When a Problem’s Not Really a Problem

My baby girl is nearly 3.


She’s the height of an average 5 year old.


And she speaks as well as an average 2 year old.


It’s frustrating.  She has an incredible vocabulary.  But words she uses every day,  like “scissors”, “think” and “zombies” aren’t clear.


She doesn’t seem to be growing out of it. 


But she?


Isn’t really bothered by it.


She tries to find other ways to say it, moves onto hand gestures, and, if that still doesn’t work, smiles and walks away.


I’m scared that next year, when she’s in preschool, she won’t be understood.  The teacher might not respond to her.  The other kids might exclude her, make fun of her.


To that end, we’re starting Speech Therapy.


I had to go to a workshop for the parents of kids in speech therapy.  The therapist started off by talking about how hard it is for the child who isn’t understood, how damaging it is to them and their self-esteem.  How it can make them act out.  Parents around the room nodded their heads in recognition.


I didn’t.  She wasn’t describing my kid.


And all I could think about was this:


I love her.  I find her piss your pants funny.  And it’s not NOT because of the lisp.


What if I don’t need to interfere?  What if my girl needs to find her own way, figure it out for herself?  Needs to do it on her own schedule, and it’s just my anxiety pushing her into a situation that could, in turn, cause her anxiety?


Which one of us has the problem?


28 responses to “When a Problem’s Not Really a Problem

  1. I say give it time.

    But then again, I don’t have kids. If I did, I would probably be in the same dilemma you are.

  2. i had to do speech therapy in kindergarten/1st grade. it wasn’t too traumatic – but then again, 100 years ago, they didn’t make a big deal out of it…

    maybe see how it goes, see if it can be done fairly low key. my memories of it were that we played games. and that my lisp/stutter weren’t quite as bad as the shit some of the other kids were dealing with.

  3. mongoliangirl

    First, I just watched that entire video and love her! Oh my gosh, Ginny! Where did you find her?
    Also, this reminds me of raising my nephew. He had been around hysterical shame when he even so much as barely bumped his elbow or knee on something. So, he would become completely hysterical and full of shame if he wasn’t walking, talking, playing, etc…with perfection. I took on a very clear stance of ‘no biggie’ and ‘brush it off’ if he dropped something or had normal every day kid’s stuff going on. He followed suit and simply reeeeeeelaxed. Just a thought.

  4. I too was in speech therapy.
    Of course, those were the days when they made a BIG deal of pulling you out of class, etc.
    Get it out of the way now, before the middle-school harrasing starts.

  5. i couldn’t pronounce the letter “r” until the fourth grade – but i had no idea. my parents were thinking about speech therapy, but decided to wait it out – it wasn’t until i was in high school, and saw video footage of myself as a youngster, that i realized i had a speech problem.

  6. I had to do speech therapy too. And as it turns out? I ended up being a pretty darn good public speaker.

    My son is almost 2 and nearly impossible to understand.

    I’m thinking speech therapy is in our future as well.

  7. So your choices are limited to trust, in the end. Do you trust that other children will spare your daughter from ridicule? Or do you trust that your daughter can handle it?

    What sucks is not that your daughter is difficult to understand sometimes. It’s that the majority of children are relentless little unforgiving brats.

    I hate children, sometimes.

    Not yours.

  8. I don’t know what I would do. But I love that she uses zombie regularly.

  9. It’s funny, since I’m raising a kid who speaks two languages (a little older than your daughter), I’ve just kind of taken it for granted that it’s going to take him a long time to say things other kids his age seem to have no trouble saying. Besides, most of his conversations are about Spider-Man, Freddie Mercury, and the giving or receiving of candy (no zombies). I’m sure your daughter will be fine 🙂 She sounds pretty cool to me 😉

  10. If you weren’t worried about your kid you’d be a bad parent. All good parents worry…that’s normal. What’s not normal is your kid knows what a zombie is at 2 years old…that’s awesome.

  11. I think if you’re cool about the speech therapy she will be, too.

    At least if you do it now she won’t have to deal with other (obnoxious) kids in school so she won’t be influenced by their attitudes.

    So my vote is let her go but keep it light and fun and she’ll be fine with it. She will probably have a good time and likely won’t have a clue that it’s “therapy” anyway.

  12. As long as they make it fun, she’ll probably be excited to go, like ballet clas except you talk instead of dance. My middle daughter kind of got ignored in the early learning skill stuff because dad and I were busy with new bebe and then 7 year old’s beginning homework load. All of a sudden, kindergarten was looming and we realized she was a little behind on the letter, number shape shit. We looked for a curriculum heavy preschool since the one she was at was basically daycare and they sucked. I kind of thought the rigorous curriculum would mean that it was unfun, nazi-esque environment but she looooved it and came home everyday telling us all the stuff she was learning. When she came home one day and said Barack Obama was President and they made George Bush go back to Texas, I almost cried. Things like speech therapy? They are just resources we can give our kids to learn everything they are going to need to do the things they want to do. It’s not punishment and as long as you don’t put pressure on her, she’ll probably enjoy the class and get out of it what she needs to. Clare, my 5 year old has finally dropped most of the baby talk and verbal missteps and truth be told, I miss it a little, like when she’d say crashtran for trashcan and packback for her backpack. She still is confused about breakfast, lunch and dinner so we get a good laugh when she comes into our room in the am and asks us when dinner’s going to be ready.

