Finished with Finnish? Considering Future Options, pt 3

So my in-laws have come out against us continuing trying to get our kids to speak Finnish. This is a surprising development because 1) They speak Finnish 2) They are Finnish 3) They’ve raised multilingual kids, so they’re familiar with the struggle.

But, in their opinion, Finnish is a pointless language. Nobody speaks it except for the five million people living in Finland. It would make much more sense, according to them, for us to just concentrate on German and English, both of which are much more important languages internationally.

Part of me feels like this is the Finnish low-self-esteem expressing itself again. Finns have a long ingrained sense of “our country will never be as important as all those countries around us.” Their culture? “We don’t have one. We took everything we have from the Swedes.” Their language? “It’s very hard to learn.” Their food? “It’s awful.” At the 100th Anniversary of Finland’s independence party we went to, everyone had to talk about what they liked about Finland. What followed were muttered responses about the nature and, uh, the education system while the uncomfortable reality of none of the people there actually living within the Finnish nature or its education system.

But Finns do admire the Germans. My husband told me this story about a consultant he met who was in Finland consulting to a Finnish firm. All the recommendations he would make, they would just ignore and tell him that those are American ideas and they would never work in Finland. Then the consultant found out that Finns really admire Germans. So when introducing changes, he would preface it with, “I know this German firm who does this.” And the Finns would nod and agree to the change because hey, those Germans! They know how to get shit done! When Finland won independence, they originally wanted to import a German nobleman to be their King. They didn’t though; they probably realized it’d be cheaper to just be a republic. A lot of Finns are still upset the Germans lost world war 2. I’m not joking, though I wish I were. Maybe they’re just even more upset that the Russians won.

So from that perspective, it’s not exactly surprising that my in-laws are more supportive of their grandkids learning German than Finnish. But they also point out that the kids’ German is so much better than their Finnish. And it is. At this point, they will have to learn Finnish as a second language because their knowledge of it is so poor it can’t counted as a first language anymore. A lot of this is due to my husband’s inconsistent teaching of Finnish. He speaks it to them, but not enough. He doesn’t sit down with them enough to really enforce it. And even worse, when they don’t understand something in Fnnish, he’s resorted to speaking to them in German to get his point across. He’s actually put forth the idea of dropping Finnish and just having both of us speak German to the kids, which is a horrible idea. His German is worse than mine and while I’m technically fluent in German, as the kids have grown I’ve found my German to simply not have the vocabulary necessary to keep up with them. I have to use English anyway for homeschooling, but even if it weren’t for that I would need to use English. This makes my husband very unhappy because if he can’t do Finnish, he’d at least like for them to learn German. So I have to keep reminding him that German isn’t my native language. And while it may hold a very solid place in my heart, my vocabulary is lacking. It is much, much harder for me to maintain speaking German with the kids than it is for him to do Finnish…simply because Finnish IS his native language. Even if the kids don’t understand it, if he would just keep up with it and take the effort to build up their vocabulary, they could learn Finnish.

So sure, we could drop Finnish if he really wants to, but absolutely under no circumstances do I want him to do German.

Whether his parents realize it or not, keeping Finnish has a lot of benefits, aside from the fact they’re Finnish citizens. Unlike German and English, Finnish is not a Germanic language. Its grammar is so wildly different, it really forces your brain to think in different ways and they would benefit from that alone.

So in the short-term, we’re keeping all three. My husband is putting forth more effort with Finnish and has actually sat down with them twice a week to do Finnish for the past two weeks and the kids have actually used Finnish in those times. We have some other plans afoot to increase their Finnish exposure (labeling things in Finnish, copying our Finnish language DVDs so they will work in our van). And we’re keeping a short-term stay in Finland in the cards because no matter what we do, the best way for to learn a language is to live.

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Finished with Finnish? Considering Future Options Pt 2

(Find the first part here)
Our second option to improve the kids’ language ability would be to move. This is counterintuitive at first, so bare with me.

