Maybe I’m bias, but TJ has the cutest little voice. No matter what he says I just want to eat him up even if the words are not properly pronounced or if his story about school does not add up.
Likewise, watching and listening to a toddler first gain their voice is amazing and a learning experience in itself, even more than I thought it was…as I recently found out.
My daughter started to speak in sentences way before we remember my son doing so. Or at least, her delivery was much clearer. However, as parents for the first time, we had no idea what was “typical” and what wasn’t. (I say that loosely as no two children are alike.)
Sure, there were times, TJ got frustrated with us when we did not understand fully what he was trying to tell us. But then, we saw how clever he was to figure out how to give us clues to get us to understand.
“Mommy, you know what I mean. It rhymes with pain and rain, and it is on your head.”
“Oh brain! How clever! Great problem-solving skills!
Plus, as a special education teacher I never wanted to over-analyze my own children when it wasn’t necessary. So we corrected him when needed and even had a good laugh the times that called for it… like the time he called to my brother-in-law,
“Hey! Uncle Frankie, you’re a dumb #$@%!” …
…aka dump truck.
What a cute, hilarious scene at Christmas that year when TJ was 3.5.
Fast forward to just after Christmas a year later…
when I received his preschool report card. He received all 4s out of 5s except for speaking in full sentences which he did for us. He got a 2!?!?! Then I turned to the back to read the note,
“TJ has a kind heart and is nice to everyone. He gets frustrated when his friends can’t understand him. I love his art!”
What!?!? “He gets frustrated when his friends can’t understand him.”
Okay, maybe there was more to this than we knew. After I started to panic, how could we have missed this? Or overlooked it? Did we not read enough books? Would he get picked on or bullied in kindergarten? Did we teach him all wrong? Did we fail him? What other trauma did we cause him? What did I do wrong? And a million other questions….
But then I reminded myself …. breath … pray… breath …
So, I spoke to a close friend at work who works part time at another facility for speech and she calmed me down, suggesting I take him there for an evaluation. She also mentioned that sometimes problems with eating and speaking are related which got me thinking some more.
A week later, I took TJ to get evaluated and sure enough, he needed speech. Interestingly enough, we learned that some of the problem letters like g and k that were causing him to not be understood were due to lack of muscle strength in his mouth. All related to feeding too!!!
Now, anyone who knows us and knows TJ, knows how we have spent his whole life asking him to chew or eat…. reminding him to chew and eat.
“TJ, what are you eating? TJ, chew your food. TJ, eat. TJ, EEAAATTT!!!!!”
He has always been such a sloooooooooooooooow eater and now we knew part of a reason why….
He mainly uses his front teeth.
So, we had a couple added challenges. But wherever there are problems, there can be solutions as well. Thank God for that!
Therefore, we started using bite blocks and a chewy tube to strengthen his back mouth muscles while also practicing letters and words that he knows how to say but has started to form bad habits with. This is in addition to speech/feeding class thirty minutes a week.
So while our dining room table now has even more clutter on it with our speech tools and worksheets on it, at least we won’t let any dump trucks trip us up anymore.