Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Jude's Language Development

I haven’t written anything yet online about Jude’s language problems. I guess for a while I was hoping it would just go away on its own, and he would magically start talking one day. But the older he gets, the more I am realizing that this really is a part of his story, and that maybe it would be better to get it “out there” before we come back to America so that at least some of our friends and family will already be aware of what’s going on.

To make a very complicated journey simple, Jude seems to have Auditory Processing Disorder (though not officially diagnosed, we are working with a Speech-Language Pathologist, who I will talk more about in a bit). That means that he just doesn’t understand what he hears. He doesn’t understand that words have meaning, he just thinks everyone talks in gibberish.

Jude talking to me in his sweet gibberish.

As adorable as his gibberish is, at two years old he still isn’t saying any real words, and that's a problem. A few people that I’ve told about this have tried to make me feel better by saying things like, “Oh so-and-so’s kid isn’t talking much yet either,” or “You know, so-and-so’s kid didn’t say a word until he was 3 and then one day he just started talking in full sentences.” But the difference is that most kids at least understand what you tell them, even if they’re a little behind on getting the words out themselves. Jude genuinely doesn’t understand anything we say to him.

Well, that’s not entirely true. We’ve been working for several months now with Laura Mize, a Speech-Language Pathologist who has created www.teachmetotalk.com. God providentially connected us with her when I found her website googling speech problems in toddlers, and it turns out that not only is she in Louisville, but she is a Christian and we have a mutual friend through her church! With Laura’s help, he seems to understand a few simple words, like eat, juice, and go. And there are a few games we play and songs we sing that he recognizes and gets excited about, even if he can’t sing or play along yet. He has also figured out a way to make his requests known (somewhat) by taking us by the hand and putting our hands on what he wants, like on the fridge if he’s thirsty. That may not seem like much, but it’s a big step in learning how to communicate! He’s making encouraging baby steps of progress all the time, and Laura is optimistic that he will eventually catch up to his peers, but you can see how he is pretty far behind most kids his age right now.

Living here has been pretty easy on us with regard to this because nobody expects him to understand the Romanian that they speak to him, and we’re not in very many social situations where it is obvious to others that there is something different about him. But I have to admit that I have had more than a little anxiety about moving back to America in June.

Knowing that he is developmentally behind is one thing, but to actually see kids his age and younger who are so far ahead of him will be hard. I hyperventilate just a little when I think of him in Sunday school at church with a roomful of two year-olds who understand and respond to the teachers, when he seems rude and defiant because he isn’t responding or complying. I’m also sure there will be many who believe that if we were just stricter disciplinarians, he would eventually learn the meanings of instructions like, “come here,” “sit down,” or “stop throwing a fit,” but it’s just not that easy. It’s enough to make me want to crawl in a hole and not come out until he can understand and use language, but that’s obviously not an option.

He also has some other sensory issues (Auditory Processing Disorder falls under the umbrella of Sensory Disorders) that exacerbate the language problem, but that will have to be a post all its own. Sensory issues are kind of hard to explain.

So, I guess I am telling you all of this so that maybe you won’t be as surprised when we come home and he doesn’t act quite like other kids his age, and maybe you won’t get your feelings hurt if you try to talk to him and he ignores you, and maybe you won’t judge us as much when he throws a fit out of frustration because that’s the only way he knows how to communicate, or when he doesn’t obey us. Please understand, he just doesn’t understand.


  1. What a hard situation. Praying the Lord continues to give you the grace and strength to get through this. I will especially be praying as you think about coming back to the US.
    Also, come by and add some wisdom to my post today if you get a chance. I think I'll need some positive feedback. :)

  2. Praying for you guys Stacy and for Jude as you guys move back to the States. I can only imagine how difficult that must be for everyone involved, especially Jude. I'm praying for the hearts too of those who will be around Jude and that they are open, loving and receptive to his unique ways. You are such a good mom and what a great idea to let your friends know through your blog.

  3. Bless Jude's little heart Stacy, and yours too for feeling as if you must explain or apologize for something beyond your control. It sounds like you are doing everything exactly right when it comes to teaching Jude and encouraging his language development and understanding. We'll be here to play with Jude, and love him, and encourage him along the way when you guys get back. Jaye especially loves the boys in her Sunday school class...ha!

  4. I know that must be hard to come to terms with as a parent but you are being proactive and that's the best thing you can do for him. Have ever taught him some simple sign language (I know he already does something similar to get what he wants) but our speech language path at school teaches children different signs and that way we have a mutual communication with the child. I've started a few simple ones with Neilan already. Not sure if this is something your SLP recommends or not but it may be something to look into. I'll be praying for you.

  5. Stacy, I am praying for the Lord to give others grace (and you too) when they feel the urge to give their two cents where it's not necessary or helpful. I know what it's like to feel like you have to defend or apologize for your actions or the like and it's not a great feeling. Praying for your transition back to the States but also for your sweet boy, your perfect gift from God, love you, girl! That little man is blessed to have you as Momma!

  6. Thank you so much for all of the wonderfully encouraging comments! They mean so much to us!

  7. *hugs* Praying that family and friends will bless your socks off with their grace and compassion.