To date, we have had 4 sessions with our new ST. The new assignment feels better than the previous one so we have made a step in the right direction.
In a nutshell, our new ST seems to take a more scientific approach when it comes to figuring out Oia and her language struggles. That, I appreciate. She has spent two sessions performing intelligibility tests and really listening to hear what Oia's errors are; articulation and/or phonological. It seems to be at this point the obvious obstacle to overcome is a significant phonological disorder, though this is not her only issue. This came as no surprise.
A phonological disorder differs from an articulation disorder simply because it is a rule based error process. They sound exactly like an articulation disorder when someone speaks but an incorrect 'pattern' is heard by a trained ear. Oia 'talks' all day long but we have little clue what she is telling us.
The good news is that it is not uncommon for toddlers to have such a disorder but by natural progression, most overcome this. The bad news is that this won't be the case for Oia; some natural progression, lots of intervention.
ST says the way to begin correcting a phonological disorder is to teach Oia to imitate our sounds, mouth movements, etc. This means Oia has to first be interested enough to stop whatever it is she is doing, look at us, focus on our mouths, listen to our sounds, and in turn try to imitate. I can tell you, this is not likely going to happen anytime soon. We try but we are dealing with a girl who walks just to walk, never slows down, and who has a mind of her own. On top of that, her attention span is almost nonexistent. Plus, there are things that Oia has never done with her mouth before, like stick out her tongue, smack her lips, or even lick her lips. Kids with CP literally have to be taught EVERYTHING. Nothing comes instinctual.
So, speech is still a frustrating topic of conversation for me. I still dread our weekly hour sessions that still look like playdates but at this age I realize that 'playing' is the only approach. I have surrendered to the fact that ST is a gray area of therapy that has no cut and dry answers or immediate resolutions, at least for the very young. In Oia's case, we are at the mercy of multiple issues beyond our control.
Rob and I discussed this over dinner last night. We know that adults who have a stroke can regain the ability to speak partly because they once knew how to and so retrieving language is possible again. With Oia, one who has never known how to talk in addition trying to overcome the effects of Schizencephaly, learning the rules and patterns of language is a tall order and extremely difficult. We've been warned by her neurologist it would be.
My gut tells me that in Oia's own sweet time, she'll communicate somehow. Will speech therapy help? Perhaps. Will it speed the process along? Maybe. Will she speak well enough so that people other than Rob and myself can understand her? Who knows. I have hope she will.
For now though, it's a waiting game that leaves me feeling frustrated, helpless, heartbroken, and tired. I so badly want to hear those thoughts inside her little head. I want to answer curious questions; over and over and over again. I want to hear funny 2 year old stories from my 2 year old. I want to hang up my role as mind-reader. I want these things for me, but even more so, I want them for Oia.
Some days, I think I'm okay with Oia's speech delay. Then other days I feel if I could only understand her, I'd know her that much more.