The other day SB and I were leaving my parents' house after a visit. I asked her if she would say, "Bye bye." It is one of her new words, so I knew she was capable of it. She tried, and nothing came out of her mouth but air. She tried again, and managed to say, "Dye dye." On the third try, she nailed it. And there was much rejoicing. I have learned when you have a child with speech difficulties, you celebrate the small victories. Every single one of them.
Here's a way to help demonstrate what SB is dealing with. Say the letter, "B" out loud. Say it again. And again. Each time, be cognizant of the muscles in your lips, mouth and face. It's takes a lot to get that sound out. Now try the letter "O." Make sure you say it repeatedly and with emphasis, and be aware of how many muscles in your face are involved. Look in the mirror. We don't think anything of it when we make these sounds. I daresay we take it for granted.
My daughter has to work her heart out to do so. The connections between her brain and the muscles involved in speech don't function properly. You can physically see how hard she has to work to get the sounds out. It might take her five tries, and even then she may fail. When she can't get it out, we praise her efforts. When she can, we celebrate as if she has just been awarded a full scholarship to Harvard. Because it IS a very big deal.
Things that may seem insignificant to most are huge for my daughter. And that is hard for others to understand. I might come home from one of SB's speech therapy sessions ecstatic because she made the "OO" sound. And people don't get that. They ask often how SB's speech therapy is going, if she is learning anything. I try to explain it is not about learning, but building the connections. Then as I excitedly tell them about her progress, they look at me funny. But I don't care, because I know what it means.
I hate that SB is having to go through this. It hurts me so much to see my child struggle mightily to do something so vital and considered by most to be routine. But I have been absolutely blown away by how she is dealing with it. She is aware she is different. She knows she can't do what others can do. But it has had no noticeable effect on her self-esteem. She continues to be the bright, happy, independent and confident child I love to see.
What's more, she gives her all trying to overcome this challenge. She rarely becomes frustrated or gives up. I would not fault her in the least if she did. She's not quite two years old, yet she is facing this situation with the grace and fortitude of one far beyond her years. I am so amazed by her. And I am heartened knowing she will be equipped through this to face whatever future obstacles life sets in her path.
She still has a long way to go with this particular hurdle. We hope she will be able to talk by the time she begins Kindergarten, three years from now. That's how big this is. Her attitude and determination are only part of the equation. They will help her, yes, but they cannot move the mountain. She has to go over it. All we can do is provide encouragement and ensure she has the tools she needs.
I'll admit I cry sometimes. Both for her struggle and her incredible will. I cried as I wrote this. But oh, the celebrating I will do when she reaches the other side of the mountain. I cannot wait to hear my child speak. Talk a mile a minute like so many young girls. I know she is going to have a lot to say. And I will be all ears. Then a new kind of tears will fill my eyes, those made from joy.