Simon Says – Our Speech Therapy Experience

posted by Andrea | 05/26/2017
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Over the last 2 years, many of you have asked me to share more about Simon’s speech therapy and how he’s doing after finishing his therapy program… and it looks like today is the day!

For those of you who don’t know, Simon never talked (like literally never even said one word) until he was about 18-20 months old — not even “mama”, “dada”, “no”, “ball” — NOTHING! He didn’t even babble.

He grunted and pointed and did a few signs, but never really even attempted to talk until right around 18 months old — when we were finally able to start a speech therapy program.

Side Note: both Nora and James were extremely verbal by 11-12 months already and putting short sentences together by 18 months old!

In our area, there aren’t many speech therapy programs that will work with children before 18 months, but once he was 18 months old, we qualified for the in-home speech therapy program through our county’s Early Childhood Programs.

This meant a trained speech therapist came directly to our house FOR FREE to work with Simon. The only “catch” was that she only came once a month — which isn’t all that much. However, she gave me exercises to work on with him in between her visits, so that helped a lot too.

Simon really enjoyed working with this therapist, and I really appreciated that she was able to come directly to our house as Simon was much more open to learning in a familiar environment (plus, it was SO much easier for me!)

His first word… “Good!”

We made very little progress for the first several months… and then, all of a sudden, he said his first word!

“Good” was his very first word (so fitting for such a sweet boy). I can vividly remember getting him up from his nap, asking him how he slept, and having him respond clear as day “Good!”

I think he was just as shocked as I was — because he got really quiet and then said “good, good, good, good” several times.

By the time he was 2, we had a short list of words he could sort-of say. He was still significantly below “average” for the number of words in his vocabulary, and almost no one besides our family could understand any of the words.

Finally, a breakthrough…

Around 2.5, we spent a weekend with his cousin who is exactly the same age as Simon, and after that weekend, we noticed a huge (and immediate) improvement in his speech.

It was like a switch turned on and he miraculously starting putting sounds together to form words.

Over that summer, we continued to work with the Speech Therapist from the Early Childhood Center, and we also enrolled him in an 8-week program through a local college. We went once a week and he worked one-on-one with a graduate student in the Speech Pathology program. He was pretty shy most of the time, but I think the extra weekly appointments helped to spur his progress along.

One Year Later:

It’s been almost 1 year since Simon’s big speech breakthrough last summer, and since then, his vocabulary has grown leaps and bounds — to the point that he “graduated” from the speech therapy program just before his 3rd birthday!

He fully caught up and even scored ABOVE the age-appropriate levels for all the speech, language comprehension, and oral motor categories!

I’m certain I don’t need to explain how wonderful it was to be able to easily communicate with Simon after so many frustrating months and years of grunting and guessing what he might want.

He continues to learn new words every day, he loves singing, he has so much fun playing with Nora now they they can communicate with each other, and even James enjoys getting in on the conversations now that he is talking in short sentences.

Just listen to what Simon says now!

Isn’t he the sweetest!?!

(Click here to see the video if you’re reading this via email)

I love his little lisp and how he can’t quite say his r’s or v’s or th’s yet!

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Obviously I’m not an expert, but if you’re worried about your toddler’s speech, here are a few things to consider first.

NOTE: Please don’t get completely freaked out if your child has any of these warning signs — they could mean absolutely nothing.

A Few Potential “Warning” Signs

1 Hearing Problems:

Over and over again, we were told to get Simon’s hearing checked — but thankfully, his hearing is perfect and he always understood and comprehended everything others said to him.

However, if you have a toddler that doesn’t seem to understand what others say to them, I would strongly encourage checking their hearing.

If they can’t hear when others speak, it will be very difficult (if not impossible) for them to ever learn to properly speak on their own.

2. Regular Ear Infections:

If your child has regular ear infections, there could be an issue with excess fluid in the ear — making it difficult for the child to hear and speak.

Also, they will most likely be very uncomfortable if they regularly get ear infections!

If your child regularly gets ear infections, it might not be a bad idea to talk with an Ear Nose Throat doctor about possibly putting tubes in their ears. We have 2 different friends who did this with their toddlers and the results were astonishing. The child almost immediately started talking after the tubes were in!

3. Tongue Tie: 

Simon actually has a VERY slight “tongue tie” but all the doctors and speech therapists who looked at him said it wasn’t be a big enough tongue tie to cause speaking issues.

They said we could have it snipped just a teeny tiny bit, but the pain for Simon probably wouldn’t be worth it since it most likely wouldn’t make any difference — so we opted not to have it snipped.

