"One small consonant, one giant leap for Max-kind!!!" I posted on Facebook this Saturday. Max had just made a "k" sound for the first time during his morning speech therapy session with J, the speech therapist he's had since he was a baby. Max has all the vowel sounds in his repertoire but few consonants—m, n, the rare d.
This mostly has to do with Max's challenges with tongue coordination and jaw control; to say a "k" and a hard "g" as in "gum" you use the back part of your tongue, not a movement that comes naturally to him. Letters like "p" and "b" require lip closure, also not something Max instinctively does. It all has to be coaxed out of him and it will only happen—as is true of all progress he's made—when he is ready.
Furby may or may not have had something to do with the "k." Friday night, I woke up at 2:00 a.m. to the sound of Max babbling with Furby. This is not typical behavior, both because Max doesn't usually babble and at that hour he usually wanders into our room and tries to crash in our bed. But there he was in his room, chattering away. He didn't seem at all put off by the fact that one of Furby's favorite phrases is "Blah, blah, blah." Happily, he didn't obey when Furby exclaimed "Party time!"
Saturday morning, when Max's therapy session started, I left the house to drop off Sabrina at a performance class she's taking. When I came home, J told me "He said a 'k'!'" And I was all, "WOW! I want to hear!" J pointed to the word "key" she'd written on a piece of paper. Max said "eeee!" Then J prompted him by placing her fingers way back on his chin, at which point he said a distinctive "key!" I did my usual "Wheeeee!" happy dance (yeah, I actually do this little dance), and Max giggled. I could tell he was seriously proud of himself. I was, too.
Of course, the rest of the weekend I kept trying to get him to say "k." I'd whip out my car keys or house keys and ask "Max, what is this?" Sabrina joined in too: "KEY, Max!" she'd say. "NOT PEE! KEY!" I did get a couple more clear "Keys!" out of him. I am greedy that way.
Of all Max's challenges, speech has been the slowest to progress. I am thrilled Max makes good use of his speech app, but he's been trying so hard to articulate words lately and it's clear he really wants to verbally communicate. The challenge is that it's hard to know exactly what he is saying. He'll try and try until I finally tell him, "Show me on the iPad." And then he'll either tap a phrase or spell the words out.
The "k" (my new favorite letter of the alphabet) has opened opened the floodgates of hope that this is the start of better articulation, and that maybe Max will be adding more consonants to his sounds. J says we need to keep practicing with the Chewy Tubes and Bite Blocks, placing them on his back molars before mealtimes and encouraging him to bite on them to strengthen his jaw. Too bad there's no app for that.
Max fell asleep Sunday night talking to Furby. Here's a recording, made in the dark; those sounds in the background are Sabrina saying "That thing is distracting me!" and Dave and I cracking up.
I sincerely hope Max doesn't start talking Valley Girl gibberish, which is basically how Furby sounds. But anything that encourages him to chat and mimic sounds is good by me. And if he picks up the phrase "blah, blah, blah," I'll be one seriously happy mom.