  13. i don’t know if you were really asking for advice or just questioning things out loud…but, in case you wanted advice, here’s mine. if you didn’t want it…you can stop reading here!

    if she’s BARELY 3…i’d give it a little more time.

    my kids were decent enunciaters, but in all of their pre-k classes, i remember kids that couldn’t talk very clearly. there are plenty of 5 year olds who don’t talk clearly.

    i think between 3 and 4 they really make a leap in becoming more understandable.

    i guess i can see the whole “get it out of the way now” perspective.

    maybe tryi correcting the words she has trouble with, like:

    “oh, you want the s-s-si-zers”

    i still do that with my 5 year old…he says “lellow” for yellow. i would say “y-y-yellow”…now anytime he says the color he says “will you hand me the y-y-yellow” i don’t know if that helps or makes it worse!!!

  14. My mom is a speech therapist, and therapy for small kids is designed to be as much play as it is work. The kids wouldn’t participate if you made them do diction drills for 30 minutes. It’s very directed play, but the kids think of it more as play than anything.

    I don’t think kids get stressed out about being in therapies, at least not at the age of 3. If you’re relaxed about it, your daughter will be, too.

    You’re probably worrying a little more about her speech than you strictly have to. Every kid I’ve ever known has had different childhood speech patterns that eventually got evened out. All that said, I don’t know your daughter. 🙂 You know her best, and you’re better positioned to know her unique needs than anyone else. My sister insisted on getting some therapies for my niece starting about 18 months ago, and it’s turned out to be the best possible decision. She did it through mild to strong family and social opposition, but she followed her instinct and time has proved her right. The therapy can’t hurt, and might help. Do what you feel is right.

  15. That therapist comes off as high strung and a bit of a fear-mongerer.

    Why did she have to go into all that your-kids-will-lead-terrible-lives-without-my-help business? Wasn’t everyone there already seeking help?

    Maybe you can find someone who is a little more chill and a little less eager to remind people how unpopular they’ll be if they don’t change themselves.

    I think it would be nice to have a therapist who wanted to improve your kid’s experience with language as opposed to pressuring her to fit in.

  16. No idea.

    Different speeds, different points during development when they get their advances, different humans.

    Good luck.

    (and she absolutely cracked me up)

  17. Southern (in)Sanity: That’s exactly it; when it’s your kid, you don’t always know how much time is too much, and you’re afraid to miss a window.

    daisyfae: A hundred years ago, hey? You’re pretty fricking hot for a 106-year old. I’m just sayin’.

    mongoliangirl: There’s only 3 comedians in Canada. She’s one of them 😉 And I constantly need to be told to relax. My natural state is Wound the Fuck Up.

    Stephanie: Duly noted. Seriously, were we all educated by a bunch of sadists, who thought embarassment was character building?

    daisymae: I find that really interesting. I assume you pronounce your R’s just fine, now?

    Betsey: Thanks for that. (BTW, if any of you have never been to Betsey’s blog, today’s the day to go. Go.)

    Rassles: Ooooh, that’s good. You’re right. I have nearly zero worries about this kid, where her ability to deflect shit is concerned. It’s me who could never deflect shit, instead absorbing it, and I think I’m projecting.

    Captain: She uses it in the context of a game she made up, where she yells “Die, zombie! Die!”, then runs around the house shooting them.

    chad: I agree; if a kid is learning 2 languages, I think I’d be prone to cutting them a lot more slack, too. Freddie Mercury? I think I’d like to hang with that kid.

    O.G.: Yes, but does it make me a bad parent that I have not a hot clue how she found out about zombies in the first place???

    hedon: I’d agree, except she is an enourmously suspicious child. Even in the preliminary interview, she knew something was up, and got very wary. But yeah, I feel like I’m at a point where it’s important to do….something.

    formerlyfun: I love that you probably got to what is the heart of the matter for me: I had all the time in the world with #1 son. I feel like #2 got shafted. And so, in a half masochistic, half conceited way, I see her speech shortcomings as an indictment of my parenting (it’s all about ME, ME, ME!) And Jane totally does the meals-out-of-synch thing, too! What’s for breakfast – at 5 in the afternoon.

    Nikki: You bring up a good point. I think I’ve forgotten what it was like when Ben was little. I remember him as being more advanced, more mature at Jane’s age than he was. Which, in turn, makes me think she’s even more behind than she is. The difference between 3 and 4 IS huge. I’d kind of forgotten that.

    Thalassa: Thanks. I’ve actually enrolled her (tentatively) in a playgroup with a speech therapy element. So hopefully, that’ll help.

    Erin: I never even thought about that. Why did she have to be like that? (And you know that song on the movie “Juno”, and the line that goes “I never met a Toby that I didn’t like.”? For me, it’s people named Erin. Seriously, every Erin I’ve ever met has been a joy to be around.)

