When Aara was 1 year old I could see she was not babbling nor was she making many vocal sounds. She used to express her emotions/feelings with either a constant vowel sound or with a beautiful smile. This would help us determine Aara’s mood. However this was really making me upset, I couldn’t understand what my child wanted or needed. During play dates Aara would whinge or cry and I couldn’t understand what was frustrating her.
We had been waiting for around 6 months for Aara to be seen by a therapist for communication. I had reached out to the hospital and was advised we were on the waiting list and a member of staff would be in contact. The NHS for Aara has been great from my pregnancy up-to now, however this is the one area that I think there is a shortage of skilled practitioners, hence the long wait…….So we thought the best thing to do was see if we could find a private Speech and Language Therapist.
After asking friends and family for recommendations we found the perfect therapist for Aara. I first spoke to her over the phone, before inviting her home to undertake an initial session with Aara. Based on that first session we discussed working on trying to get Aara requesting/initiating her needs. This could be for food, playing, sleeping, watching TV. This is where we were introduced to Makaton. The therapist taught us 2 signs “more” and “all gone” and asked us to incorporate this in our everyday communication with Aara.
At first, I thought ‘how can I sign’? ‘Why should I sign?’ I thought ‘My child is not deaf she’s just not talking.’ ‘How is signing going to help with her speaking?’. I can honestly say that I could not have been more wrong, for Aara it was easier to understand that an action with her hands could result in more food or more TV. As adults we are always using our hands especially if we are trying to make a point in a conversation.
At this initial appointment we were introduced to Singing Hands. Singing hands incorporate Makaton with stories and nursery rhymes, they have various videos on YouTube. I would highly recommend googling them if you have not come across them before, it’s amazing how many signs you can pick up from watching their YouTube clips.
Over the next few months we incorporated various approaches in developing Aara’s communication, for example;
- Turn Taking – Playing with a ball
- Copying Aara’s vocals,
- Waiting for Aara to try finish off a sentence in a song she knew,
- Use cause and effect toys to motivate her
- Teach Aara permanency of objects – hide objects and make her find it
- Choice making – with a toy that Aara enjoyed vs a toy she did not like
- Wait for Aara to ask for more food between each spoonful (either by a vocal sound or by pointing towards the food)
We repeated this process at every given opportunity, whilst playing with her or during meal times – this process will eventually work so you shouldn’t get disheartened.
At 2 years and 8 months Aara’s first word was her name. Aara’s grandad, who we lived with at the time, was singing a song and he said her name and we heard the tiniest echo “Aara”. Right there, the moment we had all been waiting for, my little girl said her first word when none of us were expecting it. Once Aara learnt to say her name that’s all we heard day and night for the next 6-7 months with no other words attached to it.
Currently Aara has two SLT‘S, one privately and one through the NHS. Both therapists work very well together and both have a great deal of experience. Combining different approaches, which include PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) and the Hanen approach, both enable Aara to improve her communication skills. Please check out our separate blog on these approaches for more information.
Aara has started to sign and speak single words. As her vocabulary is expanding she has started to initiate and request things such as food, TV, toys and much more. This has been a massive milestone. From someone who couldn’t independently request anything, to someone who can now speak or sign a word is something that I for one will now never take for granted!