Thursday, July 21, 2011

Raising a Healthy Adopted Child: Speech Therapy

This will be a different kind of post, mostly because Speech Therapy is an area we have not yet addressed with Mae. Therefore, I am a novice at its ins and outs. Please, share your stories.

It is common knowledge that, at least in a majority of orphanages in China, the bottle nipples are cut with an X to allow the hot formula to flow out quickly. This makes feeding time quicker for the nannies. Sadly, since the babies cannot control the flow of the formula this way, it can spill out and the baby will miss much of her feeding.

Another problem with this practice is that the X in the nipple prevents the baby from having to suck hard, if at all. Any mother who has breastfed can attest to how hard a baby sucks to draw the milk out. Without sucking, Chinese babies do not exercise many of the muscles in their mouths and tongue.

The result is the almost "typical" adopted Chinese child speech issue known as "rounding." While not a defect, this rounding of the sound can produce a "baby voice" to our Western ears. The cause of this rounding - lack of muscle strength in the mouth and tongue from lack of sucking - can easily be fixed with speech therapy.

We haven't yet put Mae into Speech Therapy, though she possesses the typical rounding just discussed. While her lack of r's and l's are endearing now, I wonder how long it is tolerated by other children. Mae herself is frustrated with her inability to reproduce some sounds, though we have all been assured that many children are slow to pronounce some of these sounds.

There are some therapies that are essential - sleep therapy was for us. And we are doing Vision Therapy for her right now, since her eyes don't track or converge (just like Ted). We don't have time or energy to devote to her speech right now.

But it is an issue for almost all Chinese children (not all, but many). Perhaps not only the bottle, but also the way the language itself is spoken, both contribute to the rounded sound our children present. As with many issues in parenting, at what point does something need to be done?

Does your child have any speech difficulties? What do you do for them, if anything? Is your child aware that she sounds "different" from her friends or siblings?

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