4. Lazy Tongue:

Out of everything listed above, a “lazy tongue” is what we assume was the biggest issue for Simon — his tongue was ALWAYS hanging out of his mouth and he drooled all the time.

Some of the things we did to help strengthen his tongue was limit how often he could have his pacifier, have him drink from a straw instead of a sippy cup, and play silly games where we had him lick various things with his tongue (holding suckers on either side of his mouth, putting food around his lips and having him lick it off, etc.)

Helpful Tips for Parents

1. Learn a few basic signs. 

Baby sign language is huge these days — even for babies and toddlers without any speech delays. However, it can be extra helpful if your toddler has a speech delay.

We didn’t go crazy, but I did teach Simon a handful of helpful signs like:

  • more
  • all done
  • water
  • hungry
  • yes
  • no
  • please
  • thank you

It’s amazing how much more we could communicate with just a few signs. If you’re interested, we used the Ting Signs program and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

2. Try not to overuse the phrase: “can you say ___________?”

Learning language skills is very tiring for little people and having adults constantly request saying certain words or phrases over and over all day long is very overwhelming.

And often times, they literally cannot move the muscles in their mouth to say whatever it is that you’re asking them to say, which means lots of built-up frustration on their part — to the point where they could completely shut down and stop trying to communicate altogether.

3. Use TONS of repetition.

Instead of constantly asking your toddler to say certain words, YOU continually say the words over and over and over again — something like: “Mommy likes to drink juice. Juice is yummy. Does Simon like juice? Yes, juice. Yummy juice. Would you like some juice? Ok, here’s your juice. Yummy juice. JUICE!”

It sounds crazy, but our speech therapist told me it’s one of the best and easiest ways for parents to help their toddler expand their vocabulary.

4. Reasearch free programs in your area. 

Before you opt for pricey private programs, do a little research for what your county, city, state, or local area offers in terms of “special education” and “early childhood education”. It’s amazing all the free resources that might be available in your area!

5. Try not to panic or think the very worst. 

There is a very large window of time as to when children finally start talking. In our family, Nora and James were very verbal by 1 year old already, while it took Simon until he was 2 to really start saying much of anything at all.

In fact, Dave and I joked that James might talk in sentences sooner than Simon did — and that was almost true!

I completely understand how frustrating it is to not be able to understand your child, but at the same time, if you are fairly confident there are no physical or mental reasons they aren’t able to speak, it’s most likely just a matter of time before it happens.

Until then, do your best to relax and give your child the time they need.

 6. Be informed… but don’t go crazy doing research!

I’ll be honest, I didn’t do a ton of research in the beginning — because it all seemed overwhelming. But slowly, I asked around, talked to the speech therapist, and found a few helpful online resources.

I really liked the website: Teach Me to Talk — specifically this blog post which lists all the different types of toddler speech delays and goes into a bit of detail about each one. It was pretty interesting for me 🙂

So that’s our story — hopefully we won’t have much more to add to it.

Simon won’t go to preschool in the Fall of 2018, and we don’t have any specific plans for working on his speech before then. If his preschool teachers decide he needs more help, we will deal with it at that time.

Did you ever have a child with speech delays? If so, I’d love to know what worked for you!

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33 comments

  1. Allison

    06/01/2017

    One of my twin girls had speech delay. We had an in-house therapist come to help as well (provided by the county). When she did start to speak her words were garbled so I would ask her twin what she said and the other one understood her every time! And I recall our first “conversation together” – I was in the hospital with pneumonia, March 2005, that means she was a month and a half shy of 3 yo. I was on the phone with her and I asked her “Carolina, you mommy’s big girl?” And she responded “I big girl mommy.”
    And, btw, she hasn’t stopped talking since!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha! Simon talks ALLLLL the time now too!

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  2. Lauri

    05/29/2017

    My son did not say anything until almost 3 years old! We took him to speech therapy and they never found any reason why he did not speak. Finally after months and months of weekly speech therapy he talked into the microphone that came with a little cassette recorder that was for playing a tape and enabled the child to sign along. He thought is was great that when you said something in the microphone you could hear it! That was it and he just started then to speak in complete sentences. We were just talking with him about it today! We were celebrating his 21 birthday!! He is in his 3rd year at UCLA. We never found a reason that he did not speak until 3 but my guess is that he knew he couldn’t speak completely correctly so he did not want to do it until he felt that could master it better. That’s my guess after a few years went by. He never liked doing things unless he felt he could do them correctly

