Jackson is a few months away from his third birthday. I’m not really sure where the time went! It seems just like yesterday J and I were sitting at Yumms joking that we were eating our last meal as just the 2 of us. Later that evening I went into labor and the rest is history. I would be lying if I said his newborn days were easier than these toddler days. He was a nap fighting, bottle throwing, SICK 24/7 baby. I’m so thankful we lived within walking distance to my parents house because there were plenty of times I would walk over with both of us in tears. There is probably enough postpartum fog to write an entire novel so I’ll save that for another day.
This one is about the question I get asked the most. Is Jackson still not talking? That’s a good way to make me bite my tongue and hope that nice words form. Yes, he is talking. Is it what society considers talking? No. We communicate in multiple ways with Jackson. He “talks” all the time, we just aren’t able to understand his words. We have used context clues to decipher words and phrases that he commonly uses. And just recently he has started repeating our words! I absolutely love hearing his tiny voice copy me. It’s also extremely interesting to see Jackson and Josie interact. They communicate in their own ways and it’s fascinating. As I’m sitting on the couch writing this I watched Jackson walk over to Josie, bend down, and in a soft baby voice babble something that sounded like “come here, come on” and Josie followed him to his room. Maybe babies really do have their own language. Jackson also is learning sign language along with speaking. Thankfully my family learned sign language years ago to communicate with my autistic cousin. It came in handy (no pun intended) with Jackson! From a very early age we started signing while we talked to him so by 9-10ish months he knew how to sign “more”. Now he knows close to 15-20 signs for his day to day tasks and things he wants/uses. We have been working with an ECI speech therapist and Early Childhood Interventionist for almost a full year. When he was evaluated he was at a 16 month level for speech and I can’t remember what he was for gross motor (he was 24 months at the time). The first speech report I got literally broke me. I think I cried each day for a full week. In the report the speech therapist has described Jackson’s behavior and interactions with his peers and teachers. She had stated that his tantrums were frequent, that he was inconsolable and he was a shoe kicker (not how she worded it). Having worked with older toddlers I knew exactly what she was describing. That’s why my heart broke so much. My child, who is unable to talk, was so frustrated that it was causing him to explode. He couldn’t tell his teachers what was bothering him, he couldn’t tell his friends he needed a minute, and he couldn’t tell us what he needed. Thankfully his other ECI therapist called me and assured me Jackson was okay. She assured me that they were going to help him, and us, figure this out. I reached out on social media and I had a few moms reach out. One in particular calmed my worries. She and a son who was also speech delayed so she knew exactly what to say without coming off as judgmental. She sent me videos and reports from their own journey and also sent me questions to ask Jackson’s therapist. Jackson’s teachers have been amazing through this process too. They have learned signs that he knows and help him work through his big emotions. A couple of the hardest things as a mom with a delayed child is the judgment from others and comparing. I’ve been guilty of this before I had kids so I know I’m not the only one. Imagine, you’re in the grocery store and you see a toddler shopping with their mom. All of a sudden the kid reaches for something and the mom stops, hands it to them, and they throw it to the ground screaming. Your first thought is probably something along the lines of “that kid needs to be disciplined” or “could he scream any louder”. What you don’t see is a mother trying to see what item the child was pointing to and clearly got it wrong. With Jackson it’s a lot of “wrong answers” and he tells us in his own way that usually includes some sort of shriek. Now that he’s older I ask for him to show me that way we can avoid offensive side-eyes from the public. It’s also interesting to see people’s reactions to his tantrums. You can tell the ones who have a “tough” kid or the ones who have never had kids by the looks you catch in public. When he’s having a fit I’ve learned being soft spoken and getting down on his level helps lessen the severity. In the past I said the typical “there is no reason to cry” or “you’re fine, now stop” and all that does is send him further into a fit. Some would scoff and tell me that back in their day their mom (or dad) would have given them a reason to cry or their parents would have spanked them and sent them to their room. I’ve swatted Jackson on the behind before and it did nothing but make me feel like shit and made him look at me with so much hurt. I’ve been doing lots of reading, researching, and talking with professionals on how to navigate toddler life with Jackson. With the help of his speech therapists we have learned ways to help us communicate with each other such as making picture cards at home for foods, toys, and other common things he might want. I verbally describe every action so he can listen to my thoughts. We watch lots of animal documentaries and TONS of Ms. Rachel. This journey has taught all of us a lot. I have learned to be (a little more) patient, empathy for other parents with tough kids, and comparison is the thief of joy. I have friends with kids Jackson’s age and seeing them run around talking up a storm is a stab to the gut. In the beginning I would be guilty about comparing Jackson’s journey to theirs and that’s just not fair to any of us. Not anymore, we are on our own journey and creating our own path. I am so excited for Jackson’s therapy to continue and see what great strides he can make. We have a transition meeting with his ECI therapist and the school district so at 3 he has a smooth transition. Everyone always tells me that once he starts talking he will never stop, and I’m okay with that. If I ever feel the urge to tell him to stop talking then I’ll come back and read this post. For now we will celebrate our “wins” of new words and continue to learn new ways to help our Baby Jack Jack express himself.
P.S. if you haven’t seen Incredibles 2 then you probably won’t get the Jack Jack reference lol. But, our Jackson has the same fiery personality as that character.
4 thoughts on “Speech Delays and Toddler Days”
Hey, nice to hear about the way things are coming along at your house. Boy, do I relate to everything that’s happening with Jackson! My middle son who has Down syndrome and Autism still can not speak clearly. Most of his peers can talk without a problem. For some reason, my son never reached that threshold. We tried years of speech therapy, to no avail. These days, we do Makaton sign language and Sam communicates also with nods, yes, or no, or gestures. It’s still an ongoing challenge! I feel your pain. Stay strong and keep up the good work!
Thanks for sharing your story. “Comparison is the thief of joy” is such a great phrase. I am so glad you are finding tools that make sense for your journey. Hang on. It really will be ok.
P.S. The love you see from Jacks
I see little buddy doing and saying new things every single visit. And you are an amazing mama. xoxo