Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Speech Articulation and Sound Games
For several months, when my son was younger, I didn't do as much of the aural Montessori work as I had hoped to. I was kind of waiting for him to start talking again.
He was slightly delayed with speech, and then not all that articulate. But one day, for a particular person, he suddenly opened up into complete sentences and almost entirely clear. When that person had to depart, my son stopped talking for several months except for "Amen", "Alleluia", and "Mama".
He seemed intelligent enough and had no other issues. I did have him evaluated for hearing and for speech; the home visitor we had deemed him to be in the normal range and invited him to a play group that met weekly during a time we were already doing another social activity.
But he was getting to be 2 1/2 and I just wasn't comfortable. Second evaluation said he's fine. He could understand anything spoken to him and he responded in his own way (with actions). Still within normal range, despite having less than 300 words and short phrases !?
I decided I needed to crack his code. And start "teaching" him anyway (like we'd not been learning his whole life or something, right?). He'd been around for all my lessons with tutoring children, he'd spent time in Montessori toddler programs when I'd be subbing in the same room or nearby. But it was just "time".
One day, I sat down with him and a pile of colored circles. I gave him 3 of the colors and named them; then asked him to place a clothespin on "red" or on "blue" as I called out the colors. This was his first "official" three period lesson (although we parents are good at doing some variation on the 3-period lesson anyway, so I know it happened before - maybe I should say this was my first consciously intentional Montessori-style 3-period lesson ;) ). Clearly we did not get to the 3rd period because he would just look me and not say a word. Or he would find something else in the room of the same color.
Well, it hit me with a big 90s DUH that he quite possibly knew all the colors! So I pulled out ALL of them (instead of adding 1-3 at a time as in the AMI style 3-period lesson), spread them all out on the floor and asked him to place a clothespin on each color as I called it out - completely out of order and entirely random.
We mixed them up and did it again.
And a 3rd time.
He got them all right, every time, perfectly.
4th time - well, the kid has always had a bit of dry humor. He intentionally placed the clothespin on the circle to the RIGHT of the correct circle, with the ones that should have gone on the right, placed on their corresponding circle on the far left. He even knew enough to figure out THAT pattern! On the one hand, I am proud of him; on the other hand, I have to roll my eyes and say, "really!?"
Well, the story of his speech articulation issue is a story for another day - or a series of other days. For now, I will say that from that moment on, we played sound games HEAVILY. He could hear them and he could respond. He knew when I mispronounced words (I would speak in the same manner of his own mispronunciation and he'd point out that I was incorrect, but then say exactly what I had just said! - it was just his mouth that couldn't say what needed to be said - his brain and intelligence and ears were all working just fine!
Over the coming weeks and months, we went through all those 3-part cards I'd made for him and others - and had him orally tell me the name of every time. In this way, I was able to discover his particular patterns of speech and articulation concerns, as well as begin to understand him so that we could have some "success" with speech and hopefully move forward. Again - the rest of this speech journey is another post; suffice it to say, if I'd known sooner the importance of the sound games from an early age (and if all those early evaluators knew the depth of the Montessori method and what it reveals about the inner workings of a child...), perhaps he would not be in speech therapy today!
To this day, he can write and read beautifully and he is still working on speech articulation. Definitely should not have stalled on those sound games!!!
And that, my readers, is the point to this point: DO NOT DELAY the sound games - just work with the child where he is at and find another way for your child to respond if he's not speaking well. Now, for a child who can't *hear*, modifications would have to be made, in consultation with someone more experienced than I am in working with deaf children.