We have long planned on spending a year in Germany and Finland in order to improve the kids’ language abilities and their understanding of Finnish and German culture, though we alternate between staying half a year in one country and the other half in another or staying a year in each. But our discussion the other day opened up a few other options.
“Part of me is thinking,” my husband began, “that if Igot a job that required commuting into Boston every day of the week, we could enroll him at the German school and he’d go with me every day and I’d drop him off there.”

Boston German School is a school that offers bilingual instruction based on the state curriculum of Thuringia. High school students can take the Abitur and end up with both a German and Massachusetts high school diploma. It also costs $18,000 a year and, with sibling discounts, that means we could educate all of our children there for the low price of $60,000 a year!

I’m being sarcastic there.

“It’s too far to drive everyday,” I told my husband. “We’d have to sell this house and buy one closer to Boston.”

“We can do that!” he insisted.

I looked up real estate prices around the Boston area and, no surprise, they were high. Really high. “It would be cheaper to move to Germany than to move closer to Boston and send our kids to the German school there,” I argued.

“Well, we’re already planning on doing that for the year, right? Or do you mean long term?”

An important question and one whose answer varies based on my mood. On the whole, I like living in the US. I like living in New England, but when I look at the future of the US, I find myself less and less optimistic, especially when looking at the current administration. It just signed a tax bill into law that has a good chance of driving the federal government into bankruptcy by the next presidential election unless spending is drastically curbed (which it won’t be). The healthcare situation is getting worse and worse. Our employer provided plan’s costs are going up by 20% next year (that’s on the premiums we pay, not what our employer kicks in) and that’s a low number among people I know. And they still don’t cover my asthma medication, which costs me $300 out of pocket every month. The US is opting out of the Paris Climate Agreement (which, while I have problems with, overall I support its goal) and seems to be trying to move toward increasing our CO2 emissions more than decreasing it. So in the best case scenario, we can look forward to living in a country experiencing more adverse weather events, more flooding, extremely expensive healthcare and a bankrupt government that is still theoretically supposed to be taking care of all this stuff, but won’t be because it will be broke and no one is interested it a solution that would get the government out of these areas so we individuals can actually make shit work ourselves.

And I haven’t even mentioned the net neutrality repeal, so add shittier and more expensive internet to that too.

Looking at all these downsides to the US, I have to echo a lot of my friends when they read articles about how great Finland’s educational system is: “Why do you still live here?”

Why not move…in this case to Germany because my husband is very much against moving permanently back to Finland.
Germany is a lot like the US in a lot of ways. Its tax system is similar to the US in that the code is convoluted and there are a lot of deductions and you have to spend a lot of time filling out your tax returns (In Finland, the system is very simple. Take your money and give the government most, but not quite all, of it). The climate is comparable to New England, so nothing new there.
But there are a lot of positive changes we could gain by moving to Germany.

Take our carbon footprint, for example. In the US, our family of six creates 484 metric tons of CO2 in a year and most of that is due to transportation. Just by moving to Germany and changing nothing but our transportation from cars to public transportation, we would decrease our footprint to 132 metric tons. And that’s just switching from driving a large petrol car to public transport, not accounting to the fact that we would actually be walking and bike riding more.

While I dislike the fact they summarily shut down all of their nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster (because if there’s one thing Germany should be concerned about…it’s tsunamis caused by the large and devastating earthquakes that regularly occur there except they don’t and Germans are worried about that for essentially no reason) and replacing the missing power with coal of all things, I really like their whole Energiewende. I like their environmental action. While I used to loathe the Pfand (I have an entire page dedicated to hating it in my scrapbook from my year as an exchange student), now I think it’s swell. The fact they finally made it universal makes it that much better.

I like the fact corporations have so much less power in Germany. Here the government and corporations work together so much, sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between them. I like the fact that their healthcare system is an actual system and functions fairly well –although the government finds itself insuring an every increasing proportion of society. My asthma medication and my husband’s diabetes medicine won’t  cost an arm and a leg there.

