Pulling On Words: Working Through My Son’s Speech Delay


By Tricia Mirchandani for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers

“Uh… Uh… Uh… Up! Boo! 1…. 2…. 3… G-G-G-Gooooo! Weeee!”

This is our slide mantra. I say these words every time he goes uh-uh-up and d-d-down. I chant them on the first round and the twenty-first round. I repeat them when we’re alone in the park and when others stand by, witness to how ridiculous I sound. Every journey up these steps and down that slide happens to the tune of my narration. We have a swing mantra too and another for the bigger slide. One for opening doors and one for taking off shoes.

We have these mantras because that is what the speech delay books and websites and speech therapists have told us to do. Repeat words five times. Narrate. Enunciate. Give him a turn to speak but give him the words he needs. Don’t talk too much but say what he might say if he could. Use the same words always. Routine is important. Repetition is key.

Just like those early days of parenthood when I read every book, subscribed to every newsletter, bookmarked every website with an ounce of information about the sleeping and eating patterns of newborns and infants, I submerged myself in data, research, and the words of the experts. I highlighted, tabbed, and made notes in the margins of articles. And, just like in those early days, I’d come away so dizzy and overwhelmed that I could barely form a word myself. I’d close the book and take tentative steps, scared to make a wrong move or say the wrong thing. I’d question every activity, lest my actions today prevent us from ever unlocking that box where he keeps his voice.

Still, for three months, I read and researched and gathered. I sat us in daily focused work time, like school for my not-quite two-year-old. We’d blow bubbles or play with his train, things he enjoyed because the books advised that speech happens through play, but we both knew the truth. This was work, barely disguised as fun. By the time an hour had passed, we’d be exhausted. My muscles ached as if I’d been physically pulling on the words that are rooted so deep within him. He couldn’t sit a minute longer, wanted a view of the world that did not include my face. So we’d go to the park and I’d intend to let him play, just let him be, give us both some time to rest. But then he’d run to the slide and the book said routine is important; repetition is key. So I’d stand by. “Uh… uh… uh…. Up!”

My life became solely about coaxing words. All else fell away as I lived for his first sound, his first string of babbles, his first thought.

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8 thoughts on “Pulling On Words: Working Through My Son’s Speech Delay”

  1. I know the difficulty of trying to communicate with a little one who is unable to express themselves. My own daughter’s (and a friend’s) speech delays were corrected through less than a month of cranial sacral chiropractic work. Ours was specially trained through Lifewest. We moms had noticed bumpy skulls and I guess the plates were somehow a little jammed. This was after a year of speech therapy with little improvement. It was simple, gentle, and helpful.

  2. My son is almost 3 and has just recently begun talking in 2 and 3 word sentences. We also tried EVERYTHING. It’s so frustrating. I would get especially mad at people who’d say “be glad he isn’t talking because once he starts he won’t shut up.” Not to mention the 101 sentences that started with “have you tried this…” and the people who suggested he was autistic. I didn’t understand how a boy who could communicate with sign language, know all shapes, colors, numbers, and letters couldn’t verbally articulate. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence but we started giving him an omega3 oil and a few weeks later he was talking like crazy! He is still hard to understand sometimes, but since July, his vocabulary went from 5 words to hundreds. I completely understand how you feel. I cried many nights worried he would always be behind or get teased. I hope your struggle is short lived.

    1. Melanie, what kind of Omega3 oil did you give your son? I’m ready to try anything.

      My son just turned 2 this weekend and I can tell he understands, but just won’t move beyond babbling. He reads my lips and tries to mouth the words along with me, but nothing comes out. The worst is watching him cry and get so frustrated when I can’t understand him. It’s heartbreaking. Nice to know I’m not in this alone, but I’m dying for that first word.

      1. Danielle, my son is doing the same thing! I can tell him to do something, he understands. He knows the words and tries but can’t articulate it yet. I’m so beyond frustrated because his pediatrician wants to jump to autism based solely off of the delay in speech, but I’m with him everyday and I just don’t agree because he doesn’t exhibit any other signs. I also would like to know more about the omega 3!

    2. Hi Melanie, where can I get thar omega3 oil? I have seen several vitamins that contain omega3 but I don’t know it they will work. Thanks a lot!

  3. My twin boys will be 2 in February and all they say is ba’s, “tha” they use to ask what things are…. and recently mum-mum… they seem to know what everything is, even numbers, dinosaurs… just don’t say anything. It kills me. I am SO sick of everyone saying “every baby is different”. I feel like the reason they aren’t talking is that my MIL, who watches them while I am at work and hasn’t read to them, etc as she is supposed to but would rather put on a baby einstein against my wishes because she is lazy. I wish so bad I could be a SAHM. PS @ Lissa, Danielle.. research Krill Oil Omega-3’s, unlike fish oil, krill contains anti-oxidants so I think it is the best. Omega-3’s also come from grass fed beef and free range eggs. Animal sources are always better than plant for healthy oils. We follow Weston A Price philosophies and Dr. Mercola has lots of articles on this topic.

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