Monday, November 28, 2011

Baby Talk

You know you are getting older when time changes consistency.  When I was younger, time seemed to crawl. Summers were endless.  One night could seem like forever.  Time used to be denser, more viscous, stretching to an almost impossible degree like molasses from a spoon.  Now that I am older it seems to run through my fingers like water.

Lack of time, whether perceived or actual, is a common theme around here.  With three kids, two of which are under a year old, you can imagine how short the days really are.  In the course of those short days, the twins seem to be aging in front of my eyes.  What, over 9 months ago were tiny birds of human beings, so fragile and helpless, are now communicative, interactive and locomoting babies.  Each day brings new discoveries, new skills.  New conversations.

There was a point a few months ago where Zoe started to say "mumumumum" as she sucked in her bottom lip and looked all the world like a little old lady.  I took this as a victory of sorts as our eldest never said "mum" or "mama" until he was something like 18 months old.  His first purposeful words were early by some standards, around 7 or 8 months.  They were, in order of appearance,  "dada", "kitty" and "guitar".  Eventually he came up with a word for his dear old mum;  he called me "lady" for months.  You can imagine how happy I was to hear Zoe's "mumumum".  No matter how random, how unintentional, her first entry into the world of speech featured yours truly.  She said her first real word the other day.  It too was "dada", followed by "baba" which seems to mean her soother or a bottle.  When I came home and heard that she had said "dada", I wasn't about to take the wind out of hubby's sails.  "Mumumum" will always be enough for me.

Wyatt too is engaging in what they refer to as "canonical babbling" where there is a repetitive string of alternating consonants and vowels.  He tends to favor the letters r, l and a and has been doing it longer than his sister.  Like most people, I took that to mean that his speech was coming along right on schedule.  I have since learned that all babies, even those that are deaf and cannot hear themselves or those that are delayed for one reason or another engage in some form of canonical babbling.  This is not indication of future speech abilities.  I'm not going to let that bit ruin our enjoyment of it either as I am encouraging and repeating it back to him just as I have done with his siblings.  With him, it's different only in the sense that we throw in a sign once in a while (when we remember).  We do this for two reasons:  one, children with DS are visual learners and this makes it easier for him to associate.  The second reason is that children with DS are typically delayed in expression, not interpretation.  As any parent of a frustrated toddler can imagine, this can be a very difficult stage, one that can last much longer than with a typical child.  Since the neural pathways are the same for articulating a word or using a sign, teaching him sign language will assist in his self expression while helping him further develop the parts of his brain that control speech. 

The next stage, "variegated" or "mixed babbling" is something that I hear sporadically from him.  Instead of a repeated set of consonants and vowels, they mix it up and put two different sounds together.  As an example, instead of "gaga" we would have "wee-ga" or something similar.  Zoe is already all over this;  one day I took out her soother and she looked at me and said "Hi Bob".  As far as I know, girls develop in this area faster than boys do.  However, not to be outdone, Wyatt gets extra points as he manages to string together a whole variety of sounds, peppered liberally by "thhhhhpptttthhhh" noises.

The best part of all of this is that they take turns.  Instead of a house full of screaming/babbling/attention seeking infants, I have two that alternate.  This is awesome when they are upset (I've only had them both crying a handful of times) and even better when they "talk" to each other.  When they are close together, they touch or make a few sounds, but when across the room from each other (say, in their cribs or in the stroller) one will "ah-bah-blah-gaga" and then wait for the other to answer.  It is hilarious and priceless all at the same time.  It is wonderful to sit and listen one of them babble on the monitor, it is absolute magic to listen to both of them have some sort of "dialogue".   

They are also two of the most emotive babies I have ever seen.  This is a fabulous age as it is no longer a matter of "what that particular cry means" but rather what their face and body language are telling us.  Zoe is easy as she just starts doing what she wants.  She can get out of any three point harness, any time, anywhere.  Some babies fuss and lean and try and climb out after giving signals, she has one "tell" and then she is OUT.  Wyatt is a little more subtle.  He's a clever mimic (as is common in children with Down syndrome) and reaches out and touches things a lot.  You have to learn to read him in spots, but once you do, you realize how much he really is communicating with us. His smile is still infectious and can make even the worst days seem effortless.

We have definitely crossed over the threshold where we are no longer "talking at" the babies, but rather "talking to" and "talking with".  They both listen intently as they analyze your face and try to figure out what you are on about.  You can see it in their expression, you can see it in their attempts to answer back.  From Zoe's intense furrowed brow to Wyatt's "yuck" face (where he makes it very clear that he dislikes what food we've put in his mouth as he pushes it out with his tongue.  All that is missing is "why Momma?  Why?").  Whether verbal or non, they both have a lot to say.  It's a welcome change and a special place to be as we have so much to share with one another in the time that we have together.  Next it will be words, then sentences, then off to school...  This time too will slip through my fingers before I know it.  Down syndrome has taught us to cherish every step, every milestone, every moment.  Which we will do, even with something like this.  I've made a point of telling my kids how much I love them every single day.  They always tell me the same in return, even if it comes out "ah-bwah-gah".


2 comments :

  1. Loved it. This time will slip by and I am glad you are treasuring it. Love to all of you

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