From Grunting to Sentences

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It’s been 10 months since I started worrying about my then 21-month old’s speech. His twin sister’s speech was quite broken. I don’t think she was even stringing two words together at that point. If she did, it was extremely limited. But she had some signs and she used them. She was able to voice her opinions without using many words.

But her brother wasn’t doing that. He was saying, “Yeah” or “No” appropriately, but when he wanted something or needed our attention, he pointed to whatever it was and yelled, “Eh! Eh!” We didn’t think much of it at the time, and would turn, go towards him and say, “Oh, do you want ____?” He’d say yes or no in reply. He knew the signs “eat” and “water” and “all done” but wouldn’t use them on his own. I would say, “Are you all done?” And he would say “yes” and perhaps sign “all done”. He would not come to me and sign “eat” to let me know he was hungry. Or thirsty. Or tired or bored or anything. We just were so in tune to him, we knew what he wanted before he even had to tell us.

From Grunts to Sentences

It was our Early Intervention specialists who came to our house to help with vestibular input, sensory issues and pronunciation who alerted us to the fact that our son wasn’t actively communicating with us at all. In fact, they were so concerned with this that they had him tested for autism. You can read more about our Early Intervention journey HERE, HERE, and HERE.

I’ve already written about EI before, and they definitely did help us some. They taught us how to ignore B until he came to us, got our attention, and told us what he wanted.

After EI services were over, B’s speech (and C’s) started to pick up. Once they turned two, or shortly after, the words just started coming. First in twos – I remember C did it first, saying “two stars” that she counted on a house and I was SO. HAPPY. Then in threes. Then broken sentences, when they referred to themselves in the third person.

Now, at 2.5 years old exactly, I honestly can’t even believe we had a grunter less than one year ago. It seems like that stage never happened. The twins speak very fluently. Here are a few examples:

B: “Do you want to come in the den, C? It will be fun!”  C: “Yeah, it’s really cozy!”

B: “I’m going to push the stroller towards you, C.” C: “No, don’t take another step until I do my safety buckles first!”

C: “You don’t like pizza, B. You only like pretend pizza.” B: (Who hates pizza) “Mommy, C is trying to tell me I like pizza. I don’t like pizza. Please don’t tease me, C.”

C uses her speech to tease her brother, to exaggerate certain words (like “really”) and to get her point across. Case in point – any time she cries, B starts to chuckle. “CRYING IS NOT FUNNY!” she’ll scream. “I’m just trying to make you happy, C!” “I’m NOT happy right now!” “I want to make you laugh!”

B uses his speech to recall events deep down in his memory. Daily, he recalls something that happened at some point months ago and I watch his brain work. “That boy came to our house, and he played with that orange ball with me. What was his name, Mommy? And he sat right there.” (as he points to the spot on the rug our guest sat)

As I reflect on how far they both have come in less than a year, I’ve wondered how we turned a corner this fast. I think these factors are at play:

  1. Genetics. I know I spoke in complete sentences early as did my husband.
  2. No baby talk. I don’t know if this is the case or not, so I can’t be sure. But my husband and I have never spoken to our kids in broken sentences or mispronounced words to make them “baby” sounding. I know lots of people do that and that’s fine – it’s cute, and if the kids like it then great. But I personally never liked it. At this point, if someone does try to use baby talk with the twins, the twins correct them.
  3. The presence of another talking toddler. I think this one is big. C’s speech needed a little time. B’s speech needed a good role model. I don’t know if B’s speech would be as fluent if he wasn’t constantly talking to, and hearing speech from, his twin sister. They talk to each other non-stop, which is excellent practice! I’m sure in other homes, older siblings or even the presence of other kids at daycare or preschool helps as well.
  4. Early Intervention – They gave us some good tips in the beginning and set us on a good path. I can’t discount their time with us!
  5. Time. I feel confident that I can now say – turning two years old really helped. Kids will learn to talk -they will go to school speaking fluently. It will come. Sometimes it takes a little more time than you think it should!
  6. Toys and books. Our favorite books are Richard Scarry’s “The Best Word Book Ever” and “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go”.  (Find them HERE and HERE). The vocabulary in those books is so rich – it’s page after page of non-stop words. Just yesterday the twins went on a toboggan and recalled that word from a Richard Scarry book. And though I find them boring, the twins LOVE flash cards. Especially C. We have at least ten sets of flash cards, from letters and numbers to “same vs. different” and shapes. They ask to play with them all the time (aka, dump them all over the floor), which just reinforces that practical vocabulary! There are tons of flash card sets at the Dollar Store, Target, and HERE as well.
  7. Songs. The twins were singing songs before they could speak in complete sentences (the brain is so fascinating sometimes!). In the car, after meals, and during free play, we ALWAYS have Pandora radio on – specifically either “Toddler radio” or “Raffi radio”. And for TV – 9 times out of 10 they watch nursery rhyme videos, either “Baby Genius” or “Mother Goose Club”. It’s non-stop singing all the time over here, and all that practice using words can’t have hurt their speech development!

I know that every child is different, and I can’t compare my twins to each other, much less to other children! This was our experience with our twins’ speech development, and I can only speak for what worked for us. That said, I find myself smiling when I hear my toddlers talk..and talk…and talk. They sometimes stay awake for almost an hour after we put them to bed just talking. I’m grateful that they’ve made such big strides in a short amount of time. Of course, the downside of speaking so fluently is that they are quickly learning to debate us, but that’s for another post! 🙂