One of my twins has a speech delay and has been receiving speech therapy.
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Her speech delay has been apparent for a while, but she was small at birth and has always taken a little longer than her sister to crack new skills so we weren’t overly concerned and neither was our GP. However, once they turned three she seemed to stop moving forwards and became very quiet. She has always been quieter than the others (everyone is quieter than her 3 siblings), but it seemed like she was heading backwards.
Whilst she was still using only two word combinations her sister (the mouthpiece of the operation) was finding new ways to be cheeky with additional vocabulary each day… It was as if Twin 2’s ability only served to highlight the issue with Twin 1 and so we took the decision to go to speech therapy. I am writing this post to share our experience and let other parents know what is like to attend speech therapy as well as share some of the key things we have learnt.
Twins (Multiples) and Speech Development
According to the NHS twins are on average 6 months behind singletons with their language development. Tamba (The Twins and Multiples Association) agrees and has some ideas for things you can do to help them along with great resources you can access. The theories are that multiples get less one to one time with their parents and so actually watch mouths moving and hear speech directed to them less frequently. There is also a tendency for one twin to talk for the pair and if you are getting everything you need without speaking – would you bother?
Since starting speech therapy our little girl has really begun to motor forward with her speech and it is so amazing to see her demanding her place in the conversation and being heard amongst her siblings. No longer can they speak over her. She is having none of it and now says ‘Shhh! Me Talking’ and she even joins in with the teasing and back and forth declaring one brother or another to be a ‘poo’, So speech therapy has been great for her, but for me the most interesting thing is that it hasn’t really been her doing the learning. It has been me…
What is speech therapy like?
It is daunting when one of your children is having developmental issues and I must admit that I think I should have sought out professional help sooner, but I just kept thinking she will catch up. I am still hopeful she will catch up, but have learnt that this probably won’t happen unless we help her to get there. Speech therapy is not at all scary once you get there for parent or child! Our therapist is lovely and my little girl really enjoys each session as to her it is just more play.
We started with an assessment of her current ability. Because she was only just three when we did this it wasn’t completely formal, but our therapist was able to assess where she was having the most issues so that we could start to address this at home. This was the first thing I really noticed about speech therapy… the sessions are really a very small part of the process. Most of the therapy and learning happens at home. It is an everyday activity and something that I try to include consistently throughout our day.
What did I learn?
It quickly became apparent that me and her twin were part of the problem. There we were busily chatting away all day with me answering her myriad of questions that come at such speed that I can barely keep up not realising that we were leaving our other little lovely behind… She couldn’t understand and so would just stop trying and so wouldn’t learn anything. It seems that this is quite a common issue for twins.
I also learnt that I needed to stop letting her siblings speak for her. It isn’t something I meant to do, but when her brothers would come in and ask for snack, for example, they would always ask for one for her too and I would just hand it over. I used to even think how sweet it was that they were helping her. Not anymore though – she has to come and ask herself!
Busy households don’t help
Our house is very busy with 4 under 7 and during the speech therapy I have come to realise that I probably wasn’t giving her enough concentrated or 1:1 attention. I could beat myself up about this, but everything is a learning process. I did not consciously think – I won’t give her attention. She is beyond adorable so you could never want to ignore her, but she is quieter than her siblings and frankly less demanding. I think in large families there is something about needing to be loud just to get noticed. Honestly it breaks my heart that I could be responsible for her difficulties and this was a tough thing to digest. I know I do the best I can, but if someone is screaming and someone else is happily playing it is instinctual to turn to the screamer even if it is only to ask them to pipe down! There is a theory that twins are more likely to talk in short sentences as they get less air time which is also quite sad.
Now I am very conscious about making sure that the others stop for a minute and give her a chance to speak. At dinner times we have started going round the table and getting everyone to contribute something about their day just to make sure that she gets her moment too. Her brothers have also been made aware that she is finding it harder to learn to speak and so they get involved in the therapy too and love being part of chatting to her and teaching her new words.
