This is the first sign I have taught all my children, including ones who weren't mine, but spent time in my care.
This sign is a priceless tool to a baby. It is one of the most powerful gifts a parent or caregiver can bestow. Especially, since babies develop control of thier hands much earlier than the numerous muscles required for speech. But their minds develop even earlier! They can understand even sooner.
That one little word lays a foundation for back and forth conversation. Reduces both the child's as well as the caregiver's frustration. And it teaches the child that there is a way to communicate that allows him/her to remain more in control emotionally. This is very important because no one really likes to feel out of control.
Likely, you were able to make your needs known through writing, texting, or some similar means. But imagine if you couldn't write...
Imagine having full understanding of what is going on around you, including nearly everything being said. You have the desire to respond, to participate, to share. But each attempt you make fails. In your mind, your thoughts are clear, but what makes its way out its either silence, or garbled.
Might you be inclined to tantrum now and again?
Finding one's voice doesn't always mean with sound. And the ability to speak is not equivalent to mastering language or communication.
I don't know precisely when it happened. Or exactly how long it took. But one day, when she was fourteen or fifteen months, I realized that she was very quiet. And that she had been for a while. Her music was gone. Like when a cd stops, but you don't notice right away because you're absorbed in your task. I started paying close attention then though.
At her eighteen month well child visit. I stopped at the question that asked if she could say at least six words.
I thought carefully.
I checked yes. Because, after all, I've heard her say much more than six. Only a few short months before we had listed at least eighteen for the nurse practitioner.
Perhaps, technically, that was a correct answer. On a really good day, maybe she could have said six.
But she didn't.
She hadn't been.
I told the nurse (we didn't see the practitioner that day) my concerns, and she blew them off. "She's only eighteen months. She's really still just a baby."
But I knew that wasn't it.
Still, I told myself not to overreact. That I was doing just that.
But I wasn't.
In a timespan of less than two months, Kit lost a vocabulary of well over a dozen words, several combinations, sentences of three and four words, consonant blends, multiple syllables, and enunciation.
At eighteen months, when I checked that box, all she really could say, her whole vocabulary, was three words.
Mommy, uh-oh, and, hey.
Those were the only consistent words I had heard for months. Others very occasionally emerged for a moment, sometimes even a day, but then disappeared again.
Even "daddy" was gone. There was no "dada", or even "da". No matter how excited she was to see him, she couldn't say it.
She still babbled, and emphatically gestured as she did. I saw that as a good sign. And she still understood nearly everything we told her. But she was changing. She was easily frustrated and anxious.
There were moments when tears welled up in my eyes, as I watched her ever-intelligent ones searching my face for understanding. Trying to convey what she so clearly knew in her mind.
I knew, no matter what anyone else said, that I needed to give her...
...to be continued...