Some Family Stories Shouldn’t Exist and a Question About Pediatric Speech Therapy

I have a question at the end for anybody who has/had  a toddler in speech therapy and/or is a speech therapist with pediatric experience.  So if you want to skip the story about why social services may be at my door any day, please at least read the end.

Some family stories shouldn’t exist.  For example, I should not have to tell my Korean-born son that the first time we met him was when we picked him up in baggage claim at the airport.  Unfortunately, that is true.   I mean, he was with an escort, of course; we didn’t just grab him off one of those carousel things, but still . . .

Another story that shouldn’t exist, that I shouldn’t have had to explain with a hideously long back story at Quinn’s first speech therapy appointment this week, is Quinn’s first sentence.

Oh dear.  Here is the hideously long back story:

Quinn loves the Wii Fit.  LOVES it.  And he doesn’t just love playing it, he also loves watching other people play it.  Actually, I think he loves watching other people play it more than he loves playing it himself.  So he recognizes everybody’s Wii Me (which is no small feat given the creativity employed by my children when creating their Wii Me(s), and the fact that the Wii Fit thinks McH is fat, so his Wii Me automatically reflects that).

ANYWAY . . . McH was playing the snowball fight game this past weekend, throwing virtual snowballs at every Wii Me who ran by.  My Wii Me ran out from behind some barricade (I wasn’t playing, but the game uses a combination of generic Me(s) (I don’t know how to make “me” plural . . . “mes”  just doesn’t do it . . . Miis?  Maybe) . . . anyway, combination of generic characters and family generated Me(s), and, as I said, my Me ran out from behind a barricade and, splat.  I took a snowball to the face.

So Quinn came running out to the kitchen to tell me, “Dad hit mom!  Hit mom! Hit mom!  Dad hit mom!”

And there you have it.  My child’s first sentence, which should be no child’s first sentence.

The speech therapist just put it down on her paperwork as “noun, verb, noun usage” because she didn’t want social services banging down my door.

Bless her.  She is a kind soul,a very grandmotherly sort.  Quinn can’t bat an eye or raise an eyebrow without her laughing and finding great joy in it all.

But as a pediatric speech therapist?  I spent an hour this morning watching her marvel over how he knew how to do a puzzle (duh, he doesn’t seem to have any cognitive delay, he is just behind in his expressive language) and play with my son in a way that seemed to totally underestimate his intelligence.  The few things she did that started to draw him out enough to get him to talk to/around her (like when she got out the bubbles) she screwed up (like when she couldn’t blow any bubbles because she thought the solution seemed thick when she opened it, so she added water).    So for the better part of an hour, she talked to him like he was a simpleton and he sat on my lap playing with the first two toys she got out, barely making eye contact with her and showing no desire to talk to her at all.

She said the goals she has set for him, base on her evaluation earlier this week, are to get him using more verbs, putting the –ing ending on verbs, using the w- questions (where, what, etc.), and using plurals.  Interesting.  I mean, those are milestones he should be hitting and hasn’t (except he does use some plurals), but . . .

He says lots of words.  Lots.  The problem is they are sooooo hard to understand.  He frequently leaves off the first sound, the last sound, or both.  She said that, as he talks more, that will clear itself up.  Umm, I’m not so sure about that.  There are words he has been saying for months and months and months that I still have a hard time deciphering without some context, and I told her that during the evaluation.  I think she was too busy laughing at his cuteness to take much note of what I said.  For example, the word “seven.”  I can’t even think of a way to type it the way he says it.  It sounds nothing like “seven” except that there is a short e sound in there.  For months I have been working with him, telling him to put the “s” sound on the beginning, and modeling it for him (and yes, he knows what the “s” sound is).  So he will stop and say, “Sssssss.” Then he will say “seven” the exact same way he has been saying it for months, completely independently of the “s” sound he just made.

So, I don’t know, I guess I kind of thought a speech therapist would have some idea of what is going on with that and try to address it.

She did hear him say the word “yellow” and observed that he can’t say the “y” sound (when she got done giggling like Mrs. Claus).  So I had to tell her, again, that, yes, he can make that sound.  He can make all the sounds independently.  He just has a hard time putting them together.  I guess that is why I was shocked that she spent today doing a puzzle, playing with happy meal toys (not making that up), doing a lift-the-flap board book, and totally screwing up my son’s opportunity to pop bubbles (I’ve been holding out at home with the bubbles, using them as his prize for going in the potty).

So if you have been or are going through speech therapy with your toddler, or if you have experience in speech therapy, how has it worked for you?  I mean, what happens during speech therapy?  What should be happening?  What should I be looking for? Because, frankly, if this is it?  We’re done.  She didn’t do anything I can’t do/don’t do at home already.  I’m not going to keep paying for this if it doesn’t get better.