And obviously, the kids can learn German in Germany. They also have a ton of Finnish schools and we could live pretty close to one even without living in a major city, or at least as far away from one as we currently do. The difference is we could ride a train to get there instead of driving ourselves.

The downside, of course, is that homeschooling is illegal in Germany and my kids really like being homeschooled. Alpha has declared he never wants to go to school, but this isn’t really feasible anyway. And if we were to immigrate, we wouldn’t homeschool simply because other countries don’t have the highly developed homeschool networks the US has. Add to that the fact that their schools aren’t mired down by tons of standardized tests and extremely long school days and we’re actually fine with sending our kids to school in Germany.

We could even send them to private school. I looked at the International School of Hamburg and it’s 10,000 Euros a year with some additional fees and some sibling discounts…so it’s still cheaper than the German School of Boston. We could educate our kids for the much lower price of $40,000 a year! Huzzah! (Still being slight sarcastic there…).
Of course there are downsides. We’d have four kids in Germany, which is the equivalent of having 10 here. It’s a lot of kids. Housing is much smaller in Germany and the kids would have to share rooms. While getting by without a car would be easier, we would have a hard time having a car that would fit our entire family. Unlike Americans, Germans don’t buy minivans when they have 2 kids. They rarely buy minivans at all. Electricity is godawful expensive there (thanks to the Energiewende, which clearly has its downsides).

But it’s something to consider and for us to keep in mind when we do our short-term stay abroad to shore up the kids’ language abilities.

All of this may leave you wondering…what about Finnish? My husband doesn’t want to live in Finland permanently, but we would like to do a short-term, 6-month to a year stay there as well. It’s really important to me that they learn Finnish since they have Finnish passports. They are Finnish and it would be weird for them to be citizens of a country whose languages they can’t speak. It’s even more important to me that they get to know their family members there. I really want them to have relationships with their grandparents because I never had that as a kid. My grandparents were either dead or horrible people and put no effort into being better grandparents than they were parents. This isn’t true of my in-laws. They’re good people. And they constantly make us jealous by spending tons of time at my husband’s sister’s house, helping out with their kids. Ahhhh how much more relaxing would our life be in someways if we had family a bit closer?

But they’ve advised us to to forget learning Finnish and concentrate on German, which brings me to part 3: dropping Finnish.

Finished with Finnish? Considering Future Options pt1

An off-hand comment has spawned a parenting crisis in my household.

We had just returned home from German class and Alpha showed me this Christmas card he had made there and gleefully pointed out how he had written over “Frohe Weihnachten” in his secret code. He likes to do this: not pay attention during German class and write things like “lol stupid” or “death” or whatever in his secret code instead. I looked at the paper as disappointment washed over me again and told him, “Alpha, sometimes I think it would make just as much sense to put you in a closet for an hour as to send you to German class.”
This triggered my husband, who is already suffering from language anxiety. Finnish has fallen on the wayside, largely due to his inability to schedule a set time where he sits down with the kids and does Finnish with them. Their understanding of Finnish has plummeted. They very, very rarely use any Finnish at all. Beta says “olkapäällä”when she wants to ride on DH’s shoulders, Gamma says “hattu” (hat) and a few other words, but for the most part they speak English with German coming as a distant second. Consequently, my husband has decided that if they can’t understand him in Finnish, he’s going to speak to him in German. Problem is: his German sucks. I mean, fine, it’s better than my Finnish, but it’s like my Spanish: he had it for many years in school, can understand it pretty well, but anytime he can’t find a word he goes into his next best language (in his case, Swedish) to find it– oh, and his grammar is lacking. It’s completely pointless.

