Today my daughter said her name. Over and over again, and it was glorious. For most of the years that she has been speaking, she usually just referred to herself as “Me.” But today she became “Olivia.”
About two years ago, she was saying some words here and there. We knew what she wanted. She had made up a little language that was a combination of English, Armenian and babbles. My wife and I figured most 2-year-olds were like this.
We spent a weekend with my best friend and his family down in Virginia. They have a son who is six months older than our daughter and he was having a full-on conversation with us. My wife and I were stunned. Either that child is super advanced or our daughter was falling behind. As it turns out, their son is an extremely bright little guy but we would soon find out our Olivia was falling behind.
When we returned home, we took her to her pediatrician and he evaluated her. He thought it could be a speech delay, but did not detect any other warning signs for any other developmental delays. Part of it could have been attributed to being exposed to three languages (English/Armenian/Spanish). He recommended that we have her evaluated by the Department of Health, as they will provide speech therapy free of charge for kids with speech delay.
Speech delay common
According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Children’s Health, anywhere from 3-10 percent of kids aged 3-16 have some sort of speech delay. Some of the symptoms include:
- Failure to meet the developmental milestones for language development
- Language development that lags behind other children of the same age by at least one year
- Inability to follow directions
- Slow or incomprehensible speech after three years of age
- Serious difficulties with syntax (placing words in a sentence in the correct order)
- Serious difficulties with articulation, including the substitution, omission, or distortion of certain sounds
A social worker visited us, and we spoke about who she is in contact with. What languages does she hear? What words does she say, and a whole multitude of questions. A few weeks later, a speech therapist and an occupational therapist visited our home. Olivia spent a few hours with them. And then we would have to wait.
The results came in and while, yes, she had a speech delay, she didn’t have enough of a speech delay to warrant speech therapy from the city. We were free to get her re-evaluated in six months. We didn’t want to wait.
We are fortunate we were able to pay for a pathologist out of pocket, our insurance wouldn’t cover it, but the head of the practice was able to cut us a deal. And in the back of our minds, it was better to do it privately funded so this delay wouldn’t be on any permanent records that could follow her in her academic career.
Yes, the weekly payments were tough to budget in every week. But as she went we could see the change.
She couldn’t wait to do her homework from Ms. Stephanie, mostly matching words to pictures. I had initially worried that she would be too stubborn to want to do the homework, but I was totally wrong. She would frequently ask to do her “words” as we rode the subway back home. A few weeks later she started going to a daycare program a few days a week, she was opening up, and the teachers were able to understand her more and more. Now as she is almost done with nursery school, her teachers can understand her most of the time, she is making more friends. She has conversations with them, and I couldn’t think of a better way to have spent all that money.
Recently, Olivia was tested by her pathologist and she tested above age level for the first time since this had all started. We were all blown away; it has been a long road (which is still ongoing) and it’s taken lots of patience and teamwork to get us where we are now.
It’s funny, had we not gone to visit our friends, we would have assumed that she would grow out of it and eventually talk “normally” but by being proactive (and in all honesty being competitive) we have made sure that Olivia is on the right track.