At a young age, we knew that Lilly would have an up hill battle with vocalizing words. One of the areas of the brain that was damaged was the area that controls communication from the brain to the muscles. There are many muscles in the mouth, the face, the tongue, and throat that enable a person to talk. By six months of age, she already showing a delay in feeding and swallowing.
As a person who is neurodiverse , and has a telegraphic speech disorder, this was a huge concern for me. At age four I had to re-learn how to pronounce most of the alphabet and I spent five years in speech therapy. From my childhood, I knew what it was like to not be understood, or to be able to communicate well with other people. It has always been my desire that Lilly would be able to do that.
For me, the goal of early speech therapy was not to focus on vocal sounds, but rather for Lilly to learn how to communicate. During my Early Childhood Development course, I took communication courses on how to communicate with children and how to foster communication development in children.
My time in the 0-12 month room taught me how to communicate with babies. Six babies who are tired, need to be fed, and are frustrated because their needs are not being met, quickly make you learn how to communicate with them. I learned about:
- Gaze/Gesture Communication
- Talking With Less Words
- Baby Sign Language
- Visual Aids.
I used each of these with Lilly from infancy on, and I taught my family how to communicate with her. Lilly used to get quite spoiled by her Daddy when we went shopping in the early days. One of the first times Daddy had success with Gaze communication was when they were in a shop. I wasn’t present, but The Hubby tells tells me that he took her over to the stuffed animal area, and asked Lilly which stuffy she liked. There was a choice between a puppy or Curious George. After a few minutes, Lilly’s gaze stayed on Curious George and The Hubby just had to buy it. This became a ritual with them and often I would find things in the shopping cart that weren’t on our list!
Today Lilly is 9. She uses sign words, gestures, eye gazing, and some vocalization; but the most important part is that she can communicate!