“Why do you do that?” I asked him. “It’s not going to improve their Finnish and it’s definitely not going to help their German.”
“I refuse to speak to them in English!” he insisted. “I’m not going to do it!” But he does. We both do. It’s inevitable when you’re homeschooling or when you live in an English-speaking country and the kids talk about most things in English.
But what followed was an angst-ridden evening on his part where he threw out suggestions ranging from the ridiculous to the implausible to improve their German and Finnish. “We’ll take their tablets away for the whole weekend unless they actually speak in German in their German classes and Finnish in their Finnish classes!” Alpha’s eyes immediately teared up. “We’ll just move to Germany and stay there for as many years as we need to until their fluent in German!” Sigh. He knows the kids the are against moving to Germany and phrasing it that way makes it seem like a punishment: you’re going to stay in prison until you’re sorry for what you did! I told my husband that this was not the time nor the place to discuss this, especially if any of the suggestions were going to be as ridiculous as those were. But still, he spent a lot of time telling me how upset it was making him that we were failing in our attempts to teach the kids Finnish and German and how they didn’t appreciate how we were trying to give them a leg up in life. “Languages open so many doors! They could go to university in Finland or Germany and save a ton of money, but they need to know the languages!” (Germany actually has a lot of English language university programs, but he didn’t know that) His despair was palpable. And, honestly, even I’ve been feeling that way a lot more when it comes to our languages.

The next day we finally had a chance to talk about things and, through the course of our discussion, came up with three plausible solutions to improve our kids’ language abilities:

1) increase the home study and make sure the kids do Finnish three times a week and German twice.

2) Move, either closer to Boston or abroad to Germany or Finland, either temporarily or permanently.

3) Drop Finnish. Concentrate on German. Or drop both of those and let the kids pick a language to learn.

Option 1 is fairly straight forward.  I already sit down twice a week with the kids and do German, using the German at home course “Einsterns Schwester.” The kids aren’t fans of it (given the choice between doing it and not doing it, they would rather not do it), but they do it and I’m pretty impressed at how much German Alpha understands and recalls. Beta…well, it feels like she’s learning German more as a second language now as far as recall is concerned. So German is covered.
Finnish is a whole other story. For the longest time (two years maybe?) my husband has had “Finnish” penciled into his calendar for every Friday. Guess how many times he actually sat down and did Finnish with the kids.
Zero.
In August after another period of language angst, we had decided that twice a week DH would do Finnish with the kids while I drove Gamma to preschool and the other day of the week, I would do German with the kids while he drove Gamma to preschool. Guess how many times this actually happened? Yep, zero. I drive Gamma to school every time. Though twice now after smaller bouts of language-concern, my husband has sat down and done Finnish with them, though one of those was this morning, so I’m not sure it counts.
My husband has lots of reasons why he doesn’t have time to do Finnish with the kids. He has a lot of work to do. True, this is a constant factor, it’s not going to change. He either needs to work around it or give up. We don’t have a good resource for Finnish like the ones I have for German. Also true: the Finnish schools won’t even hand any over to my mother-in-law when she asks. It’s like they keep their curriculum under lock and key and, true to low Finnish self-esteem, don’t actually think there might be children who want to learn Finnish at home. He can’t find the materials we do have. This isn’t even a proper reason; it’s just his lack of ability to find anything and then not asking me where they are (though I would probably tell him “On the bookshelf,” instead of giving him the exact longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates he’s probably looking for).
I’ve tried doing Finnish with the kids at home, but my Finnish isn’t good enough to understand a lot of the Finnish-language stuff we have, so I have to ask my husband for help translating if it’s not in my Finnish-English dictionary. My pronunciation is pretty bad, too. “You should really have dad do this,” was my kids’ advice after the first time I tried. I agreed with them.
The basic problem, I think, is one of habit. DH is not in the habit of teaching the kids. I am, so throwing German into the pile on top of everything else a couple of times a week isn’t a big deal. But for him… it’s a wild deviation from the norm. He also isn’t a natural teacher. I don’t think I am either, but I’ve learned a few things over the past 4-5 years of homeschooling. DH is good at explaining things to adults, but it doesn’t translate well to kids.
We ran through some suggestions, including the possibility of getting the kids Rosetta Stone for Finnish. That fell flat when I looked online and discovered that in the 11 years since i last looked for a Finnish Rosetta Stone program, they still don’t offer one. So screw Rosetta I’m-going-to-offer-courses-in-Irish-Dari-Pashtu-and-Swedish-but-not-Finnish Stone.
So I started throwing out suggestions that he would have known had he read the book on Growing up Trilingual I asked him to read 5 years ago but he never did. Make language learning fun! Play games with the kids, like memory or Uno or this Finnish Moomin game I can’t understand and so have never played it with the kids. He’s followed this advice, but a new complaint from the kids has arisen: “You always win when we play games with you,” Alpha groused.
My husband looked sheepish. “I’m not trying to win! It was just luck!”
There are other things he could do, like bribe the kids. Here’s a list of Finnish vocabulary words. Every time you learn one you get a dime.

