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! 🙂

 

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An Overdue Autumn Update

The twins turned 27 months last week. It’s funny how after they turned two, I stopped counting by months. Two is two, though I imagine it’ll look a lot different as they get closer to three.

Autumn life in this house is always insane. Back to school means back to lesson plan writing, paper correcting, and 1,000 other to-do’s. It means getting back into a routine with our nanny, who has decided to give us lesson plans every month of what she will be doing with the kids, complete with a weekly theme and daily art projects, books, and math learning time (yes, I know we’re lucky). Back to school means trying to get dinner cooked quick, and searching for recipes that are simple and easy yet tasty and crockpot-able. It means we try to fit all the chores, cleaning, bigger house tasks, and family time on the weekends when there simply aren’t enough hours to do these things. And for us in New England, it means beautiful fall weather. We get outside every day, multiple times a day. The long winter will be here soon and the sun will set early, so we get out as much as we can.

This year, our current weekdays mean that when I get home around 4:00, I get shoes and coats on and we head outside until 5:00-5:30, depending on weather. The twins love coloring with chalk all along my car bumper. B goes on the swings. C goes down the slide into giant piles of leaves we haven’t raked up yet. I pull them down the street in their wagon, or they push their little cars and strollers up and down the sidewalk. We step on 5,396 crunchy leaves. We pet the neighbor’s dog, who walks by at the same time every afternoon. When Daddy gets home, they check the mail with him and browse through it on the driveway, C declaring, “I’m reading the mail, Mommy!” They sit in his driver’s seat and honk his horn. And at 5:30, we declare it “TV time”, because it allows us to make dinner in peace as they watch nursery rhymes on YouTube.  It’s all the same, every single day. I enjoy the predictability. I like how I’m able to shut off my work brain in order to declare a leaf “super crunchy” or “still soft”. It’s hectic, but it’s nice. Freezing temperatures in a few months will sometimes take that entire routine apart, so I suppose we’ll have to come up with an indoor plan.

I’m finding two years old to be (mostly) fun. The twins are extremely passionate about everything, all the time. Their vocabularies are taking off daily, with B’s only slightly behind C’s. He still expresses himself in multi-word sentences, but they typically aren’t complete sentences, as C’s are.

B will say things like “B has ouchie on leg.” “B is all done, play again later.” “Mommy wash B, not Daddy.” “B likes orange, not purple.” Those types of sentences. He still hits and throws toys, on occasion. Ever since this day, we haven’t been doing a time-out. I notice still that the more of a deal I make out of it – especially if I raise my voice, he either laughs or smirks at me, which means that doesn’t work. We do remove him from the situation, firmly tell him we do not hit, and I now frequently make him say to C, “I’m sorry I hit you C” and then he “shows her nice” by either hugging her or rubbing the spot where he hit her. I’m not a huge fan of the apologizing but I’m still doing it, because it just seems like…something he needs to do, even if he doesn’t mean it. I’m not expecting him to mean it right now, I’m hoping to help form the habit that we apologize when we hurt someone.

I’ve been watching B’s reactions change when he’s angry as he’s gotten older. In the past if he was upset he would immediately hit. Then over the past few months, he’s started opening his mouth and yelling a loud, long yell, even shaking as he does it. Followed by a hit. Recently, he’s yelling that loud yell, which I don’t make him stop. When he’s finished, I say to him, “You’re very angry, aren’t you B? You can say, “I’m angry right now!” (And sometimes he will.) Or I’ll say, “Why don’t we try again or go play a different game?” And he does these things – without the hitting. Maybe, hopefully, he will grow out of hitting soon. The anger though – I’m not sure what to make of it. C doesn’t get angry much, not like that. His yell is something he can’t control and he does it just once, and looks at you. It seems as if the yell is starting to replace the hit. Sometimes he’ll then even ask you, “B throw this toy?” “B hit C?” As if he wants our permission. I don’t know, I assume it’s normal – he gets frustrated.

On the positive side, B is a little love. He loves to snuggle, he likes to be cozy and wrapped up in warm things. He is able to joke around with us (C hasn’t figured that one out yet). He asks us an easy question and when we ask him for the answer, he purposely says the wrong one, knowing we will respond with a funny look which makes him laugh. He loves to laugh at the silly things life brings him, like a piece of food in a weird shape or a Matchbox car that goes down the ramp sidewise and flips. Speaking of cars, he is absolutely passionate about moving vehicles of any sort. Matchbox cars and trucks are his favorite toys, “The Wheels on the Bus” is his favorite song, Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry is his favorite book…etc. It’s easy to make him happy wherever we go, because any construction or emergency vehicle or loud airplane or even the forklifts at Home Depot making him laugh and shriek. Then he’ll say, “B loves this forklift.” His communication with us has come a long way and we’re pleased with where he’s at right now.

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C is a firecracker. She’s bossy, sassy, and sweet all at the same time. I was very bossy in my youth…this quality doesn’t exactly surprise me. She demonstrates this skill in her tone of voice. “No, B, that’s MY cat. You can’t have it!” She’s sassy – a few weeks ago she suddenly said, “Hey Mom, come ‘ere! I have to show you something!” No clue where she got the “Mom” from, or the direct order to come to her. Or she’ll say, “B come here right now!” We always make her do it again by “asking nicely” and she knows exactly how to do that. She’s much smaller than B, so her speech sounds like a mouse squeaking to me. Which is why it’s comical and adorable when she says these crazy sentences. Like a few days ago, I put on Wheel of Fortune as I put her Pj’s on. She saw an H and said, “Oh, H. That’s the letter we’re learning about this week, Mommy.” And I had to respond with, “What did you just say?”

She is also a little love, but you have to catch her and tickle her first. She loves to laugh and does so constantly. She gives out fewer kisses but loves to seek your approval, sneaking looks at you out of the corner of her eye as she does something cute. She knows when she says something adults will like or find appealing. She’s very aware of what she says to you and chooses her words carefully. She isn’t passionate about any one topic as B is, but she really loves dogs and cats. She’s definitely a dog person and enjoys every dog she sees. She likes to do whatever her brother is doing and plays cars all the time, even though I know she doesn’t really care about them. If he’s laughing, she’s laughing. Basically, she just likes to be where the action is. Though if B isn’t at home, she can completely entertain herself with toys without needing much from me at all. She’s independent and fearless.

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I sometimes feel like they are older than two. For one thing, they’re both pretty smart, as they know all their letter sounds, the full alphabet, numbers up to 30, some basic, basic addition concepts, how to spell their names, and my favorite, their pre-reading and writing skills (C knows how to make a “C”), with both of them “reading” words with their finger. And I have to say those things as their mom, because I’m proud of them as a reflection of my husband and I. And because we have family who read this blog who want updates. 🙂

But more than that, we talk to them as if they are older than two. Sometimes we’re explaining things probably more than we need to (no, Daddy, B isn’t understanding your basic physics concepts you’re trying to teach him), but more often than not, when we take the time to explain things to them, it quiets them. They settle down, they listen. They might not understand, but then again who knows?

They are starting to really like each other as friends, which is lovely. They can play together without me there. Really together, not as parallel play. They have their own conversations. They laugh in their cribs for a good 20-30 minutes at night before falling asleep. This week’s current crib laugh is over the silliness of the word, “pointy”.

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So as always with these long updates, they’re doing great. We’re doing great too, and we’re trying to get through the fall. I’ve got a week to create their Halloween costumes and write an entire math unit, our garage wooden door frames rotted out and fell apart and our rugs haven’t been vacuumed in two weeks. Is it summer yet?