I’ve heard that multiples are more likely to have speech delays from various sources: books, web resources, paediatricians, and other parents of multiples. There doesn’t seem to be a definite explanation for these delays, but there seem to be two main theories: (1) multiples develop their own ways of communicating with each other so they don’t need to learn to talk, or (2) multiples don’t get as much one-on-one time with parents/caregivers. Here’s our real-life experience to add to what I’ve learned from others.
Our girls seem to have some speech delays. They were tested when they were 19 months old. S was measured at 14 months for expressive language and 16 months for receptive language. (R wouldn’t cooperate with the testing, but she’s probably pretty close to her sister). They are both usually able to make it clear to us what they want through sounds, pointing, and signs, but they use very few recognizable spoken words. The next step here is for the parent(s) to go to a workshop with a speech pathologist who shows us techniques to support our children’s speech development. Our babysitting plans didn’t work out, so I ended up going alone. There were about 15-20 parents at the workshop, and it sounded like their children had a variety of speech delays. I’m quite sure I was the only parent with twins at the meeting, and I didn’t have my husband along to provide an alternate perspective on the experience.
I responded to the workshop on two levels. From one perspective, it made sense to take this approach. Parents are (usually) the people who spend the most time with their children and they know them best. They are best suited to integrate activities to work on speech in to their family’s daily activities. And, it made sense to work with parents alone because it is much easier to share information and answer questions without toddlers. My rational mind was able to take in the information provided and consider how I could use it to help my daughters. I felt more confident that this would be a short-term concern and that there steps we could take to support them over the next few months.
However, from another perspective, the recurring message of the workshop seemed to be that parents need to spend time one-on-one with their children. As a result, I left the workshop feeling very guilty and discouraged. My mind quickly made the connection that if the solution to the problem is more individual attention than the cause must be lack of individual attention. I felt that I had let my children down by not focusing enough on each of them and not making time to talk with each of them to support their language development. I compounded my guilt by worrying that choosing a childcare provider who does not have English as a first language contributed to my daughters’ delays. Though I specifically asked about applying these techniques with multiples, the speech pathologist didn’t have any concrete suggestions. I was left trying to figure out how I could fit 15 to 30 minutes/child/day of more focused individual attention.
We’ve only had a few days to consider what to do next, but we are looking at changing our bedtime routine so we can each spend time with one daughter. We are also trying to include more one-on-one time on the weekends. I’m also implementing the techniques I learned with both girls when we play together. This is the best I can do during the day when I have two toddlers and their older brother to take care for. I remind myself that I provide them with a safe, stimulating and fun place to play and learn. They are clearly happy little girls, which helps to dissipate the mommy guilt.
I’m sure everyone has experience mommy guilt. How do you deal with it? (If you have advice on dealing with speech delays, I’d love to hear them too.)