But just starting with sitting down with them three times a week…would be a great start in the short-term. The other two options I’ll discuss in later posts and are more long-term in as far as planning and consequences are concerned.

A Bright Future in Translation

When my son went to preschool, he provided me with an on the spot translation of the apple song he learned in Kindergarten. It originally went

I am apple I am apple
On a tree, on a tree
You come and eat me
You come and eat me
I taste good. I taste good.

He sang this once and I complemented him on it and then he kept singing it, only each time he sang it more and more of the song was in German until he reached the final version:

Ich bin Apfel, ich bin Apfel
Auf dem Baum, auf dem Baum
Du kommst mich essen
Du kommst mich essenIch smeck’ gut, ich schmeck’ gut

He was torn between ‘gut’ and ‘lecker’ on the last line (and apparently it should be ‘an dem Baum’ but whatever) and kept changing it, but I was very impressed.

Since then, his translation skills have continued to developed.

When we were in Kansas visiting my family, my brother-in-law took Alpha and my niece out some where. My niece spent the drive asking him how you say various things in German and he would tell her. Not speaking German, my brother-in-law had no idea if he was giving her the correct answers or not. Finally, my niece asked him, “What do you say in German when you’re really, really scared?” Alpha thought for a moment and opened his mouth and screamed, “AAAAAAAGH!”

* * *

We’re currently remodeling our bathrooms. I don’t know if this project is current; we’ve been doing it for the past 5 months, but since we’re still doing it, I guess it is. At any rate, we let the kids do a sample tile mosaic so we could get an idea how the grout color would tie everything together.
Beforehand, my husband explained to the kids in Finnish that the white glue they would be using was like liquid concrete and was toxic, so they should be very careful not to eat any or mess with it.

Alpha listened to this, then turned to Beta and repeated what DH had just said to them, only in English.
My husband was astounded. “I didn’t even know he knew the word ‘toxic’ in English.”

I get the feeling we consistently underestimate our children’s language abilities, particularly Alpha’s because he’s had so many problems with his speech. He’s also more reticent than Beta when it comes to speaking. Beta is a little chatterbox and talks to everyone. We go to the gym and when I drop them off at the daycare, she immediately starts chatting away to the lady there about her outfit, or a toy she brought or whatever. I talk to my host family via skype and she happily starts telling them whatever she can think of.

Alpha will talk to people now on the phone, but he’s still very quiet about doing so. His speech therapist has mentioned that she has a very hard time getting him to speak spontaneously. If she asks him what he wants to play with, most of the time he doesn’t answer until she offers him a choice and then he just says yes. She worried about his vocabulary, commenting how she showed him a nature scene and asked him to point at the leopards and he pointed at some birds flying. I told her that was strange because ‘leopard’ is actually the same in all three languages (Leopard in German and leopaardi in Finnish). She wondered earlier if he was just self-conscious but then answered her own question by stating that he was too young to be self-conscious. Then I told her the story of the first time we went to get his speech evaluated and he told me that he couldn’t do it because he couldn’t speak English. This seemed to change her opinion a bit.

Alpha is still quite sensitive about his speech abilities. Once when he was sitting at the table doing his work, he commented in English that he had to do speech practice because “I am not very good at speaking.” And it really stung me to hear him say that. I quickly told him that it wasn’t a big deal, lots of people have to practice their speech and told him that his father had to go to speech therapy when he was Alpha’s age and now he speaks just fine. I think this reassured him; he hasn’t mentioned being bad at speaking much again. At any rate, his speech has improved remarkably and ask long as he speaks up when he’s around people, he is very intelligible.