1:1 time doesn’t have to be for hours on end
I thought 1:1 time with the twins was basically impossible as they are always together, but now I have learnt that it can be those 5 minutes reading a book with one twin whilst the other plays with a toy. Or spending time with one at a playgroup whilst the other twin joins in with story time. This is now something we incorporate into everyday. There are always a few minutes in each day where they are doing different activities so even though we are all in the same room I can still give them both 1:1 time and devoted attention. One of her favourite things to do during this 1:1 time is look at the Usborne First Thousand Words in English book which is great for repetition and introduction of new words.
We have also been using the Usborne Search and Find books to help with starting conversations in books. The pages are so busy that there is lots to talk about and they help with getting her to give instructions and talk about what people are doing so use and develop verb usage more.
She also loves playing with my phone and we have been using the Splingo universe apps which were recommended by our speech therapist and are targetted to support language development. Her and her sister find these great fun and have no clue that it is learning which is perfect.
Ways to Communicate
I also learnt some really good practical tips for the way I communicate with my little one:
- Always add on one level when talking to your littles. For example if she says ‘Bus’ I say ‘It’s a red bus’
- Model sentence structure. So even if she shortens sentences and leaves out conjunctions I repeat it back to her and add them in. This isn’t done in a way to let her know it was wrong. It is more like ‘yes the bus is red’ when she has said ‘The bus red’
- Repeat repeat repeat – this is something I am still working on remembering. Repetition is so important when they are learning to speak and I need to do this more to cement all the new vocabulary she is learning
- Talk more (now no one ever usually accuses me of not talking enough in fact I suspect most people want me to shut up and take a breath…) However, it seems that I might have been saying the wrong things. I have now (on the advice of our speech therapist) become the narrator to our lives. I spend my days sounding like the narrator from Peppa Pig saying things like ‘ Now we are walking down the road. We are all very happy as the sun is shining’ Honestly I feel a bit of a fool, but it really seems to be working.
We have been doing speech therapy for a good few months now and it is definitely making a difference. She has come on so far and I am so very proud of her. At some point I will have to stop her from calling her brother a poo, but for now I am taking all speech as positive.
She has been reassessed and is tracking more closely to her age group, but is still delayed in many areas and still needs more help. She often still isn’t keen to use her words and prefers a scream or a a grunt. The difference is that we don’t let her do that anymore. The change has come in the way we interact with her. Most of the time she is happy to chat and have a go, but she does get frustrated. It can be hard to see her finding things difficult, but I am seeing a difference every day and sometimes her speech is so clear I am taken aback. Other times it is hard to understand, but she is getting there.
We are just delighted to see her little personality coming out. The first time she said ‘Look at me mummy’ and ‘I love you’ are right up there with my favourite mummy moments ever!! She is making me laugh and is loving being able to get involved more in her sibling’s games. She has also started to make her own friends at nursery and her teachers are thrilled with her progress too so all in all I am delighted for her.
The biggest changes have been in her questioning. She now understands ‘why, what’ etc… and so she is asking me all the time what things are and wanting explanations so is just hearing new vocabulary all the time. She has also learnt lots more verbs and the challenge now is getting her to put together those longer sentences.
It is quite amazing to me how much her speech development influences everything else. She seemed like a much more introverted child before she started to speak. Her confidence in all aspects of her life has begun to transform as well and she is now very capable of telling her twin ‘Shush, me talking’ The twins have also become closer as a result as they just play together in a more equal way and so are both getting more out of it. I love hearing them playing when they are imagining a world for their ponies or playmobil characters and she is now really starting to do that.
We have been seeing a private therapist, but are now also in the NHS system as if she does continue to need support and needs any help at school this will need to be achieved through state systems.
As for me I am trying to continue putting into practice everything I have learnt at speech therapy so that I can help her to be ready for school next year.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech the first stop is your GP or Pediatrician. I am not medically trained and am just passing on what I have learnt so if you think your little one might need help then please do chat to the professionals.