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Published April 02, 2012, 11:30 PM

Parenting Perspectives: When words are like music to my ears

The ability to speak and use words is one of those skills in life most of us take for granted. It was after I become a mother to my unique boy that I soon realized the ability to use words is not created equal for all.

By: Kerri Kava, The Forum, INFORUM

We patiently, hopefully even gracefully, wait for our children to mutter those first words. The ever anticipated answers to: “Tell me where it hurts,” “What would you like to eat?” and even the dreaded, “Are we there yet?”

The ability to speak and use words is one of those skills in life most of us take for granted. It was after I become a mother to my unique boy that I soon realized the ability to use words is not created equal for all.

My son Carter has Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. Individuals who live with WS possess substantial speech delays. Carter fit the description of symptoms, as if they were written precisely for him. Lack of speech, unmistakable texture difficulties while eating and failure to understand reason are part of the cumbersome speech challenges he so diligently works to overcome.

I bear in mind advice from other mom friends or parenting magazines with solutions to all things children. “Can’t you just explain to him?” or “You should really just sit him down and ask him.”

My heart is shattering on the inside as I think, “Do you not know my son at all? Do you listen when I tell you he is in speech therapy?” My son can’t tell me where it hurts, when he’s hungry, how his day was, if he has a sore throat or earache, and he certainly can’t tell me that there is a rock between his sock and orthotic, and it’s aching with every painstaking step.

No, instead I hear a whining or crying little boy who is yearning to be understood, but doesn’t yet have the ability to use his words. So instead, I watch for those signs and learn to speak a new language with him.

Finally, I am blessed with the opportunity to interpret the words that are coming out of his mouth because they are definitely difficult to understand, but a task I’ll take on any day over him not talking. Just recently, he seems to be making tremendous strides. He has taken his few words of, “More,” “All done,” and “Go outside?” to combining around five words.

Sometimes the words don’t make sense in context, and he’ll blurt out “Of course, I will,” without even being asked a question. But it’s a step in the right direction, and from what I have heard from other families with a WS child who is older, soon enough, he won’t stop talking.

Research shows that individuals with WS can have a more sophisticated vocabulary than the average person because they love to talk more than you or I. They learn new words and practice them and hold on to them. When I heard my 4-year-old say his first word, “Elmo,” about a year and a half ago, my husband and I both shed tears of joy.

We saw him put forth such effort to speak, to finally be heard and to finally be “gotten.”

Since he was about 6 months old, speech therapists have been working to help him develop his speech skills. It started with signing words like “more,” “all done” and “I want.” But once he learned a word, we heard it all the time.

Of course, his requests to watch “Elmo” never did cease, but recently now he says, “Watch Elmo, pleeeeease, Momma?” He’ll even initiate a question and give himself the blessing to go ahead because that’s what he wants the answer to be, “Go see Grandma and Grandpa, okay? OK! Bye!” (As he runs down the hall to go out the door, willing us to follow him.)

In addition to his growing vocabulary, like any child, he loves animals. But I think I can say without hesitation that his animal imitations are more adept than most adults, particularly the donkey and the horse.

It just goes to show, that although you may be in a spot where you think your child will never speak, it’s likely to come only when they are ready.

It might not be today, or tomorrow, or even next month, but when they are ready. And when you hear those sweet tender words, it will indisputably melt your heart too.

Kerri Kava is the Newspapers in Education coordinator for The Forum. Her 4-year-old son, Carter, lives with Williams Syndrome.

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