Early Speech and the Shamu Smile

Several people have asked me how Camden’s verbalizations began. What I recall and what actually happened could possibly be different things altogether, but I’ll share what I remember.

Before the age of 3, Camden was getting in-home ABA therapy 4 days a week. Since he enjoyed watching toy cars (or anything with wheels, really) roll by, a therapist suggested teaching him to say “vroom” to represent the sound of the vehicle. After she left, I thought to myself…”hmmm…Camden can’t make the /v/ sound or the /r/ sound. He can make the /m/ sound. Why would we start with ‘vroom’?” Mind you, I am not a therapist and I have had no formal training in speech. I am just a common sense gal. After that experience, I started keeping track of all the letter sounds that Camden could make. I kept a notepad on the fridge and would just jot down sounds as I heard them. I don’t have the original paper, but it started as something like this:
word sound listCamden started PPCD (Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities) at the age of 3. They would have circle time several times a day and he LOVED when they’d gather ’round and use the Smart Board. There were various learning programs they’d use, but what he liked most were the learning songs from YouTube. Looking back, I see how helpful it was for Camden to incorporate the repetition of the music, the words of the songs, the text as the words were being sung, and the visual of the concept to be learned. It was during one of the week-long school breaks that I had up the Butterfly Colors Song and was singing with Camden. I noticed how intently he was watching the screen. At 0:40 in the song, I pushed paused and asked, “Show me the green butterfly.” AND HE DID! I proceeded…”Show me the red butterfly…show me the yellow butterfly.” I discovered that he knew them all. And that’s when I realized how wonderful the combo of repetition+music+text+pictures was for my boy.

Early on in PPCD, Camden pretty much had three words: go, uh (for up), and buh (for bubbles). I was a teacher many years ago, and I remember ESL classrooms would have text everywhere. Makes sense. If someone is lacking in one area of communication, try and give them another tool or multiple tools. I combined Camden’s letter sound list from the fridge and brainstormed things or people that were important or relevant to him, and I made letter books for each of them.

For example…I knew he could make the /m/ sound so I thought about people/things that were important, interesting, or relevant to Camden that started with the letter “M.” Mommy, Moose (NickJr character), Map, mail truck, motorcycle, Muno, macaroni, mailbox, mouth. I purchased some plastic photo flip books from the dollar store. Since it seemed that my kiddo did well with text, I typed and printed out the text to correspond with the picture. Like this:M Letter BookThen I brainstormed “B” words: Boots, bus, balloons, bead maze, broom, bubbles, blocks, bed, bike, Benny, ball, Biz, Backyardigans, Backpack, bathtub, bounce house, Brobee, book. B letter bookThen I did “D”: Daddy, Dora, Diego, drums, duck, disco light, diaper, dance, dog, drink, dvd player, dinosaur, Dino Dan. **You aren’t judging all the tv characters on my list are you? 😉 D letter book

We’d flip through the books each day and say the words with emphasis on the beginning sound. When we sent them to school with him, the other kids loved them as well.

Since many teachers, speech therapists, and clinics use the Language Builder Photo Cards – Picture Nouns, I purchased them for home. I used my label maker to print out the text to go under the pictures as another way to support Camden’s language development.

As it happens with most of life, things happen so gradually that it’s hard to pinpoint when specific language progress has been made for Camden. He’s six, and it has been slow and steady. It’s evolved over time. I do know that on June 28, 2012 (just a month shy of Camden’s 4th birthday), we were having a challenging day. I opened a Word document and typed this:

Camden is in his room watching a train video (and hollering at me), so I took some time to record his verbal progress since school started (basically over the past 10 months). When he started school, I’m 95% positive that his words consisted of “go” and “buh” (for bubbles). Now he is up to 66+ words and knows his alphabet. Odds are good he knows lots more words (I assume this b/c when I sing a familiar song, I can stop and Camden will add a word approximation), but this is all I can think of.

*The first list is based on words that I have picture cards to match. He sees the card, and can identify what it is. He is also able to transfer what he knows from the picture cards into real life.

