May 31, 2010

I before E?

          My husband and I are a bit perplexed about our daughter right now. At 17 months, she has become primarily non-verbal. She had been "talking," as much as toddlers this age do. Her vocabulary was slowly and steadily growing. She said all the usual stuff. She even tried to say words like "elephant."
          Now, all she does is point to things and say something that sounds a little bit like "that." Best I can figure out, she is saying "that" as a way of asking us to identify the object. She does it all day long. She points to things, says whatever the strange word is, and looks at us, waiting for us to tell her what it is. But she doesn't try to say it herself. She just moves on and points to something else.
          I've been using sign language with my daughter since she was about four months old. And she's been signing since she was around 10 months old. It's been a great way for us to communicate. Her vocabulary of signs was growing along with her verbal abilities. She understands about 20-30 signs and had been using around seven. One day we noticed that she was no longer making any signs. She still occasionally signs, "I want," but not as often as she used to, and nothing else.
          Despite her sudden "silence," her comprehension level amazes us. She understands everything we say. Follows all verbal commands. You don't even have to give her a simple command for her to respond appropriately. Tell her it is time to go to class (at the baby gym), and she goes to get her shoes and walks to the door that leads to the garage. Ask if she has gone potty and she gets a clean diaper and some wipes and brings them to you.
          She can also identify all the letters of the alphabet. At first, we thought that was a fluke. We figured she had memorized the order of the letters in her favorite book, The Super Readers. (After all, we only read it to her about 100 times a day. As I believe I have mentioned, my daughter loves books.) Then she started to pull the letters of her name off the refrigerator. 
          We have the alphabet magnets in our kitchen. And she began to pull off just the letters of her name. After this happened three days in a row, I decided to test her. I made sure I jumbled the letters up well that night, and waited to see what happened the next morning. She went to the fridge, studied the letters, and pulled off the five that make up her name. She does this repeatedly, and sometimes she even lines them up in the correct order. Other times she wants me to line them up and will bring them to me.
          I bought an educational toy designed to teach kids letters and numbers. Pulled it out of the box and she correctly identified every letter of the alphabet. Repeatedly. The game is organized differently than her book, so the letters do not appear in the same format. She actually, it would seem, recognizes the individual letters.
          She has become obsessed with letters, actually. Any time she sees them she gets excited and wants to examine them. Signs. T-shirts. Product packaging. Books, obviously. She loves books right now like The A to Z Book, which lists the letters of the alphabet individually. She touches letters wherever she sees them and looks to us to say them out loud. It is currently her favorite activity.
          So, as I said in the beginning, we are perplexed. In a, "Hmm, that's interesting" kind of way. I would not say we are concerned. Our daughter is a very happy, social, active and seemingly normal child. (The word "precocious" is used often when people describe her.) We just find it odd. We definitely plan to discuss it with her pediatrician at her 18 month check-up. 
          Parents, have you experienced anything like this? How much did your child(ren) speak, and when? Did you notice regression at certain times? I do not believe in comparing my child to others. She is an individual, and will develop at her own pace. But I do find it interesting and helpful to hear about other parents' experiences. So please share!


  1. Yes... my son did the same thing. He has Autism. He spoke then stopped. He still was very smart and could do many things on his own. Very independent and happy. I would seek the help of your pediatrician immediately. Also early intervention and get her started in speech therapy. My son regained his speech but it took years. Even if it isn't Autism I would recommend seeing a speech therapist immediately. Any regression like this should be mentioned to your pediatrician. I saw you on facebook on the being a stay at home mom page.

  2. Good idea to talk with the pediatrician. She sounds a bit like my son (and a lot of first or only born children I've known). He didn't have many words for quite some time, never really babbled in the way that most kids do and could sit and look at books for hours. He too understood letters and words very early but the kid really didn't talk. We asked at a year, then again at 15 months when he had maybe 5 words. Like your daughter, he'd point, and he would definitely communicate but it was mostly non-verbal. He understood conversation around him, even miming the actions to Row Row Row Your Boat when his great uncle showed him pictures of the boats he'd built. I was starting to freak (too many stories of kids on the autism spectrum & the normal amount of parental neurosis) but about 10 days after I called the dr about it, there came this little voice from the back of the car saying I see a green car. The kid never babbled but started speaking in full sentences. You're right to talk to the dr if it persists; it could be so many things - that she's trying to process grammar, could be that her ears are plugged (you did say she' been swimming a lot, right?) and she's having trouble hearing, could be she's got so much going on that words are boring and it's the learning part that has her attention right now.