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  3. Monica

    05/26/2017

    I am a speech therapist for preschoolers in Pa. So glad to hear he’s doing so well. It’s great that you sought out intervention

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  4. Debbie

    05/26/2017

    Simon is so cute! He’s pretty good and the only thing I couldn’t understand was when he said his full name. I only got the Simon part. My nephew also didn’t talk for the first 2 years. He grunted, pointed, did sign language. He obviously could understand everything but just couldn’t express himself verbally. My sister finally took him to a speech therapist but not sure if it was a free one or not. His therapist said he will talk when he’s ready but I think they still did some exercises with him. He’s now 10 and even though he can now talk, there’s times that when he gets excited he stutters and it’s hard to understand what he’s saying. It’s almost as if his tongue can’t keep up with his brain. His mom understands and would repeat what he says. I’m somewhat worried because if she has to interpret everything for him, doesn’t that take away the effort on his part to talk clearly? I’m no expert on these things, but a part of me worries for him because he’s already 10 yrs old. He also has ADD issues and takes mild medication. I wonder if that has something to do with it too.

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  5. JoAnn C.

    05/26/2017

    Hooray for Simon!!!!! Great news to start out the weekend. Thanks, Andrea for sharing such good news. Happy weekend.

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  6. Heather

    05/26/2017

    We had to do speech therapy twice with our older daughter (and now she doesn’t stop talking!).

    When she was around 18 months, she was speaking well, but it was all in a different language that only I could interpret. Looking back, it was pretty funny. But, at the time, I knew something wasn’t right. I was friends with a speech therapist who evaluated my daughter and told me that we did need to work on this. We ended up in speech therapy at our hospital’s rehab center and within about 3 months, she was speaking English on her level.

    Last year, at 8 years old, I (and her counselor) noticed she wasn’t pronouncing the “g” and “k” sounds, which she should have had by that age. I checked with my friend again and she said that she should already have those sounds at that age. So, back to speech therapy; this time at the local university–twice a week with a graduate student studying speech pathology. After about two months, she had met all the expectations of problem sounds and fast talking (we didn’t even know that was a problem that could be worked on!) so we’re done again. I’m so grateful for specialists who can step in and help where I can’t.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Wow– so great that you could correct both “issues” before they became larger problems! Specialists are amazing!!

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  7. Andrea

    05/26/2017

    So sweet! Super, super cute.

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  8. Michelle

    05/26/2017

    “Simon won’t go to preschool in the Fall of 2019”. A bit confused. Won’t he be 5, turning 6 that school year? Did you mean another year? Because that seems way too old for preschool 🙂 so glad he’s a chatty man now!!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    ah yes — I meant the Fall of 2018 (seriously, I just typed 2019 when I was trying to type 2018 again!) He’ll turn 4.5 right after school starts — so pretty normal 🙂

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    J Reply:

    Maybe the confusion was whether he “will go” or “won”t go”. I noticed the same thing and figured you meant to say he WILL go.

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  9. Shelly Smith

    05/26/2017

    I think your little guy, Simon, is just the cutest!! He reminds me alot of my oldest (Joey) who is now 13, but was also non-verbal for the first 2 years of his life! Our stories are very similar!! Joey DID understand everything we asked him and he DID use many signs, but he had that “lazy tongue” issue (like Simon) and did not speak hardly 2 or 3 words when he was a toddler. We also had a great experience with Speech Therapy thru First Steps (free in Indiana) and after the initial testing, he qualified for free weekly therapy in our home. I’m surprised that Simon did not qualify for more frequent therapy (weekly), since his case sounds so similar to my boys. Glad that he improved so thoroughly and quickly! 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Shelly,
    Simon would have qualified for weekly visits starting at age 3 — but instead, he “graduated” since all his evaluations showed he really didn’t need more help. We could have chosen to keep him in the program and do the weekly visits, but I just felt like he didn’t need them anymore and it was just one more thing to do each week.

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  10. Kim

    05/26/2017

    How ADORABLE is Simon’s sweet little voice. He sound extremely clear! Of course, I am an expert in these things since my daughter is a Speech Language Pathologist.
    Blessing abound!