How is the speech therapy going?

In short, it’s not. Two weeks before we were scheduled to leave and visit family, our speech therapist informed us that she was leaving for a new position and would only be there for two more weeks.

Remember back when we were about to start speech therapist and the old speech therapist advised us to wait a month so that Alpha could start with the new speech therapist and not have to switch therapists after only a month? Yeah, so do I. Yet here are. Switching speech therapists after only a month.

Until we find a new speech therapist, I’ve been continuing with daily 15 minute practices at home and I believe we have made some practice. His n’s and t’s have improved to such a degree that we’ve progressed all the way through reading the stories and dropped practicing these sounds all together. Currently we’re working on L’s and D’s. His main problem with these sounds is pronouncing them properly at the end of the word. However, according to the sound development chart, final l’s are generally only pronounced properly when a child is 5 years old. Since Alpha is just now 5, he’s only slightly behind with that. I think his final d’s are suffering from German bleed because he always pronounces them as t’s, which is something Germans generally do. Making this problem even worse is the fact that many English words are the same as the German one and merely replace the final t with a d. So when Alpha says “bed” it comes out “Bett,” which is correct in German, but wrong in English. As a result, we read through the final-d work sheet going “Breaduh”, “beduh”, “colduh” in order to emphasize the softer d sound.

The only problem with my practices is that I may not be as picky as an actual trained speech pathologist who can really see if he is putting his tongue in exactly the right spot. I basically decide he’s making a sound that is ‘close enough’ to where it should be. Without a trained professional to aide us, this is going to have to be good enough.

I had a clever brainstorm and decided to combine speech practice with learning our letters. When we learn to make a sound, we form the letter that makes that sound out of clay and I ask him what sound that letter makes and he tells me. As a result, I’ve decided to just start going through the entire articulation development chart, starting at the beginning, in order to practice all the letters/sounds, even if he can already make the sound. Hopefully this will also help him develop phonological awareness.

One thing I can’t wait to start working with him on are his blends. I tried googling ways to teach kids how to make blends and just got a bunch of stuff on how to teach them how to read blends. Annoying. At any rate, we can’t start blends until he pronounces each individual letter properly. Then we do the whole sesame street thing and push the two letters together, faster and faster until they’re ‘blended.’ This is what they say to do to teach it reading it, so I’m hoping teaching kids to pronounce blends works the same way.

 

Why I No Longer Worry about Language Balance

Beta is spouting more and more English lately, thanks to Dora. She wanders around the house saying, “Hi! I’m Dora. Do you I like stickers? Good! I like stickers, too!” and regularly calls me ‘mommy,’ except for when she is really distressed, in which case I’m still äiti. I’ve actually started wondering if I should stop letting her watch Dora, since it’s having such an influence on her language and is skewing things so much toward it. Since English is our community language, it has a clear advantage as far as usefulness is concerned. DH and I have to artificially inflate the importance of Finnish and German so that they keep speaking it to us and that English creep doesn’t eventually win out.

Then I realized that cutting out Dora would be entirely pointless. With Alpha, I probably would have cut it out. But in the intervening time, I think I’ve come to accept that there is absolutely no way we can effectively control the language balance in our lives. We can influence it in some ways, but completely control it? No.

Here’s why:

1) English will win–no matter where you live. It’s a major global language. No matter where you’re growing up, you will need to know English. Even North Korea teaches it. My kids are obviously going to figure that out eventually. If English is one of your bilingual languages, eventually it will pull out ahead. That’s just the way things are.

2) Kids develop their own preferences for languages. Right now, Alpha prefers German because he has the highest likelihood of being understood when he speaks it. Beta moves between all of them fairly easily at the moment, but I’m betting that will change as she gets older. Many older multilingual kids refuse to speak their second language unless they have to.

