Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Speech and Children with Special Needs

Yesterday Nichole had speech and Nina came along.

Nichole was just having an off day. She was a big rascal and had been getting in trouble all morning, which means that by the time we got to Speech Therapy she had already determined she would not cooperate. Nina, on the other hand, wanted all the attention from the world's best Speech Therapist :)

I had mentioned to Sara before that Nina was going to have a swallow study and that Nina drools quite a bit. She has said to me back then that she would like to see Nina and maybe do an evaluation. I of course, said her speech was coming along great and she had no speech delays whatsoever. Sara, being as sweet as she is said nothing and just waited for the right time. Yesterday was the right time.

As she played with Nina she would ask her to imitate sounds, which Nina did quite well. But when she asked Nina to put all the sounds together, all of a sudden some of the sounds were not as clear. After playing around with sounds and words, and after Sara asking some questions she said that Nina has dysarthria.

Now that we think about it, we had been seeing it all along. She talks a lot, and sometimes we cannot understand a lot of what she says and we have just said, "It must be Ukranian." I have even mentioned before that Nina sometimes speaks her own little language now, neither English nor Ukranian, assuming it was part of the learning process. While some of it is true, this is also attributed to the lack of coordination of her muscles used during speech. Aha! Now we can help her! As I have learned, this condition is pretty typical in some children with mild Cerebral Palsy.

That is Nina.

Nichole, well, her speech seems to be taking off. She is making more and more sounds and putting them together trying to for words. Sara does some cued speech with Nichole and our little rascal seems to be really getting it. Sometimes she walks around the house saying "open" while cuing it herself (sounds like "oh-pa") And while we don't do the official cued speech which I linked to above, Sara has her way of doing things that Nichole gets!

She sings along better and better to her favorite songs and more and more we hear approximations of words. It is very exciting and we feel like she is about to take off (and I keep reminding myself that "about to take off" might just take a little bit longer with her, as she likes to take her time)

I know the average for a child with Down syndrome to speak is age 4, and this might be true for Nichole. But, we do celebrate what she is able to do, and she really is doing fantastic. Between her signs and words she is communicating, and that is fantastic!


  1. I babysit for a little girl who speaks Dutch/English, and she has no special needs, but it is still hard to discern what is her attempt at dutch, what is her attempt at english, and what is just her making sounds. haha.

  2. I'm wondering about this for Aden. he can say "b" in Baby but cant for other words. we see a ST next week so will be asking her about Dyspraxia

  3. Sara Stewart7:59 AM

    Ellen, Speech Therapy was fun on Monday! I just wanted to make sure people reading your blog had the right terms. My thoughts on Nina's speech screening was leading me toward dysarthria not verbal dyspraxia. I know the terms are all very confusing!!! Dysarthria is when the muscles show weakness which results in decreased coordination for speech! Verbal dyspraxia is when the muscles do not demonstrate weakness but the transmission system between the brain and the muscles has delays in development and children cannot produce the sounds consistently. These are very simplified definitions! I hope this little speech lesson is helpful!


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