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    Andrea Reply:

    haha thanks!
    Simon’s speech is getting MUCH more clear, but others still sometimes have trouble understanding him — so either Nora or I interpret 🙂

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  11. Heidi

    05/26/2017

    That is so awesome how far he has come! Way to go Simon! You are doing all the right things helping him on his way. We had an experience with one of our children being pretty strongly tongue tied. He had a really great vocabulary early on and the doctors said there was no need for the snip. However when he was about three and a half he started stuttering so we took him to speech therapy and it got mildly better. Then we had a “chance” meeting with a lady who’s son had been tongue tied as well and developed stuttering. She said that when they sniped his tongue the stuttering went away. So we dreadfully decided to have it snipped. He had almost no pain from the procedure and the stuttering went away as well. That’s been 12 years ago and he has great speech and can fully lick an ice cream cone- something he wasn’t able to do as a toddler. We also had a non verbal baby that turned into a delayed speech toddler and then was enrolled in speech therapy. I remember being so scared that no one would ever be able to understand her! I am happy to say that she is now an active talker and singer!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    good to know. I’ll definitely keep an eye on the tongue tie thing and listen for potential stutters. he’s almost 3.5, so right about that time frame too!

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  12. Kelly Hess

    05/26/2017

    2 out of three of my kids have had speech delays. We went through the same process, ruling out any hearing problems first. My daughter’s case was a lot more extreme. They did find fluid in her ears and ended up having tubes which has helped. She is just finishing her 2 year preschool program through our district (which was free due to her delay). She went in saying barely 20 words and is coming out talking in full sentences. She still does have a lot of pronunciation issues which she will continue to work with a SLP in kindergarten. You are correct, reach out early to your county program for free assistance. If they are 3 reach out to your school district for testing (and be persistent)! Your child may qualify for a free preschool program under an IEP.

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  13. Michelle

    05/26/2017

    I’m glad you had a great experience! My son is just a few weeks younger than Simon and we loved watching these videos of the boys singing. He asks me to watch James singing the Jesus loves me. Also- Simons speech is VERY clear to me. Love that perfect W sound!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks — yes, his speech is getting much clearer all the time (especially if he focuses on saying something specific and really sounding it out).

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    Michelle Reply:

    You’re right Andrea, no worries. I may have misread Jo’s intention and maybe I’m the one who should apologize. Sorry Jo! I know we are all tired of rudeness on the internet and I don’t need to be that way either.

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  14. Katie

    05/26/2017

    What a timely post as May is Better Speech and Hearing month! So happy to hear about Simon’s progress

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh wow — I didn’t even know that!

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  15. Jo

    05/26/2017

    Speech. Not speach.

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    Michelle Reply:

    How is this helpful? What a difficult thing for any parent and child to be challenged with. Your disrespect is not appreciated, encouraging or enlightening.

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    Andrea Reply:

    no worries Michelle — Dave and I surprisingly both missed that single typo, so I fixed it now 🙂

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    Michelle Reply:

    You’re right Andrea, no worries. I may have misread Jo’s intention and maybe I’m the one who should apologize. Sorry Jo! I know we are all tired of rudeness on the internet and I don’t need to be that way either

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  16. Stel

    05/26/2017

    Both my boys struggled with the hard R (an Afrikaans sound). I gave them peanut butter to lick from their palate, and after constantly playing with loose front teeth, it was quickly resolved.

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    Andrea Reply:

    good to know!!

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  17. Pat

    05/26/2017

    We had a non talker, too. Tried the only speach therapy one time and gave that up. Not good. When he did start talking it was strange and only his dad and I could understand him. By the time he started kindergarten he was talking constantly and we often wished he would be quiet for a little while. It was a difficult time for all of us. He also was a poor sleeper and had fluid behind his eardrums. Had to have tubes. We do think some of his problems stemmed from the fluid. Maybe the fluid muffled his hearing? But he could reproduce a police siren so well I once pulled over! He’s grown up now, married with two boys of his own. Time heals.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yeah, everything seems like such a huge deal when we’re in the middle of it (don’t I know this!) and then not nearly as horrible when you look back a few years later 🙂 Glad your little guy grew out of his hearing and sleeping issues!

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  18. Heidi

    05/26/2017

    My daughter has Apraxia (due to prematurity) and we didn’t start ST until she was 22 months because her ped kept telling us some kids were late talkers. Finally I called our Early Intervention office because something didn’t feel right. We started ST less than a month later and for the first year and a half things progressed VERY slowly, we only gained about 40 words between diagnosis and moving from EI to an IEP. Then she met a phenomenal ST who had her progressing in leaps and bounds (she formed her first 5 word sentence after only a week with her) and she was with her for 2 years and the progress was mind blowing. We’re still in ST due to articulation issues (k, g, v, s, etc) but at 5.5 years old we can finally understand a majority of what she says. She’ll still need ST for a few more years for articulation, but being able to finally hear “I love you mommy” at almost 4 was the sweetest moment, I think I cried more than when she was finally released from the hospital after being almost a month old.

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