16 thoughts on “Some Family Stories Shouldn’t Exist and a Question About Pediatric Speech Therapy

  1. What a great first sentence! I don’t have any advice on the speech thing.

    I do have a question about the Wii Fit Plus. Have you been able to pass the balance bubble course? I have tried & tried & tried & I keep getting popped about 10 yards from the end by those &$%#^$ bees!


  2. Dianna

    Oh. Well THIS I can help with. The droid, not so much 🙂

    Now that Phoebe is 3 (as of yesterday), she’s transferring out of the free local services and into the free school services. Phoebe just had her IEP evaluation with our school district last Friday. She has two issues – one of which is similar to Quinn’s and the other of which is anxiety that causes her to not speak in front of non-familiar adults… which makes speech therapy difficult. Anywho, she has a ton of words that she uses at home but not always with the correct sounds. She tends to leave off the first sound or replace it with an s (for instance, when counting to ten, most of the numbers start with ssssssssssss). She also skips the middle part of many words and some are just plain not understandable.

    Anywho, here’s how they’re planning to address it. First, weekly one-on-one therapy to build her comfort level with the speech pathologist. Second, weekly sessons at phonology group where she and a small group of kiddos will spend an hour every Friday doing activities and hearing stories related to one particular sound group. I believe this Friday (our first session) will be centered around the ‘ch’ sound – choo choo trains and such. They have very detailed goals related to sounds and interactions – I’m impressed and looking forward to seeing how it all plays out. So far, the interactions with the speech pathologist have been play-centered to build Phoebe’s trust but there’s also been a lot of sound-repeating and syllable emphasis.

    If you’d like, I’d be happy to send you Phoebe’s IEP for reference. Email me!


  3. Christina

    That wii fit story is hysterical. But, um, I can see how you’ll need a backstory everytime someone asks what his first sentence was. Luckily I don’t think that question comes up too often.

    Re: the speech. Boy do I wish I’d done more for Zeeb when he first got home. Because he’s made a ton of progress now such that most people don’t notice his speech issues but they’re there and now I think it’s affecting his reading too. So, I’m no help to you at all, but I totally know what you’re saying and I hope this speech therapist was just doing the “warming up” thing today and has better plans for the future.


  4. Ben has been with us for 2 and a half years and has had speech therapy virtually every weekday for the past 2 years and four months. I know WAY more about speech therapy than I would like to…

    Go with your gut. What you’re explaining is why I pulled Ben from his extra occupational therapy (extra because he was getting it at school too). I didn’t see paying someone to make him pick up puzzle pieces with his left hand, which we were doing at home. I’m sure I could have hunted around for a better OT person, but we just work on that at home.

    The SPEECH though, is Ben’s biggest hurdle. I’d say you may want to shop around a bit. Find someone who challenges him and can answer your questions. I think some speech-related delays are not easily explained or may go completely un-explained, but your ST should be able to give you an explanation of what is lining up in his mouth/throat/tongue that is making it hard to pronounce words more clearly.

    Good luck to you. I hope he finds a different sentence to put on repeat soon!


  5. Here’s a good thing to try (since I apparently didn’t post enough in the previous comment) – ask her if she thinks he needs “oral motor strengthening” exercises. There are a variety of things they can use to strengthen the muscles in the cheek and around the tongue and, whether he needs them or not, it might give you an idea of what her approach is and let her know that you do know something about different forms of speech therapy.


  6. I wish I had advice to offer. My only experience with speech therapy was terrible – the therapist refused to believe there was an issue, told us that we must make him nervous at home, we talk to fast, etc. He was 5. Turns out he has Tourette Syndrome. I wish I had pushed for another eval with a more competent therapist. I regret that we just let her push us around and did not advocate for him in a stronger way. Apparently finding a good speech therapist is not easy. I had no idea!

    The Mii story is hysterical. I love it!!


  7. We must have gotten lucky with the therapist we used for A.J. He dropped so many letters it was often just the last letter left. Milk was “kuh.” He had a particularly hard time with consonant clusters, so ours used her index fingers as a visual aid: exaggerate the s with ssssssssssssss, while bringing the two fingers closer together, and when they touched, add the rest of the word. Spoon became ssssssssss(touch)poon. Does that make any sense?

    It was certainly play-based (he was just past 2 1/2 when we started) but I think it was more structured than what Quinn is getting. And she never got all giggly over what he could do. I’d find another one. Good luck.


  8. Is it possible (I am sure you have checked this, but I am just going to throw it out there) that he is tongue-tied? (There is a more medically appropriate term for this, but I don’t know what it is – is he tongue attached to the bottom of his mouth?)

