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Braeden had autism.  He also had PDD-NOS, hyperactivity, sensory “issues”, “severe cognitive deficits”, and Asperger’s Syndrome.  He couldn’t talk because we didn’t read to him enough, and perhaps unsurprisingly, he had behavioral problems triggered by poor parenting.  With all these diagnoses came prescriptions, usually involving extensive testing.   At one point, a passerby offered an all-encompassing solution:  “you oughta drown that kid, lady.”  Oddly, that incredible rudeness was preferable to the pitying tsk-tsking that many offered both in front of us and behind our backs.

Yet none of these diagnoses explained why Braeden began talking normally, stopped at age one, didn’t begin babbling again until age 2 ½, and wasn’t understandable to outsiders until age 5 ½.  How could a retarded preschooler understand negative numbers?  How could a child who lovingly put first aid cream on his dog’s calluses lack the empathy and social connection of an autistic child?  How could it be that he wasn’t talking because I didn’t read to him enough, when our home resembled a lending library?

 

A friend found the book Late-Talking Children, which in turn led us to Dr. Camarata, from whom we learned that Braeden had a mixed expressive-receptive language disorder.  That diagnosis changed our lives changed forever, because we could finally forge a path forward, despite lingering worries that every behavior might be a symptom of something dire.    

 

During those dark years before Braeden began to speak fluently, our anchor was the group of other parents of late talkers with whom Dr. Camarata had connected us.  I dared to believe, based on their stories, that maybe Braeden would improve.  Suggestions from Dr. and Mrs. Camarata on how to help our son also gave us hope, because their techniques actually worked.

 

Our boy is now 14.  He is potty trained (something that when he was four I was SURE would never happen).  He still adores mathematics, though his memory is not as frighteningly accurate as it once was.  He remains kind-hearted when it comes to animals and wounded people.  He is a competitive athlete and has solid friendships. 

 

To my dismay, Braeden still shows signs of his language problems—his vocabulary has odd errors and gaps, and he dislikes writing enough that I’ve given up hope that one day he’ll compose the Great American Novel.  He is, however, within the bounds of whatever it is that normal might be.  Most important, Braeden—who paved the way for his younger late-talking brother—is growing into a young man whom I like very much and am proud to have as my son.  On every level, he is just fine.

 

Tamera S.

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I first began this journey over ten years ago when I found and read the book Late Talking Children, by Dr. Thomas Sowell (and I will forever be grateful to Dr. Sowell).  Austin was I think nearly three years old.  At that point, he had a couple of words, but was mostly silent.  He was extremely behind language-wise.  In addition to that, he was – well, he wasn’t anything like his peers – to put it mildly!

He preferred to be alone, and he would literally spend hours of his time lining up things like cars, crayons, even shoes!  He would make elaborate geographical designs in the living room using common household objects.  He would not look at people – if someone came up to him to give him a friendly hello when we were out and about, he would stare up at the ceiling.  He never answered questions – did not even try.  He was an odd little fellow.

We knew he was super smart, he was taking things apart and putting them  back together at an early age;  he was building advanced level K’NEX creations when he was 3 and 4.  And, as a parent – you just “know.”  He wasn’t like other kids – didn’t name off his colors or numbers – but we knew, there was a crazy smart brain going on in there – and we were right.

When he first began really “speaking” – it was all echolalia.  “How was school today, Austin?” — his response:  “school today.”  He did that with every question or comment. This lasted a good year! There was no “back and forth conversation” – and ohhhh how envious I was of parents who had that with their kids….

He was almost five years old before he began to haltingly try to participate in “back and forth” conversation.  His efforts were incredibly awkward, and it was a lesson in patience for everyone – most of all for him.

After a disastrous first semester in kindergarten (a separate story – suffice it to say he was not prepared verbally for that world), we pulled him to homeschool him, which I did for 4 years.  He bloomed, he blossomed, he grew – it was amazing to watch my little boy grow into a very talkative and insatiably curious young man!

He went back to public school in 5th grade – and he scored in the top percentile in everything on all the standardized tests they threw at him – the school staff were very amazed, but we weren’t.

He is now 13 years old and will start 8th grade in the fall.  He makes nearly straight A’s, plays in the band, and is very confident and secure in himself.  He still prefers to be alone, and he did have one best friend who moved away recently — but he is content and doesn’t seem to “need” the company of peers.  That much never did change.  He won an award this year for being one of a handful of students in his grade to demonstrate “exceptional leadership qualities”.  He was so proud – and you should have seen his dad and me – we were beside ourselves!

Austin, like many other LT’s – has an exceptionally dry sense of humor, a maturity about life way beyond his peers, and an insightful view into the world that I rarely even witness in adults….

He talks a lot – but sometimes still takes awhile to answer or understand a question.  He needs a bit of lag time to “process” verbal information; he is also quite literal.  He is well mannered, enormously thoughtful and kindhearted, and a total joy to be around.

Ten years ago I worried I would never have a “real” conversation with my son; now sometimes I have to take a deep breath in patience, because he loves to talk about anything and everything under the sun!

by Anne M.

My son, now 14, argues with me and points out my mistakes.  Twelve years ago, I never knew if that would happen.  The only word he said at age two was “no.” He understood everything and grunted.  I thought he was bright and ignored those who thought he was delayed.

He was sensitive to sound, loved to watch things spin, could escape from any carseat, loved Thomas the Train, and lined up toys.  However, he related to all of us well, and I knew he was not autistic.

Some “friends” and family told me I was in denial.  I was told I was ignoring his delays and refusing to believe he was autistic.

When he was 2, I met parents of similar children on an email list, and we started a list for our late talkers. When he was 3, I took him to see Dr. Stephen and Mary Camerata at Vanderbilt. 

We learned that besides late talking, he had limited vowel space, phonological delays, and his articulation was less than .5% for his age.  However, his score on the CARS autism test was off the chart that he was most definitely NOT autistic.

We were told he might need 4-6 years of speech therapy.  He needed a language preschool, which our area lacked, or else therapy 5x/week.

Because of other speech issues in my family tree, I became his bulldog, fighting for therapy.  Our school system gave him therapy 2x/week, and our insurance approved therapy 2x/week.  We enrolled him in Kindermusik with a music therapist 1x/week. 

For the next 2 years, our lives revolved around his therapy and using our home environment to help him learn to articulate and speak English.  My son worked hard, every day of those 2 years.  His therapy sessions gradually decreased and were completed 2 years after his original diagnosis.

My son is about to begin high school.  We originally opted to homeschool so we could tailor his education to his style and interests. 

  • He competes in demonstration contests
  • In speech contests, he has a Steven Wright style delivery that makes audiences laugh.
  • He will begin his 4th year of studying Spanish as a second language.
  • A talented musician, he has played violin and piano but now prefers electric guitar.
  • He has spent the last 4 years competing in robotics contests.

The stories of the children in this late talking subgroup are all different.  This is my son’s.

by Mary Biever, Evansville, Indiana