1. Train = wain
2. Bike = by
3. Boat = bow
4. Airplane = sounds like the long a sound
5. Car = cahr (the “c” sound is a mix btwn “c” and “g”)
6. Bus = buh
1. iPad = I
2. ball = bah
3. swing = weeng
4. baby = bay
5. wagon = wa
6. bubbles = buh
1. pig = g
2. sheep = shee
3. horse = whos
4. duck = du
1. mouth = mou
2. nose = noh
3. ear = eah
4. head = heh
5. eye = I
1. white = whi
2. black = gah
3. green = geen
4. blue = gue
5. orange = or-nay
6. red = reh
7. *Camden can consistently identify yellow and purple. The sounds of the word are, what I think, guttural attempts to say them. I certainly wouldn’t be able to spell them. 😉
1. Octagon = tuh-gon
2. Square = gair
3. Circle = gul
4. Triangle = ry
5. Diamond = die
6. Oval = oh
7. Heart = hear
8. Star = dar
1. Cookie = gee
2. Cracker = K
1. Shoe = shew
2. Hat = ha
1. Bed = beh
2. Key = ghee
3. No = no
4. Movie = moo
1. Mom = mah
2. Dad = dah
3. Carson = gar
4. J (Camden’s teacher) = Bee

*These are words that Camden says that we don’t have picture cards for:
1. Rainbow (music videos) = Bow
2. Money (Wheels on the Bus) = muh
3. Round (Wheels on the Bus) = whround
4. Barn (Old MacDonald) = bahr
5. School (School Bus song) = ghoul
6. Ready, Set, Go (from requesting to be pushed on swing or bounced) = I can’t begin to spell the attempts at “Ready” or “Set”, but they are consistent. Go = go
7. Up (b/c he still loves to be held often)= uh
8. Stop (from learning video or asking to stop the swing) = bah
9. Hi=hi
10. Bye=bye

• Can identify and say all of ABC’s. I think they sound lovely. Brian thinks he sounds like a Pentecostal preacher during revival.
• Can identify and say numbers, 1-10.
o 1 = wah
o 2 = do
o 3 = wree
o 4 = bore
o 5 = biy
o 6 = x
o 7 = hu
o 8 = eigh
o 9 = nigh
o 10 = den

Because growth can feel so very slow, I am happy that I took a little time to compile this list. With that list, I can see HUGE improvements. Just comparing how he used to say his numbers is super cool:

2012                                2014 (today)
o 1 = wah                        one
o 2 = do                           two
o 3 = wree                       bree
o 4 = bore                        four 50% and bour 50% (/f/ is our articulation goal)
o 5 = biy                           five 50% and bive 50%
o 6 = x                              six
o 7 = hu                           seven 50% seben 50%
o 8 = eigh                        eight
o 9 = nigh                        nine
o 10 = den                        ten

That was progress over TWO YEARS!! Obviously, all kids are different (even ASD kids!) and progress at different rates, but slow and steady isn’t abnormal. Every parent yearns to hear their child’s voice and to know their heart. I try to celebrate where we are today, push for progress for tomorrow, and realize that it will look different two years from now.

I’ll share more stories and tips in the future for what has worked for Camden in the area of speech. Hope you’ll check back in next week, as I share about our super special trip to SeaWorld San Antonio. We’d wanted to go for awhile but were hesitant as we didn’t know how Camden would respond. Well…this big ole smile was plastered on his face the vast majority of the time. I call it his “Shamu smile.” CamdenShamuSmile And when we unexpectedly got DRENCHED from head to toe by the killer whales, I thought Camden would be upset. Instead, this was his reaction: the drenching More SanAntonio stories next week. =)

Oh…if you haven’t heard about the Teal Pumpkin Project for Halloween, you should check it out! SUCH an awesome way for kids with allergies to be included!! http://www.foodallergy.org/teal-pumpkin-project


4 thoughts on “Early Speech and the Shamu Smile

  1. Brian Russell October 30, 2014 / 4:39 pm

    It sure is fun hearing his sweet voice. I know there is so much more that he knows that we don’t know. It’s always fun to learn of new things that he knows.

    • admin October 30, 2014 / 8:25 pm

      I agree, Love! Remember after his first FIE (Full Individualized Evaluation) at the age of 3? I was in tears and asked the Diagnostician if we’d ever hear him speak. And here we are!! Feels so good and there is much to be hopeful about for the future!

  2. Sarah Lessman October 30, 2014 / 6:45 pm

    I loved reading this and am so proud of how far Camden has come! He is a joy and touches the lives of all his teachers and therapists. Give him a big hug from me!!

    • admin October 30, 2014 / 7:46 pm

      SQUEAL OF DELIGHT!!! Sarah, I am SO happy you read this!! YOU know how far he’s come with speech!! So thankful for you and all the support from “Team Camden.” I so appreciate your sweet words!! Means a great deal. Hope you and your guys are doing well! =)

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