The Path to Talking

I would never have guessed it, but the path to talking lies beyond the land of drinking through a straw.

In the early stages of introducing Julianna to the cup, we learned that sippy cups are Bad For Children.  They promote improper use of the tongue, chewing…I don’t remember the whole story; we had too much on our mind when Julianna was six months old to keep it straight. The important thing was that we were told to avoid them. So she learned to drink from a recessed lid cup without a valve—definitely not spillproof, but in all other ways ideal. It taught her the feeling of drinking from a real cup, and indeed, people have always been impressed how early Julianna could handle an open cup.

The only trouble was, she never learned to use a straw. So long car trips are a bit of a headache, and in the long period of time when she didn’t know how to set a cup down, we had a lot of messes to clean up. We just figured, oh well. She’ll get along without that particular skill until she’s older.

But this fall, Julianna started working with a new speech therapist, who quickly zeroed in on this missing skill, and set out to correct it. By using…you guessed it…a sippy cup! It turns out that “sippy cups are Bad For Children” is not entirely accurate. In order to create suction, you have to retract the tongue—which is an important skill to learn, because a tongue that hangs out, however slightly, is in the way of making sounds. Control of the tongue, in other words, is an important skill that my daughter can begin to learn by drinking from a sippy cup.

(More proof, as if I needed it, that God is in the middle.)

So now we are using a Playtex cup that looks like a coffee cup, with the spillproof valve removed so as to lessen the frustration quotient from Miss Shovel and Guzzle, who likes to drink a few gallons without coming up for air. Once she masters that, we’ll put the valve in and make her work a little harder, and after that, progress to a true spouted sippy, and then to a straw.

Amazing, the things that affect speech.

We’re really hitting the speech issue hard now; it’s Julianna’s most delayed area. We’re using books, which she adores, to try to get her to sign and to point—both of which show that she is processing what she sees and trying to communicate with us. Where’s the dog, Julianna? Point to the dog. The more difficult task is getting her to make sounds. To that end, we’re trying to change the way we talk to her. Up till now, we’ve said, “Julianna, say ‘dog.’” But we don’t mean say; we mean sign. Well, now we’re trying to get her to actually produce sounds: “Julianna, say “up,” with the goal of getting her to say “uh.” You can see the confusion. Is she supposed to sign or speak?

Frankly, I think my stubborn little girl knows perfectly well what we want her to do and just doesn’t want to oblige. But at least if we are crystal clear on our expectations, she can’t use our ineptitude as an excuse!