Special needs

Reaching a major milestone: Making new sounds

Syona made a new sound and Anchel explains why this is a huge deal.

By Anchel Krishna
Reaching a major milestone: Making new sounds

We don't have many pictures of Syona with a closed mouth.

When you hear the sound “ba,” what do you think of? The nursery rhyme “Ba Ba Black Sheep?” Or when your child started referring to her bottle as "ba-ba"? Or maybe it sounds like gibberish to you. Up until last week, “ba” was just another sound that Syona couldn’t make.

But it all changed last Wednesday. I got to sleep in a bit (thanks to a girls’ night out and an amazing husband), and as soon as I got up, I noticed Dilip was super excited. Before I could even say “good morning,” he jumped in with, “Guess what sound Syona made this morning? BA!” We spent the next five minutes repeatedly saying “ba, ba, ba” to her until she begrudgingly obliged with a hearty “ba.” I know, you probably think I’m a little bizarre for being so excited over one sound, but in our house, this is a HUGE!

At 21 months, Syona is not talking yet, which is fine — we all know kids talk on their own timetable and sometimes, depending on their specific challenges, their speech may be delayed, or they may not talk at all. Syona has low muscle tone in her mouth, which makes it difficult for her to completely close her mouth and lips. This means she drools a lot because she can’t always close her mouth. (P.S. If anyone has suggestions for cute, absorbent bibs kids can’t yank off on their own, please let me know!) This also means she hasn’t been able to make any sounds that require a closed mouth. Syona’s repertoire of sounds includes Ah, Ee-yah, Ya, Oh ya and Da.

We’re hoping to start speech therapy this fall. Until then we have been using different techniques various therapists have shared with us to encourage speech:

  • Speak slowly, give her time to respond, and enunciate/repeat the first sound of words (ba-ba-ba bottle) while holding objects close to our mouth as we say their names
  • Acknowledge sounds or attempts at sounds with lots of positive encouragement
  • Read and sing
  • Encourage her to use words or gestures to communicate what she wants vs. crying
  • Constant talking and labeling (this one felt a little awkward at first, even for a big-mouth mom like me)

We’ve been using many of these techniques for about a year or so. Although we weren’t hearing results, we kept it up because we know Syona will work at her own pace and develop on her own schedule. We also don’t take much for granted. While we hope that she will speak in the traditional sense, we are grateful that Syona has her own ways to communicate and that we can understand, or at least guess, what she’s trying to share with us. We’ve also seen her level of understanding increase a lot in the last few months. And last week, our efforts seemed to pay off.

I’m hoping that “ba” will be the first of her many closed-mouth sounds. (Don’t tell anyone but I’m also hoping “ma” will be next!)

What did you do to encourage your child to talk? Does your child have any speech challenges?

This article was originally published on Jul 10, 2012

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