Tuesday, December 15, 2009

18 Months

Ben had his 18-month check-up the other week. They weighed him on the big-kid stand-up scale, which made him a lot less angry than the baby one which requires getting stripped down and plonked into a cold metal bowl, but it also meant that they weighed him with his clothes and shoes and a (full) diaper on, so I think the weight percentile is probably off by a few points. He'd always been in the high nineties, and this time he was 99th! And 50% for height (which, because of the way they measure and toddler squirminess, isn't notably accurate), which taken together might be a cause for concern. But I limned a typical day's meals for the pediatrician, and she said don't change anything: he's eating completely appropriately.

But she was concerned about his not talking. She asked him a couple of things: to point to his toes and his nose, and where were the teddy bears on the wallpaper, which of course he had no trouble with, and I think she took me at my word that his receptive vocabulary is not just adequate but pretty impressive. She said she thinks that he's just not motivated to talk, and that it's time for us to try to motivate him. The idea is, he's not in day-care or vying with an older sibling for attention, and Andy and I are very attentive and very attuned to his needs, so we basically anticipate or are immediately able to understand whatever he wants, so he doesn't feel the need to learn to communicate better. And I think that's absolutely true, but I'm a little torn about whether I think it's necessary then to "motivate" him.

On the one hand, I think that if lack of motivation is the only issue, that's not a big enough issue to hassle the kid and risk his feeling pressured about language, since obviously he's going to figure it out sooner or later. On the other hand, I certainly plonked him on his feet, held his hands, and walked him around when he was working on walking, and how different is that kind of encouragement from getting in his face and enunciating CAR freakishly distinctly? The ped said to pretend we don't understand him to elicit words, and I just can't get on board with that. I don't like the deception; plus, that seems like a recipe for frustration and unhappiness. I can't believe there aren't effective ways to encourage speech without that kind of unkind pretense.

Maybe it's a minor distinction, but it seems significant to me. If he wants up on my lap, I ask him to say "up." I don't pretend that I don't know what he wants. As soon as he tries even a little to form the word, he gets what he wants. And we do a lot of work on words for things he loves, like CAR and TRUCK. He now says just the K and T sounds, and more or less interchangeably, but it's progress.

1 comment:

Shopkeeper said...

A friend of mine's daughter had a similar situation with her toddler. She encouraged her to say the words by asking her to. When the little one would point and grunt, Mom would ask, in the gentlest way, "and what's the word for that?" And then say the word herself. Eventually the kid understood what was expected and forked over the word. It seemed like as good a way as any, certainly better than the sudden abandonment of accepted communication.