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Small gains in speech



 Today has been an excellent day of communication with Tope. We were having actual conversations, albeit only using short phrases. I could understand what he was trying to tell me most of the time today without him having to point or direct me to his needs. This is a very exciting day indeed.

I know I have given some small details about Tope's speech, but for those who are interested in knowing a little more, we have a hard time understanding him for two reasons: 1. The orphanage Tope lived in spoke predominantly Cebuano, 2. Tope has speech delay and impediments due to his cleft lip/palate.

Although Tope knew Cebuano predominately from his caretakers, they also did a really nice job of teaching him some English. He knows his colors, body parts, letters, and numbers in English and a bunch of nursery type songs. Tope also seems to understand a lot of what we say to him in English, however we have learned a few random words that especially helped a couple weeks in, such as the words for get dressed, sit down, walk-don't run, eat, be careful, and sleep. We also learned from him that dog is iro in Cebuano, and that is all Tope will call our dog, Izzy - never dog, puppy, or Izzy even thought those are the terms we use. He uses one word over and over, but we cannot figure out what the word is (quite sure this is due to missing consonants). I'm pretty sure the word means here or there, but I've looked these words up and it doesn't match up, so I believe it may always be a mystery! Our need to use the handful of Cebuano words though seems to already be slowly disapating. He is understanding the English words, at least so it seems, that we will use after saying the Cebuano word as well. Tope will chatter to himself in Cebuano and sometimes try to talk to us in Cebuano, but if he does then he typically also tries to do some hand gestures to show what he wants.

Here is the tricky part about our Tope, we don't always know if he is speaking English or Cebuano because his speech impedement is so strong. Tope says very few consonants and he especially dismisses the beginning consonant to words. This is going to be an ongoing challenge for him and for our family for a long time we are sure. We will be getting him into speech therapy as soon as possible and he will have extra resources to help once he begins school in the fall, but until then, we are doing our best to encourage some consonant use. He loves to copycat what Jon says, so we use that to our advantage at times and work on some words that he will hopefully be able to say clearly someday. He is starting to do a better job of hand gestures too to help get his point across. He does this the most when he is thirsty. He will put his hands to his lips like he is sipping out of a straw - it is the stinkin' most cutest thing ever!

Given all of that, you can maybe now see a little better as to why I was excited to be able to unerstand Tope today! I really do feel like he is understanding us more and is more anxious to use English words as well, and he isn't feeling embarrased talking to us anymore. I started this blog earlier in the day and was even more excited tonight when I heard him singing with Jon during some story time tonight! He was singing along to The Wheels on the Bus and was doing great! Once again he was dropping the first consonant to almost every word, but he was trying and doing such a great job!

I can't wait to see him break out of his shell even more in the coming weeks! But until then I'll enjoy my conversations that I can understand with him about Ironman, Ice cream, Iro (dog), going upstairs or downstairs, wanting to eat or drink, Superheroes, Legos, and Lots of giggling!!!!!


~Mara

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