  3. Her brain is developing faster than her verbal abilities. Common in kids with high iq. Don't be surprised if she goes thru a stuttering phase too. Oh and keep her challenged but at her own pace. Good luck.

  4. She's too busy trying to figure things out to take time to talk right now.

  5. While it's always wise to talk to the pediatrician, I remember that my son went through this, too. Sometimes when children stop speaking it's the first time they exercise control over you. Other times it's a result of over stimulation and the need to process surroundings more carefully. She's becoming more aware of her surroundings, of nuances, and subtle changes--when that happens to us we become more cautious, too. However if it concerns you enough to ask about it here, talking to her doctor would be the next logical step.

  6. Thank you, ladies, for your comments. As I said, we are not concerned at this point. Stephanie is correct; sudden loss of language can be a red flag. However, our daughter exhibits none of the signs of autism. We have no reason to suspect it.

    It is quite common for children to regress in one area when they are about to acquire a new skill/reach a new milestone. And I suspect that is what is happening. Or, as some have suggested, she is just busy processing a steady stream of new information.

    The best advice our pediatrician ever gave me was to 1) trust my instincts when it comes to my daughter and 2) never be afraid to call or feel stupid about it if I do have a concern. My instinct tells me my daughter is developing normally and does not have a problem. We will review all of her behaviors with the doctor at her next wellness visit, scheduled for a few weeks from now. I'll be sure to follow-up here and let you know what he says.

  7. When children that age are learning new things they sometimes take a step backward with something they already know. If she is spending a lot of time identifying things she may be taking a step backwards in her speech. She will go back to what she was before when she has mastered this skill. Early educators call this "unpacking their suitcase."

    For example my son was fairly non-verbal at 18m. He, however, was already fairly active. He had long since mastered the skill of going up the ladder and down the slide. When he started talking all of a sudden he could not go up the ladder. It lasted a few weeks - maybe longer it was a few years ago now - and then he could do it again.

  8. Elizabeth,
    I really like your blog! I am now following you on twitter too! About the language...I have two kids. The first started taking at 10 months and never stopped. The second didn't say a word until he was 2, but when he finally started he caught up quickly. They are all so different and do things in their own way and time. She is most likely putting all of her efforts elsewhere at the moment!

  9. You mentioned this, and I observed it, while we were visiting the other day. I wouldn't worry about it too much right now. Development does not happen in a smooth, continuous, upward flow. It happens in fits and starts. And, yes, as children are about to acquire a new skill they will often show some regression during that transitional period (this happens again and again with different skills and abilities). And no, she doesn't show any signs of the spectrum disorders. She is far too social for that to be of concern.

    The only other piece of the puzzle is the signing. There isn't much research on this yet since this is sort of a new trend (to sign with hearing children from a young age). But, it has been noted that sometimes hearing children who are taught to sign early will show some delay, not in language comprehension but in language production. There is even some indication that as the brain begins to lateralize, children who are taught to sign will have language associated with the motor cortex and in the right hemisphere of the brain, rather than the usual left hemisphere. As far as developmental consequences of this type of is unknown at this time. In any case, I think I mentioned to you when I was there that it may be a good idea at this point to back off from signing, since she is not verbalizing. Also, you could try to encourage her to verbalize any time she is trying to get you to do something using gestures (rather than responding to the gestures alone and therefore reinforcing the use of nonverbal behavior to get the outcome she desires).

    Her pediatrician will likely have some ideas for you as well.

  10. Appreciate all the comments! It definitely is interesting to read the different perspectives/experiences.

    And welcome to my new followers! Happy to have you along...

  11. Sorry to pick up this post so late, but my son had the same issue and also had the sickest attention span, he would play with one toy for over an hour at a time!
    We explored early education and sent him to Montessori at 2yrs 9mths, he, now just 6, has been reading chapter books for a year. He can add, subtract and multiply in his head. He had an operation 3 weeks ago and I taught him to play chess to keep him still. Within the week he beat me, in 3 moves (obviously I was just having an off day...)
    Moral is..we kept feeding him but never pushed, he developed a healthy love of learning and wants to know more, I just hope it continues as it can fizzle by about 9yrs. Do your research!


I value your input, and appreciate your taking the time to not only read, but also comment on this post! Thank you! Please come back often and keep the discussion going...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Related Posts with Thumbnails