a drink not giving a thought to including him in the process or choose him a snack without the offering of variety . Now I show him options, Milk and Juice, I ask him which he would prefer. Once I have a response, then comes the repetition and praise (again).
- Slow & Clear: I always spoke to Oakley like I spoke to my husband really, minus the mum voice of course but I would include him in my ramblings on. Hes the only real company I have some days so I would chat to him like an adult not really realizing that his tiny little brain was not able to take it. Although its a lovely sentiment it was not helping him progress. Now I am short and sweet but slow and clear.
In doing these small steps, although they haven't always been convenient they have moved him forward without a doubt. Call it coincidence if you will but the clear changes I have seen in my boy this past month have been great, giving him that extra time and also allowing him more time to process things has got him listening better, responding and communicating better and hes now doubled up his word count. I'm not saying that those 3 simple steps will work for all, but they were so simple and even though I was so adamant that I was doing all the right things, I was at times doing too much.
Of course there has been some other elements too that we are sticking too, book time before bed used to be unsuccessful the majority of the time, Oakley would get bored after 2 pages or want to force the pages over before I had even had time to read them. I gave up most nights as I wasn't convinced it was worth it. Now, the past month has proved me wrong, I'm shouted at each time the book ends 'MOREEE' and 'GENNNNN' We have discovered a small amount of books we had at home are actually fantastic at repetition, clear phonic sounds and are helping Oakley recognize words and sentences, even to the point that he knows what sound to make before we get to it. Here are our favourites;
- The Gruffalo - Julia Donaldson. Great repetition through out, catchy phrases, lots of opportunity to emphasis sounds. Illustration is amazing too.
- The Gruffalos Child - Julia Donaldson. As a sequel to an already popular book for us the characters and illustration is familiar and Oakley recognized that. (Points above apply also.)
- Oi Frog - Kes Gray. Rhyming fun, lots of sound making, amazing animals with cool animal illustrations. The book has a real comical feel to it which comes across in my voice as I read it, something Oakley enjoys.
- Please Mr Panda - Steve Antony. Lots of repetition, same question being asked through each page. Short and simple book with a good moral about the importance of manners, whats not to love.
Another tool we have began to use is song cards and flash cards. I'm trying to turn the TV off, put my phone away and focus on these as much as I can, be that every day, every other day or a few times a week. Look we know its difficult to find the time, I'm not being hard on myself if it doesn't happen, we just have to at least try. Song cards were provided by my class leader, each class Oakley and the other few children are able to select a card by looking at the pictures, then that picture is relevant to a song that we all sing. At the moment heads, shoulders, knees and toes is a firm favourite. You could make these by hand or on a computer, you could even use a toy as a symbol for a song. My alphabet flashcards are from the lovely Lauren at Freddie The Kid, we use them to look at the pictures and talk about whats on each card, completely ignoring the letters. The alphabet although very important eventually is not important right now, its not something at 2 years old they are expected to know. We just simply talk about what we see, sometimes if Oakley is more interested than normal we can add detail; colour, size or what sound they make too.
Play is important, I used to worry that Oakley played too much but the reassurance around this at the group has been so positive. They cant stress enough about the importance of play! Play is something Oakley does well, no qualms in that department. He has a tendency to tip every box over, get out everything possible, slowly we are starting to play with less items for more time, which is a great way to really appreciate play time. I'm enjoying playtime mess more knowing that he is gaining more from it.
Thanks so much for reading this blog post, Its been a worry of mine that sharing all of this may come across as being a patronizing over bearing mother, or that I'm being a pushy idiot but these little tools and techniques have done us a world of good. Oaks is communicating better which in turn cuts a little of that frustration out, of course hes only a 2 year old and hes off doing the next annoying thing in no time but it feels amazing to have more control over his speech. I'm no longer comparing him to others, I'm happy to continue working with his hand in mine until hes ready...
Slow and steady wins the race.