Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Day 8 of Down Syndrome Awareness Month!

Today I'd like to focus on Tera's speech.  From the minute I started researching Down Syndrome after Tera was born the key word seemed to be "delays".  I've heard some real horror stories from parents who were told not to expect anything from their children with Down Syndrome (yes, even in recent years and by actual medical professionals), but we have been fortunate enough to not be included in that group.  I guess when I think back on it, we weren't really told much one way or another.  At doctor visits we were mostly asked what she was able to do and it was left at that.  Once she was evaluated for Early Intervention services, all the therapists we had were always very positive.  But we are in an information age where almost everything you want to know is at your finger tips.  This can be both encouraging and reassuring, and discouraging and scary all at the same time.

The fact is that most kids with Down Syndrome experience some type of delay; whether it's physical or developmental or both.  When I first started reading posts from other moms two of the most common delays were in walking and talking.  Tera was delayed in walking, but not by much, even by typical standards.  Speech on the other hand has been a bit slower.  We've watched as kids around her and us have started having actual conversations with sentences and everything.  

Tera said "dada" at maybe around 18 months and started actually knowing that it meant Tom by the time she was two (maybe earlier).  Then she really started doing well with animal sounds and a little while later started working on "mama".  Originally it always came out as "baba", but then she would walk around the house this summer calling "mama" over and over again until you asked her to say "mama" and she would immediately say "baba".  After one particularly successful speech session, she started actually saying "mama" all the time and it's the most beautiful sound I've ever heard.  One of the advantages to having a child with delays is that when they are able to accomplish something, it is so incredibly rewarding.  I waited a long time to hear "mama" and even when she's calling it over and over again, or whining it, I still love to hear it every time.  

When we knew that her speech would mostly likely be delayed, we starting signing with her.  It took a lot of practice and making sure we incorporated the same few words every chance we could, but then one day while at Dairy Queen Tera wanted more ice cream and signed "more".  It was her first official sign and she's just taken off since then.  Her other early signs included "all done", "milk", "water", "please", and "eat".  We then started adding in animal signs and have made the choice to only add new ones as they become necessary and are ones that we can use regularly enough for her to pick them up.  These days she can learn a new sign in about a day if it's one that she can practice and use frequently.  

We've recently started having family members come up with their own signs for themselves so she has a way of "saying" their names.  Her signing is one of the things we're most proud of her for.  She has impressed many people with her ability and I have to admit, we are guilty of having her perform for strangers every once in a while.  Tera is currently two and a half and has as a part of her vocabulary the following:

She can say "Dada", "Mama", "YiaYia", "Papou", "cheese", and "ball" and is working on and close to "more", "juice", and according to her speech therapist today, "help".  

She does many animal noises including dog, elephant, giraffe, pig, fish, cow, lion/tiger, sheep, monkey and probably some others I'm forgetting.

She has some other sounds as well, like "choo choo"; I know there are more, but at 9:00 at night I can't think of them.  

She has signs for Uncle Mike, Aunt Cathy, her best friend Harper, and Nani and I would say close to if not more than 40 other signs.  

Each week she learns more signs and gets closer and closer to saying new words.  She is very vocal and is constantly trying to say new things with everyone's encouragement.  Her effort makes me more proud than I can possibly express and I can't wait to hear each new word that comes out.  But "mama" is still my favorite :)

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