We’ve all heard of that cousin that didn’t talk until he was three. Or know of a mom who lost months of sleep worrying about her late talker. We’ve witnessed how a toddler can go from one-word sentences to oh-my-god-he-won’t-stop-talking overnight. But what about the mom who listened to these stories, but things just aren’t working themselves out? What about the mother who filled out her toddler’s ASQ and received a birth-to-three referral in return? This is the phase I’m in, and it’s thick. It’s heavy, it’s guilty, it’s kind of embarrassing and yet still lucky because, hey, they’re healthy!
Still, it doesn’t stop me from falling back while my throat drops into my stomach every. single. time. I end up in the grocery aisle and my bouncy-curled blonde toddler smiles up at someone who cheerfully replies, “Oh! What’s your name?”
Enter me, looking like the overprotective helicopter that I am, to step in and answer the harmless and friendly question. Only once this nice stranger gives a confused look do you offer any further explanation- but then what can you say? It usually is a quick, “Sorry! He’s not talking yet!” followed by a fast smile. Then we hurry along in order to avoid further confused looks, because of course your non-verbal two-year-old is stretching into his 4T clothing looking like he’ll turn 5 tomorrow. This innocent question shouldn’t hang up a mother, but it does. It could just be the go-to icebreaker for toddler conversation, but when your toddler can’t say their own name, it becomes so much more.
The good news? Regardless of whatever circumstance hangs us up, we have help. Yes, it’s humbling to accept help or even admit that you or your child may need it, but…it helps. Dane County offers their Birth-to-Three program for all children under three who qualify with any variety of delays. Their workers come to your home to meet with you and your toddlers. They do activities like speech therapy where you can make a goal, (such as saying your name to nice strangers at the grocery store) and you can achieve it!
If you suspect your toddler could use help, please be encouraged instead of embarrassed. Sometimes you just have a late talker, but sometimes it’s not that simple. Sometimes you need to work really, really hard just to answer, “Oh, what’s your name?” And sometimes you need help, but we are lucky enough to have that help available to us, just a phone call away. Plus, we have additional resources for any parent to use, whether they have concerns or just want to get a jump start on early learning. Please be encouraged, and please utilize all of our amazing resources including the Waisman Center and Play N Learn. I also have some at-home speech activities and ideas can also be found on my blog at www.homemadehometown.com.
With all of these helping hands found in our community, don’t tremble when someone sparks a conversation with your non-verbal toddler. Don’t worry if your toddler can’t color shapes and lines quite like their friend. I am now deciding on our next steps with speech therapy, and it is difficult, but the available options are endless. Take comfort in knowing that we have these resources, and each child is different. We are all in this together, whether we’re working on the ABC’s or just the sound for “A”.