3) Bilingual children have periods where they refuse to speak a language. My husband grew up speaking Swedish as his mother tongue and Finnish as his father and community tongue. In spite of the fact he and his siblings went to a Swedish speaking school, they still figured out Finnish was the important language to speak and stopped speaking Swedish to their mother and told her they didn’t want to speak it anymore. So she stopped speaking Swedish to them. DH really regrets doing this now and insists he will always speak to his kids in Finnish no matter what they say. But this seems to be a normal story for bilingual children. It’s a normal phase of growing up.

4) Multilingualism is a start, not an end. Humans’ ability to retain languages is dependent on their ability to continue using it. No matter how much effort you put into their multilingualism at a young age, it’s the rest of their lives that will determine if they maintain it. Again, my husband’s Swedish is a perfect example of this. Since moving to the US, he has almost completely stopped speaking Swedish. He still reads it quite a bit and speaks the weird Swedish-Finnish combination used by his family, but practically no pure Swedish. When we went to Stockholm in December, his Swedish was so rusty, it was quicker for me to figure out what they were saying to him in Swedish and and answer in English than for him to answer in Swedish. In the end, both he and the Swedes just ended up speaking English because it was faster. He’s still trilingual, but he needs some WD-40 to get out the squeaks. My kids may be trilingual now, but whether or not they can still speak their languages well at 30 is firmly out of my control.

So I’ve given up worrying about keeping all of the languages in balance. They more or less are. We read an English book and a German book before naptime and DH reads a Finnish book before bed. We usually watch an English show (Dora) after naptime, then Sandmännchen (German) and Palomies Sami (Finnish, Fireman Sam) before bedtime. There is a sort of balance and it seems to be working. Tweaking it at the moment probably wouldn’t bring much improvement.

Speech Therapy Begins

Alpha has had two speech therapy sessions so far and I have no idea how it is going. I don’t go into the sessions; he goes by himself. They spent one session practicing ‘t’ and ‘d’ sounds. Then the second he practiced ‘n.’ After the second I thought to ask the therapist if I ought to practice with him at home and she said that would be good. In some ways, I preferred the previous therapist who did Alpha’s evaluation. She was a little bit more communicative than this second one. At any rate, the second speech therapist said she would give me some print outs at our next appointment detailing what I could do at home.

I decided not to wait and did some googling and came up with some good websites detailing how parents can  help their child’s speech therapy. The most useful I’ve found so far is Mommy Speech Therapy. It not only explains various different speech problems, but also explains how you can show your child how to make the various sounds. So I referenced the ‘t’ and ‘d’ page for our practice yesterday and today. My main problem is I tend to advance too quickly. I need to go much slower and make sure that he can make the sounds perfectly before progressing, according to the pages. Then move onto syllables and, provided he still makes the sounds correctly, words and finally sentences.

We’re aiming for 10-15 minutes daily, but that is a hard goal to reach. Alpha is generally reluctant to practice. The first time I suggested it, he insisted that he didn’t have to do that here; he only does that with the speech therapist. I have to insist that he practices with me and until he gets accustomed to the idea of it, I will have to be very persuasive. Yesterday I told him he had to practice before having a show. Today I added a piece of candy to sweeten the deal. Still, going the entire 10 minutes is difficult. “I already did that,” he informs me repeatedly. The problem is getting him to understand that in order for him to have already done it, he needs to make the sounds properly and always place his tongue in the correct place. Easier said than done. Mommy Speech therapy suggests putting a bit of peanut butter or marshmallow fluff on the aveolar palate so he can lick it off and feel more compelled to put his tongue there. We have nutella, so I will try that tomorrow and see if it helps. If tongue strength seems to be a problem, she suggests having him hold a cheerio between the palate and his tongue for 10 seconds. I haven’t seen any evidence that there is tongue weekness, but I’ll keep it in mind. At this time, it appears to be more habit. He can put his tongue in the right place, but is not used to always putting in there. So practice. And more practice.

It will definitely take a while to see definite progress, but the fact that we’ve begun is very encouraging and I hope that in a few months, we will see some definite progress.