Are you waiting for your child's speech and language skills to blossom, but they just haven't yet?
Does your child have a speech delay or do you have a late talker and you can't wait for that language explosion?
It can be hard waiting for those skills to develop!
So, how can you tell when your child's skills are ready to bloom?
Living in the Pacific Northwest and having grown up in Southern California, has given me a much better appreciation for the seasons. It is so beautiful in the springtime when you see all the flowers blooming and in the fall when you see all the colors changing.
Although spring and winter seem to blend together with the long, cloudy and rainy days of spring out here in the Pacific Northwest, it sure does make you appreciate the sunshine when it comes!
Here’s a funny & true story…..
I remember when my kids were little and it was early springtime. We were getting ready to go for a walk. It was one of the first sunny days in a long time, after lots of rain and clouds all winter. My 3 year old walked out the door, looked into the bright blue sky, squinted and shielded his eyes and said, “Mommy, what is that bright thing in the sky?” My kids were so used to the rain and clouds, I think they forgot about the sun!! I’m pretty sure we have tried to plan a trip to somewhere sunny every spring after that, lol.
We are lucky enough to have a green space/forest behind our house that overlooks our backyard. Each season creates a new scenery and even though it looks different each season, it is scenic and pretty in its own way each time of year.
Right now, as I write this and look into the forest behind my house, it looks like mostly bare branches with no leaves.
Here's a picture of what it looks like this time of year...
If you look closely, you can see buds starting to develop. But, unless you were an arborist or maybe a really good gardener (which I secretly wish I was..), you can’t tell what each tree will eventually look like in its fullest form. It just looks like a bunch of bare branches and sticks right now - Even though some of the buds on the trees will bloom into the most beautiful flowers, and others will produce perfect, plump, juicy fruit.
We have a cherry tree in our backyard that right now just looks like any of the other trees with bare branches (not pictured above), but eventually, it will produce cherry blossoms and fruit!
Unfortunately, although we planted the tree many years ago, and were so excited for it to develop enough to start producing it’s fruit in the form of cherries, we have yet to enjoy even one of those cherries because all the birds and squirrels always get to them first!!
As I look at our backyard and this forest of bare branches, If I didn’t know from experience that these trees would bloom and completely transform over the next several months into something magnificent, it would be pretty hard to imagine that happening based on what I’m seeing right now.
As a parent, when you are waiting for your child to start talking, or to experience that “bloom” in language development that you are waiting for, it can be really hard when you just aren’t seeing it happen.
It’s easy to look back, once your child’s speech and language has blossomed to look back at all the stages leading up to it with fondness.
But, when you are in that time before your toddler is talking, or before your child’s language & communication start taking off, it can be really discouraging and also hard to imagine how and when that amazing growth will happen.
What I’ve learned in working with so many kids with speech and language delays in my career is not only that each child is unique, but each of them develop in their own time.
Not only do the conditions have to be right, but they have to be ready and have to have met all the other developmental milestones that come before the skill they are trying to achieve.
That is why it’s so important to be working at the right level. When you work consistently on the appropriate skills for your child’s level, your hard work will pay off, but sometimes you have to wait awhile to see the “fruits” of your labor.
So, how do you know when your child's skills are ready to blossom?
Here are a few things I’ve learned about plant and tree development that relate closely to kids and their speech/language development.
They must be mature enough to bloom.
Just like kids who must get to a certain stage of development before meeting certain milestones, all trees and plants must be mature before they are even capable of blooming. Each tree and plant has a juvenile stage, during which they do not bloom.
Some may go through this phase quickly and others take many many years to fully mature and ready to bloom. Just like our kids, each one is unique and will mature in their own time. I hear so many parents say they feel guilt because their child is struggling and what should they have done differently. Please be kind to yourself, stay the course, and remember that each child is unique and each child will go through the stages in a different time frame.
Flowering plants, just like our kids, go through all the same stages, in a certain order.
It’s so hard not to compare our kids to others, and we need to remember that the amount of time it takes each child to develop those skills is unique. But, speech and language development does typically occur in a certain order, with one stage leading to the next. And, since we know the order of speech and language development, we can know where each child is in their development, what level to work at, and what skill to work on next.
A whole bunch of things need to happen in development before blossoming.
From the time that the plant first starts developing as a baby plant/ seedling, it produces roots that grow down into the ground that become its foundation. From there, the plant is able to take in food and water to grow, and a stem grows up from that, reaching up towards the sunlight. The sunlight is then captured by the leaves, which can only grow once the stem is developed because the stem supports the leaves. Then, once it develops into an adult plant and has matured through all of these stages, it can finally produce flowers.
Wow! Those are A LOT of things that have to happen (in a certain order) before a plant or a tree can produce flowers, just like there is A LOT that has to happen (in a certain order) before a child’s speech & language skills can blossom.
Before those first words come, there must be an understanding of those words. Before those words are understood, your child must hear those words, over & over in context. Before that, your child must have met other developmental milestones, like initiating communication, using gestures, vocalizing, playing with toys, interacting and paying attention to others, taking turns, etc...
There are so many skills that must be developed many months before your child first talks.
If there are missing skills along the way, it will be even longer before you see those skills blossom.
These foundational skills are the roots and branches that must grow before a tree, plant, or child can produce those beautiful blossoms. These strong roots are planted long before you will see any blooms.
So, the thing about trees, plants, and our own kids blooming, is they can only bloom when they are ready, when the conditions are right, and when they have progressed through all the necessary stages.
Be patient, work consistently with your child, and know that although it might be hard to tell right now, those blossoms will come in time, when they are ready.
And, if you have been stuck in a long rainy season (just like my kids who hadn't seen the sun all winter), you might even forget what the sun looks like after awhile, but it always comes back out again in time.
Whatever season you are in, remember there is beauty in every season, although it may be harder to see when the sun is not shining, and the flowers haven’t yet bloomed. But, if you look close enough, those little buds are forming, and they are getting closer and closer to blossoming!
If you want to learn more about encouraging your little one's speech and language skills to blossom, check out my 'Blossoming Speech' facebook group here for tips, freebies, and more to help your child with speech & language at home.
Also, for an easy way to work on speech and language at home, check out Socky and Puppy, a fun puppet show to watch with your little one- includes a free speech & language learning guide!