Ethan has been thrilling us lately with his progress in speech and language. His new speech therapist (now 5 min. away!) is really encouraged by his latest attempts at speech and just can't believe how far he has come since summer. We were looking over the speech goals written by his former therapist last fall and he has met nearly all of them. I remember those sessions over the summer well and it seemed like there was never much to report to the therapist. Now I go in each week with a at least 2 or 3 new things Ethan has done or said. He has increased the number of words he can consistently and articulately say and he is beginning to put 2 words together as well.
For the most part we've found that his speech requires a great deal of prompting, but in recent days we've seen signs of spontaneous language that has just blown our socks off. We were at the playground and Ethan wanted Rich to go down the slide. Rather than his usual method of pulling your hand in the direction he's aiming for, he just looked at Rich and said "dad slide." Rich was taking Ethan out to the car to go to school recently and Ethan spontaneously said "silver car." This is stuff for the memory books!
His new therapist is just incredible. Her background is in working with deaf and hard of hearing children. She is a fluent signer (but knows just when not to use sign) and has a really bright and cheerful disposition. I find her incredibly easy to talk to and we've had some great discussions generating ideas of how to pull more language from Ethan based on his strengths and his interests. I adore her and so does he. She makes a point of acknowledging the incredible amount of work that goes into this for Ethan. He is a very hard-working little boy. None of this comes naturally or easily to him not only because he is a deaf child using a cochlear implant, but because he has a fairly significant case of apraxia. That double whammy makes the job of speaking exponentially more difficult than it would be if he were either just deaf or just apraxic.
I should say that if he were taking huge strides in developing his sign language, I think I would be equally pleased. He seems to be favoring speech over sign for the moment so it might become frustrating for all of us since he is so difficult to understand. Hopefully he'll continue to use sign for those moments; I think that he would if I started using more sign with him myself. Our therapist reminds us (and we are keenly aware) that language development is what's most at stake now, and that can be speech or sign. He has the rest of his life to work on articulation, but now is the time to see to it that he develops language. It's much to think about.