Current very minor parenting annoyance… My mother and MIL both are concerned about Alice’s speech development.

Alice is almost 16 months old, and she only has a repertoire of about 20 words that she actually says. She understands a tremendous amount more, because she can answer questions and requests using body motions and sign language. For example, if I ask her if she wants some cheese, she will go to the refrigerator, grab the handle, turn around, and make the “More, Please” signs in ASL. If I ask her where her juice is, she’ll go find it. If I tell her to go find Daddy, she will. “Go hug your sister” results in an immediate and appropriate response.

But she doesn’t talk a whole lot in real words. My mother thinks it’s because Helen translates for her most of the time, so Alice doesn’t HAVE to speak. And because we anticipate her needs so she gets by with grunting. MIL is concerned that her hearing sustained damage because of all of the ear infections, so she can’t hear as well. So she’s not talking like Helen was at this age.

Really, Helen was unusually verbal. At 16 months, she understood sentence structure and had a few sentences, including an adjective or two. Adjectives come later, according to all the literature I’ve read on the subject. But Helen’s first sentence was “Issa BEE baw,” which meant, “It’s a BIG ball!” as she pointed to a beach ball at Nag’s Head during the summer of 2003.

To compare Alice’s verbal skills to Helen’s at the same age is not really fair to Alice. Alice is much more physically adept than Helen was at this age. Alice is running already, climbing on EVERYTHING and has been for months, and has already figured out how to climb the ladder to the slide in the back yard. Helen didn’t do all of that until the spring before she turned 2.

Their pediatrician has teased me about my overachieving child since Helen started speaking because she’s so verbal (I’ve known their pediatrician since elementary school, so it’s okay for him to tease me). Helen uses words and sentence structure that are unusual for a not-yet-three-and-a-half-year-old, and she’s always been like that. When my friends with kids Helen’s age would ask me, “But Helen could say ‘___’ at this age, couldn’t she?” my response was always, “Don’t compare Johnny’s verbal skills to Helen’s. She’d trip over her own shadow, and he’s able to dance a polka. They’re both fine. They’re just mastering different things right now.”

So I get annoyed with the grandparents when they start in with the “But Helen could say so-and-so at this age…” because I want to remind them, ALICE IS NOT HELEN. She is a different kid. Yes, she might be slightly speech delayed in comparison because of the ear infections, because the tubes didn’t go in until she was 9 months old. So she didn’t really start making many baby noises until then… Maybe because she couldn’t hear herself all that well.

But the audiologist says that she hears just fine, and while I’m sure we let Alice grunt and say “Eh! Eh! Eh!” more than we probably let Helen, I think Alice is doing just fine.

Alice is exactly where she should be developmentally, both physically and verbally, according to the pediatrician and to the books I’ve read. Helen was off the scale verbally from the beginning, but is only just now catching up physically and socially with her peers. Every kid has his or her own pace, and should be given the chance to develop at that pace.

That said, I’m betting that Alice will be one of those quiet types that suddenly starts speaking in full sentences at age 2. Wouldn’t surprise me a bit. I think she’s just taking it all in right now.

3 thoughts on “Comparisons”

  1. Kaitlyn was saying “HI!” to everyone she passed while sitting in the grocery cart. At age 6 months. Yes. You read that right. Six. She happened upon the sound “HI!” in her babbling and everyone jumped on it. It got a HUGE response….so she did it again. And again. And again.

    Emma had a very verbal older sister too. Emma could (and still can) throw and kick a ball harder and with more accuracy than her big sister. Emma developed her own sign language. Emma could follow directions, understood what you said to her and felt absolutely no compunction whatsoever to speak.

    At age 10, she is still more physically coordinated than her 14 year old sister. She also has better speech than Kaitlyn. Kaitlyn sounds like she has cotton in her mouth half the time. Unless she concentrates…. maybe that’s being a teenager. Dunno!

    So tell the grandmothers that Alice is like Emma…in SO many ways. INCLUDING the tubes in the ears from ear infections. (Em’s were at 8 months) From the jabber jabber older sister, to the physical coordination, to the use of sign language.

    Now? Now I have to say “Are you STILL talking???” and “Do I need to listen to what you’re saying?” because the child just TALKS. For someone who has her finger in her mouth as much as she does….damn she talks a lot.

  2. It was always my understanding that the youngest only develops language when THEY ARE ready.. doesn’t matter what anyone else desires of them. I’ve often heard of the youngest remaining speechless until two or three, then all of a sudden coming out with complete sentences.

    You’re on the right track. Two different kids, two different styles. This is just the first in a LONG line of differences.

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