    Lana also cannot pronounce the word yellow, and has trouble with “y” and “l” sounds generally – but she spoke Vietnamese for a lot longer than Quinn did.


  9. my son is having some of the same issues! he’s not adopted, though, but we are raising him bilingually. And where we live there are no “real” speech therapists. I took him to a good one in the states who explained the problems he was having (similar to what you explain about your son) and she gave us stuff we could do at home. Maybe that’s key? Finding out what to do and doing it yourself, especially if the therapist is giggly and goofy!


  10. J has been in speech his entire life. We have had good ones and bad ones. You need to find one who specializes in whatever Quinn is having issues with. I agree with Kelley and it may be oral motor and not every speech therapist works with that. Also, go with your gut too b/c I believe a lot of speech therapist over value what they actually do. Hope I am not offending any slps out there but that is my opinion. Good luck.


  11. m

    We have been working 3 or 4 years on “s”. Only one of the many letters she has a hard time with. I think they only start with one letter/sound at a time until they are sure they have it down.

    Over that time we have had 3 teachers. She is having the same trouble they are telling me at school about learning in general, she tries very hard, learns it and then if a few days go by without reinforcement she loses it. She is in a private school but we take her to speech twice a week at the public school. Most of the time she gets her “s” correctly, but if she does not I often tell her I can’t understand what she wants could she say it again with her “s” sounds.

    I have been very happy with speech, but my sister and brother were both in speech for years and years before they finally got it. I knew this was not a quick fix. In fact as adults now they often have to speak in public situations at work and they are fine. I think speech gave them the tools to know how to say words correctly.

    The latest teacher had me sit in on several classes so I could see how to work with her at home. She has several games set up where my daughter needs to say words that start with “s” and if she gets them correct she gets a game piece, or a point, sticker, or what ever the thing in the game is. The regular grade school she is in seems to also teach in these 15 minute games that have a lesson burried in them. One thing about always making it a brief fun game, the children always want to go to school or speech.

    She also has my daughter tap her finger down a line for each syllable she is saying to slow her down. That seems to help a lot. The main problem we are having is me finding the time at home to reinforce what she is learning. The speech teacher also sends home many work sheets for us to practice saying “s” words. “I want soup for my snack” “I want salad for my snack” I want sausage for my snack” etc.


  12. metaphase

    Well, call me Miss Mary Sunshine, but I say give it a few sessions. Our speech therapist did other things like puzzles, games, etc. that at times I was thinking “helloo, it’s speech he has trouble with..” but it ended up being really great for him. It built his confidence all around which I think made it easier for him to talk. (He wouldn’t talk infront of others most of the time). Maybe she is used to seeing kids who have lots of issues so she was 1)marveling at how terrific he is 2)reassuring you (since she doesn’t really know you) that he’s doing great otherwise, incase you were secretly worried.
    There were times I felt the excercises were elementary for what he really needed but it ended up that she was the professional and perhaps I was wanted to speed things along too much. Binh tested out after about 8 months of therapy. Today? I wish he would STOP talking, sometimes! 🙂


  13. So Tristan was in speech for 2 years, 3 times a week, starting at age 3. Turns out he had aphraxia of speech. The therapist literally had to use a stick of candy to teach him how to move his tongue to form sounds correctly. One of the most notable symptoms of aphraxia of speech is difficulty putting sounds and syllables together in the correct order to form words. For some reason, the brain can’t figure out how to move the tongue. We could not understand most of what he was saying until he was 5 or 6, and he ended up with an accent until 4th or 5th grade. He seriously sounded like he was from Boston, LOL.

    Check this out.

    There are so many different types of speech problems that it really is important to find someone who can diagnose the specific problem, then find someone who is specialized in that area! We were lucky because we lived in a big city at the time. Unfortunately, it looks like Caden might have the same problem and we are not anywhere near good resources right now! Ugh.


  14. OK the link above didn’t go where I wanted it to, LOL. So I’ll cut and paste. I promise this is my last comment on this post! It’s just that if he DOES have this you need to find someone trained in it or he will not improve. 😦

    Apraxia of Speech is considered a motor speech disorder. For unknown reasons, children with apraxia have great difficulty planning and producing the precise, highly refined and specific series of movements of the tongue, lips, jaw and palate that are necessary for intelligible speech. Apraxia of speech may also be called verbal apraxia, developmental apraxia of speech, or verbal dyspraxia. No matter what it is called the most important concept is the root word “praxis.” Praxis means planned movement. So to some degree or another, a child with the diagnosis of apraxia of speech has difficulty programming and planning speech movements. Apraxia of speech is a specific speech disorder.


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