October 2016: A round up of our month of speech therapy and learning from home.

J’s Journey October Round Up: Rather than doing several small posts I thought I would consolidate them all into one big update so you can see what we’ve been up to…

PECS blocks

PECS progress

J is using his pecs symbols without the second adult as the prompt. He’s doing really well with single symbols. I am going to try to learn how to post videos on here so you can see how we are using pecs to communicate but for now I can only put them on our facebook page.
I am really warming to pecs. I did wonder whether J would want to use them as he normally just gets things himself. But he’s actually really proud of himself when he gives me the symbol and I know what he wants. For example he had his flask and gave me his flask sign. I realise he was ‘telling me’ it was empty and he wanted more. Usually he would have thrown it on the floor and whinged till I figured out that was the meaning of the mini meltdown (isn’t life hard when you’re 1!).
Aim for the future is to continue to add more symbols in his box so he can flick through and find what he wants. I’m also going to make ‘symbol stations’ around the house (food symbol next to kitchen door, toy symbols near his playmat etc) so the everyday words are more immediate for him.

J’s love of books and how I hope it will lead to speech

J book

J loves books. We’ve read multiple books everyday since he was a baby. It was built into me that reading books helps with language and speech. So, what went wrong? Why is it that after I do all the ‘right’ things J is only just starting to babble? Sometimes I blame myself, sometimes I get cross with the universe. Other times I just take a deep breath and remind myself I have a healthy and amazing little boy.
Today J brought over his ‘That’s Not My…’ books (he has a HUGE collection and brings armfuls at a time). I read the repeated phrase ‘That’s not my elephant/reindeer/dinosaur…’ over and over. I pause occasionally for J to finish the sentence or make a noise in its place (he doesn’t) and J then feels the texture pages. On the last page when ‘it is my whatever’ J always smiles and closes the book.
One day I think that J will join in the repeated phrase. One day he’ll be sat looking at the book and I’ll hear him trying to copy what he’s heard Mummy and Daddy say soooo many times. Despite J’s delay, I do think it’s still beneficial to keep reading. I am going to get more repeated phrase books too as one day it will click. One day he’ll be telling ME the story…I can’t wait.
Mirroring Play

Black and white mirroring
J’s favourite place to the play is laying on his side in the floor and pushing his vehicles back and forth. It’s always been fascinating to watch (for a long time it’s been a family joke that it’s because he had such a big head at birth that it’s too heavy to keep upright, haha). So, today I decided to lay down with J and take his lead. His eyes were transfixed on the car wheels. I noticed they have little dots on them and when you push forward and backwards you can see them make circle as it blurs from the movement. It’s easier to watch the wheels moving when laying down and with J’s love of kinetic and transporter play (movement based) I can see why this gains his interest more than the top of the car which doesn’t do anything.
Silence…
There was no talking from either of us. We didn’t need it. All of life doesn’t have to be narrated. You don’t always need noise and sound to distract you. J would occasionally look at me and started to move his car closer to me as we played. This showed me that he acknowledged I was there and was interacting.
This may seem pointless but too me it was a break from the gut wrenching feeling every time J doesn’t respond verbally to prompts or copy the key word ‘car’, ‘brrrm’ etc. I showed J that I valued his play and he showed me he was happy for me to be with him. It was communicating without words 🙂

Symbols are everywhere…
Well, almost. I brought some posters for J’s bedroom. He has a shape one near his duplo box and a vehicle one as he loves anything with wheels. Although still no words J is able to correctly point to almost all vehicles on his chart. I love it as it gives me a sense of calm that he is understanding things. Every new picture he learns I think ‘Yey, we’re moving forward…I’m doing my job as Mummy’.

PECS level 2…
Similarly, J is also doing well with his symbols. J doesn’t require 2 adults for PECs, he rarely needs any prompting and I am now starting to withdraw the open palm and encourage him to just hand it to me because he wants it, not because my palm has ‘reminded him’. I will be making more choices boards too which will be around the house in relevant places so we can start phase 2.

J said BANANA
Well yesterday we had an exciting day. J went to his additional needs group with Daddy and at snack time he asked for “na-na” (banana). They weren’t sure if it was coincidence so asked him again and he said it again.
I missed it 😦
I was at a full day training course so I missed it. I was gutted as it’s such a milestone. This is his first meaningful word and used for a purpose. So when I got home I got a banana for his dessert and asked if he wanted a banana (I think it’s important to model the word correctly)…he said “na-na” to me. So 3 times in one day! Typically J hasn’t said it again. He’s back to pointing and signing for banana (this includes the pretend bananas in his play kitchen as I didn’t want him having a banana OD!). But it’s still amazing that he’s picking up what I think is a difficult sign for a toddler.

Speech Therapy

Mr Tumble
Today J had another speech therapy session. I was excited (am I allowed to say I’m excited for speech therapy?) as J could show off how well he’s taken to pecs. It still hits me sometimes that I’m so excited about J communicating with symbols… where most families are posting the new words and new songs their child has learnt. In all honesty I’m just happy to see any and all progress.
Our therapist used a special shaped table that encourages children to sit and stay longer at activity. It didn’t work on J as he quickly learnt the table had wheels and he could just push back off chair to get out. Honestly, he has a future in tactical planning for the military! But he did do what he was meant to do which was to give the symbol to his therapist without needing (much) prompting. He even managed a bit of distance work too (where he has to actually go to the adult to give the symbol, meaning he is actively seeking an adult to communicate to) which for a 1yr old is great.

What we played…
• Shape sorter (requesting pieces)
• Flashing toy (requesting a turn)
• Squishy ball (requesting a turn)
• Peg and boards (requesting the peg)
For anyone who hasn’t reached therapy stage or is worried what it will be like please be assured it’s all play based. J is never forced to play activities and can get up and move around whenever he likes. If he’s getting too distressed then we abandon the activity and do something else or even cut session short if needed so he associates therapy season with positivity.

Visit to the Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin patch
We visited a Pumpkin Patch so we could choose our own for Halloween. I was saying the word ‘pumpkin’ every other breath to get this word into J’s mental word bank. Even I’m fed up of the word now, haha. The Makaton for ‘pumpkin’ is actually quite difficult so don’t know if that’s one that J will use much this year. However, just like learning new words, signing takes repetition, patience and importantly relevance. So with that in mind whilst the pumpkins are everywhere we’ll keep using it.
Donkey…
J had his first ride on a donkey whilst we were there. J has always been amazing with animals. He has never been scared of any animal (so far) and donkeys are no exception. He happily sat on ‘Gordon’ and gave him lots of strokes. I think being around animals is important for children. Animals don’t care if you can talk. Just stroke them and be feed them and they are happy. There’s no pressure on J to give eye contact, or respond or follow an instruction. It was adorable to see him so smiley with his new found friend.

So that is our October. I love being able to see the progress J is making. It amazes me how fast he’s picking things up. I admit that I am still feeling emotional over the lack of actual speech but we are getting closer. It’s also hard because people ask ‘why doesn’t he talk?’ and at the moment I can’t answer them. We get looks when J has his meltdowns and gets angry, or when he’s signing instead of talking. It doesn’t help that he’s tall for his age so I think people assume he’s older than he is, and have higher expectations. But I am happy with how things are going.

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