Milo’s speech and attention skills are still mystifying me. We’re working with therapists and reading and researching, but I still haven’t unlocked the puzzle of what gives him a great day. Going to daycare is a great help to me and I know he likes playing with his friends, but I’m starting to think that he needs even more structure than a daycare can provide. I’m looking forward to the summer and really diving in to his rhythms.
It’s funny, when I first suspected that his speech was delayed, it was almost like I was humoring myself. I didn’t truly believe in my core that there was THAT BIG a problem. Then his evaluation highlighted sensory issues and attention problems and I thought “Oh no, you don’t really know my child.” Now I feel like I’m the one who doesn’t know him. All the tips and tricks from the therapists have changed a lot about how I view my day with Milo. I’ve always loved that he is a huge ball of energy, but I now recognize that his bouts of silliness can spiral into a lack of control that he dislikes. He can be screaming and kicking and I’ll hold him tight, strap him into his stroller, and I’ll watch him literally sigh in relief. I’m recognizing where he wants me to reign him in.
I’m reading a lot about speech delays and “typical” development for kids his age. Pinterest has pointed me to a few blogs written by speech therapists with young kids, and I checked a scary book out of the library called First Words: A Parent’s Step-by-Step Guide to Helping A Child with Speech and Language Delays. I know that I need to honor all his ways of communicating, and give him more. We use about three signs in the house right now, and I think Milo can’t get his point across with just those, so I plan on ramping up with new signs majorly over the next few months. Our awesome therapist also suggested giving Milo more picture cues to help him communicate, focusing on rooms of the house, favorite snacks/toys, and even places we go. Milo keep falling into the “more” trap- he can sign and say more, but more can mean literally ANYTHING to him (start eating, get picked up, watch TV, move to the playroom, get his Monka) and it’s lost meaning as a good way to communicate. I had felt that using pictures was a good idea, but I also felt silly, like I was playing school with my little babies. I need to trust my gut.
I’m going to “homeschool” this summer. Milo is on a list for a twice-a-week playgroup for speech delayed toddlers, all run through my amazing state’s Early Intervention program, and if he gets in, he can stay in, with transportation included, even into the school year. But I’m not going to sit waiting for that. We have a great start of a playroom on the back porch, and I’m going to beef it up (we need fake food, a small table working at, a “comfy spot,” etc.) and make indoor/outdoor specific play part of every day. We also plan on taking advantage of the Free Fridays this summer, and I’m going to plan out our weeks with a loose theme that leads up to the Friday field trip- animal games, animal books, animal sensory play, and animal puzzles all before we go to the zoo on Friday, for example. We’re going to practice nursery rhyme songs and fingerplays. We’re going to have snack and nap at a set time. And I’m going to keep track of what Milo does in his binder where I store his therapy notes.
This feels kind of over the top (I dwell on the word “silly”) but I know in my heart that this structure and plan will help me a) keep my sanity and b) help Milo learn topics in a categorized manner, which is what all my reading has pointed to as a key to success. The book reminded me that typically developing kids will get most of this stuff naturally, as a byproduct of living. And some kids need more deliberate experiences. I can give him that.
So that’s where I am right now. I don’t have even a fraction of the answers, but I have a few tricks to try, and we’re going to make it really fun. I can’t wait to see what clicks and mostly, I can’t wait to hang out with my favorite little friends all summer long.