    Xbox: True. Her skills, for now, lie in other areas. Like zombie hunting and lock-picking and early-90’s grunge air guitar.

  18. Wow. That’s a hard one. I wish you luck. I don’t know what I would do. I had speech therapy for a lisp for several years; I didn’t lose it until I had my tongue operated on. I didn’t know I lost it until high school because the kids I went to school with teased me about it until I left the school. My baby brother went to speech therapy because he didn’t talk; my mom yanked him out after a few months because she watched the therapist loose her cool when she wanted my brother to say “whistle” and he whistled. He grew out of it. I don’t think those stories were helpful at all.

  19. Man, I’m the wrong person to answer this question. I feel constantly over my head in this whole parenting gig and we haven’t even gotten to questions like this yet. I guess what stood out to me is that she doesn’t seem bothered by it. Rather than throwing a fit, she smiles and walks away. That kind of reaction is a hard one to get if you’re trying, if she’s composed enough to react like that on her own then she’s doing better than most of us.

    Oh, and Nikki Payne – awesome. Never seen her before, love it.

  20. I think both aspects are viable – yes you probably are worried about it more for the social aspect, but it’s your job to worry about your kids and their well being.

    If you did leave it alone, I don’t think anyone would be critical because she’s VERY young. But then again I don’t think speech therapy will be anxiety inducing for her either. Especially since like another commenter said it’s mostly play at this age.

    I say go with your gut!

  21. faemom: Helpful or not, they were entertaining. And you know I prize that above all else.

    cdv: She’s a pretty composed kid, and I don’t want to mess with that.

    vinomom: Yeah, as long as she really, truly believes she’s playing, I don’t see a problem with it.

  22. As a speech-language pathologist, I’m always on the give treatment a try approach. What if waiting doesn’t pay off? Then you’ve got more habits to fix. (I’m also a big fan of insurance.)

    Many speech therapists are young and don’t have children. When we come out of school, we’re all facts and a little bit lacking in what real life is like. Those lessons come with time and when we have our own children (the ultimate speech-language lab).

    Do what you can, Ginny. Ask the therapist lots of questions, question her if you need to (she’ll learn from you). I know in the public system there isn’t much choice about who you get to see, but if you ever want to go private, I can make some recommendations for you. OR if you just want to bounce some ideas off me, give me a call. OR if you want to go do-it-yourself, I can send you a great preschool resource. Sort of like lessons that teach you to change the way you communicate so that you can facilitate language learning for your daughter. You don’t have to tell her to do anything different. These are actually things we should do for all our children.

    Finally, she is young. With some changes to the way you communicate with her now you’ll ensure that she’ll develop to her full potential. With a mom like you, she can’t go wrong (good genes, you know).

  23. I think you have gotten some pretty nice advice in this commentary, particularly from michael.offworld. I had a son with Down syndrome who’s speech never really did get anywhere before he passed away (age 9). It didn’t stop him from making and having friends at his school where he was “mainstreamed” as they used to call it. The kids that cared were great, and the others, well, fuck em. The hardest thing about parenting “different” children for me was the letting go. To allow our children to experience their own lives and learn from them is essential.

    Since you said that your natural state is “Wound the Fuck Up” I’m going to dare answering your final question that the “problem” is likely more yours than hers, because she knows nothing different. And she’s not even 3 yet. You may be focusing too closely on those developmental milestones. She hasn’t grown out of it because she hasn’t grown yet. Beware of that trap which forces comparison of children. It can cause parents to raise children carelessly or too carefully, and neither of those are good for the child.

    Thanks for the Nikki video, she is hilarious! Maybe also she’s an example of how people make good use of their deficits.

  24. Michael: As always, I appreciate the hell out of you, and your insights. I will, indeed, get in touch with you if I need help navigating the waters.

    David: First of all, I am so sorry. “The others, well, fuck ’em.” If you can go through what you’ve been through, and have that attitude, then I have no excuse not to take it easier, be more relaxed about it. Thanks.

  25. I know someone who’s got her kid in speech therapy, but mostly so other parents don’t think ‘oh, hmm, no classes eh?’ (Doesn’t it suck that you have to worry about that?) Anyways, she mostly ends up saying “Uh….yeah, forget that part. And that. We’ll do it our way.” And my brother was considered partially deaf, ADD, and dyslexic before someone figured out “You know, he’s smart if you just give him a computer instead of making him write in down slowly, and that’s kind of how the real world goes anyways…” Sometimes things are better left unmeddled with.

  26. Emerald: You’ve hit on what is probably the most difficult part, for me, of being a parent – caring so much about what other people think.

  27. My brother had a lisp. He just grew out of it at around five or six. I wouldn’t send the kid to someone convinced the kid has some all consuming problem that is going to cripple her for life that sort of attitude coming at you full force from an adult rubs off on kids and is more likely to scar her than any lisp. Maybe she could take singing lessons? That is good for elocution and fun and the teacher wouldn’t be convinced the kid was emotionaly maimed just because the kid has a lisp.

  28. max: Funny you should suggest that – Owen noticed that when she sings, she can pronounce words she can’t say when she’s talking. So I think you’re onto something.

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