Sam turned twenty months old this week, and as you can see from the title he has yet to start speaking. I wrote about his apparent language delay in the past post Waiting to Hear “Mama”. At that time we were preparing for Sam to be evaluated. On Evaluation Morning I felt nauseous as I anxiously wandered around our apartment once again to reassure myself that it was clean and orderly. The evaluators were coming after naptime. Hopefully Sam would be well-rested and ready to “play.” While he napped I showered and dressed, but couldn’t bring myself to eat lunch.
All my worries about the evaluation being stressful were, happily, unfounded. The key evaluator was a relaxed and pleasant older “grandma” type. “Grandma” brought with her a big bin full of toys and wonders for Sam to explore. Sam had fun while the nice lady played with him and took notes. He especially loved the mirror. We play and dance in front of the big bathroom mirrors all the time, but this was a mirror he could hold himself so that was great fun. She also had a wind-up caterpillar that enthralled him. He cried when she was leaving. I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t crying because of some instant magical bonding between him and the evaluator. More likely he was thinking “Who brings me a bin full of presents and then takes them away when they leave??? What kind of person does that? Bring back those toys!”
So thankfully the evaluation was fun for Sam, and I was relieved to have it over, but I felt ambivalent about the results. There are four areas: cognitive, communication, social-emotional, and motor and self-help skills. Sam scored below average in three areas and slightly delayed in communication. They said it wasn’t enough to qualify for therapy at that time. Contact them again in three months if we didn’t see positive progress in Sam’s language skills. On one hand, I was relieved to discover that, while I thought he might be very delayed, in truth it wasn’t that severe. On the other hand, if three months were to pass and he still wasn’t speaking, then he would be even more delayed due to the wasted three months without therapy. To pile on more worries, I was surprised that he scored below average in social skills. I think his social development has been great because he has a strong connection with us, and he loves to give me hugs and kisses. It’s all tied in together though; a lot of the social skills tested also require communication. Ultimately though I decided I was glad about the results. He didn’t need therapy. Sam would probably start talking in no time.
Two months passed. Sam still doesn’t say any words. He does recognize some more words such as “socks.” And if I ask “Where’s froggy?” he searches the room and then brings me his stuffed frog that he got for Christmas. (We also got him a mirror to play with for Christmas since he had so much fun with the evaluator’s.) But still no “Mama.” Still no words at all. And I haven’t had much luck with signing, although I admit I really didn’t know what I was doing, I couldn’t even get him to do the simple sign for “more.” I’ll have to call the evaluation agency back in a few weeks, and I feel disheartened by that. I thought for sure that he would be picking up language and speaking by now.
To add on to my worries over Sam’s language delays there’s my frustration with the tantrums. It’s a safe bet to say that we are now in the stage of toddler tantrums. From the horror stories I’ve heard, his tantrums aren’t even that bad. However, they are super frustrating for me because of the lack of language. I don’t even know why he’s tantrumming! He’s screaming and crying but not asking me for anything! I can’t help but think that maybe if I just knew what he wanted, I could eagerly give it to him and we’d all be happy. For instance, this morning beginning at breakfast time he was screaming and crying and screaming and crying. Perhaps he was just saying, “Gee, Mama, this oatmeal is too warm, too cold, needs a bit more cream, I’d rather have some of that lovely spinach soufflé instead, etc.” All valid requests I would have been happy to fulfill. But I have no idea what he wanted. It makes me sad, really sad. It probably makes him sad, too, and frustrated, too – thus the tantrum. He was crying like that on and off all morning. I still don’t know what he wanted.
For once, I stayed calm and didn’t allow myself to get frustrated and raise my voice over his. I used to think that the best course of action to take with a tantrumming child was to walk away and ignore them. I know that is the common advice from most experienced moms and experts. Now, I’m not so sure. And like I’ve said at the beginning of writing this blog, I’m tending to lean towards the crunchy munchy side of things, off center from the mainstream way of thinking.
So I spent the better part of the morning holding him. (It’s similar to an idea I read on another blogger’s site. She’s a mom in New Zealand with interesting insights and ideas about children and parenting, and she wrote about Boring Cuddles.) From what I’ve understood about small children not yet mastering their emotions and self-soothing skills, it seems counter-productive to just let him tire himself out screaming. Counter-productive, and cruel. When it comes right down to it, my compassion for his frustration and my crazy love for the little guy make me want to hug him. So I hold him, firmly so he feels secure, and I sway back and forth. Sometimes it’s difficult to hold him when he’s thrashing about, but I do my best. And sometimes it takes longer than other times (this morning took a while) but eventually he’ll calm down. Some people might disapprovingly accuse me of coddling during a tantrum, and perhaps when he’s older and throwing a tantrum in the middle of the store because he wants candy I won’t stop to hug him. But, for now, he’s only twenty months old, he can’t even say “Mama” yet, and I think he needs hugs and cuddles. Come to think of it, I could use a hug and a cuddle today, too.
(After he calmed down, I took him outside for a long walk. He got some exercise and to release some energy, and the fresh air was good for both of us. After our walk, he fell right to sleep for his nap.)