Toddler Language Delay: 5 Ways to Stay Hopeful When You Want to See Change Now
If you’re the parent of a child who has a delay, sometimes it’s hard to always be optimistic. You’re eagerly waiting for your child to catch up to his or her peers and when nothing seems to be improving or the progress is slow, your optimism wanes and worse yet, you begin to lose hope.
Hope is a very powerful feeling. During particularly trying times in our lives, hope can be the one thing that keeps us going; the motivation for us to continue to try and to do. However, sometimes after a string of long days or hectic weeks, your spirit darkens and you feel as if you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Doubts creep into your head and negative thoughts and feelings begin to bring you down.
I’ve decided to write this post about hope because it’s something I need to embrace as well as some of my readers. Fortunately, my daughter seems to be hitting most of her milestones. But, she has one little issue that keeps me up some nights with worry. She’s not a good eater and never has been. With a history of severe reflux, getting her to eat enough food is sometimes a struggle. Last week, she caught a stomach bug and had to be admitted to the hospital for dehydration. Seeing my beautiful little girl hooked up to an IV was heart wrenching. I pray that she doesn’t have to endure something like this again. Luckily, she was discharged after just one night. In the few days that followed, her appetite was still pretty poor and her weight dropped. Needless to say, last week was a nightmare for my family and there were times when I was beginning to feel hopeless. So, that’s why I’m writing this post – to help me as much as it may help some of you.
5 Ways to Stay Hopeful When You Want to See Change Now
1. Remember the starting point and refer back to it if needed.
In most cases, we want progress to happen immediately, or we want “the issue” fixed pronto. But, that’s just not how things work. To keep hopeful, sometimes it’s best to have and to remember where your child was before the intervention started. Videotape your child before therapy begins (if you haven’t done it yet, do it now.). Having a baseline that you can periodically review will allow you to see the progress – even if it’s slight. Our girl, despite her setback, is improving and willing to try new foods.
2. Set achievable goals. One for your child and one for yourself.
An achievable goal for your child. If your child is not yet talking, start with something that he or she will have success with. A speech language pathologist can help you in this area. If you’re trying a few things on your own, begin with something you think your child can do and make him or her do it consistently and accurately with less and less support. What do I mean? If your child is not yet talking and not imitating what you are saying, then I would target receptive language . Have him or her point to pictures (identification), follow directions and even imitate a hand or whole body gesture or movement (e.g. waving vs saying “hi”). Seeing that he or she is capable of something will re-spark that powerful and much needed sense of hope.
An achievable goal for yourself. This can be as simple as, I will use self-talk and parallel talk at least twice when playing, reading, or during a daily routine. Or, when it’s snack time, I will give my child a choice instead of just readily giving him or her a desired food.
3. Chart progress.
Daily journaling or charting is not only therapeutic, but helps in identifying certain patterns. Does Tommy tend to repeat your words more when you least expect it? If so, why do you think that is? Were you following his lead or not pressuring him?
4. Consult with a professional.
It’s not uncommon for many parents to initially take a let’s wait and see approach before seeking professional help. Typically, we read articles and books and scour the internet. If we’re lucky, we find some great information. Knowledge is power. However, if you find that you’re starting to get worried or frustrated and you’re not seeing any changes, I highly recommend consulting with a professional who has the proper experience and expertise. Several months ago, we decided to take our daughter to a gastroenterologist (in fact, we consulted with 2 different doctors), a feeding specialist, and a nutritionist. With the help of these professionals, Kerri received the appropriate interventions in a timely manner (e.g. Prevacid and needed supplementations – Pediasure, Duocal, Neocate Nutra Powder). Consulting with a professional also gave me hope that we were starting down the right path and ensuring that we are doing all that we can.
5. Take the good with the bad.
Unfortunately, it’s not always sunshine and roses. Everyone has good days and everyone has bad days. We have to accept that our children are human and despite our best efforts, they’re going to have great days and not so great ones. Expect some setbacks with progress. Two steps forward, one step back. Our Kerri ate like a champ all day Saturday and we were super excited. Then, on Sunday, she didn’t want to eat anything. Yet, we persist and continue to make mealtimes pleasant.
Some other tips that you’ve probably heard before but need to hear again:
Talk it out.
Vent your feelings and frustrations to individuals who have been down the same road or similar path. Join a support group. You’re not alone. Plenty of other families and individuals are undergoing similar experiences. Talk to family and friends that will make you feel better and will not judge or pity you.
Do something for yourself.
Why is it that we feel guilty when we want to do something for ourselves? If we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be able to take of our loved ones. Take a bubble bath, go for a run, take a walk or really indulge and get a massage! Do something that’s going to make you feel good. Release those endorphins!
Buy Cut Flowers.
Research shows that simply seeing flowers can have an immediate positive impact on your mood.
Listen to some music.
There’s something visceral about music. A certain melody or song can almost immediately change our mood. Have a few go to songs that help you relax or take you to a special place in your mind.
Read motivational quotes.
This works for me…will it for you?
“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” – Hal Borland
“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
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