Chatty Maddie the Future Gymnast

by Alison Friedman in Marvelous Madelyn, Mommy's Musings

It’s been ages since we’ve given a proper update on Madelyn, but this recent move has taken up all energy (and positive attitude) I need in order to reflect and write about all the funny and interesting things in our household. Thankfully, we’ve officially moved and are getting settled in the new house so there will be updates on that shortly, but despite the busy-ness of the move, we’ve also remained loyal to our daily and weekly obligations.

A while back, I shared that Madelyn was evaluated for her delay in speech. At one year, she still didn’t have any words, and so we was enrolled in speech therapy services at the Child Development Center in our county. Since she started in January, her speech was accelerated at an awesome rate. Sure, age and natural development have something to do with it, but having a focused and specific time with a professional to target her speech needs has been super successful. Our therapist, Mahan, is so patient and positive with Madelyn. The amazing part is that Madelyn doesn’t even have any idea that she’s in therapy. She’s just stoked to be playing with toys and reading books and looking at pictures.

It began with Mahan giving Madelyn options for things; while singing “Old MacDonald,” and it was time to choose what animal he had on his farm, Mahn would ask “Do you want the dog or the cow?” and through signs and spoken words, Madelyn would have to make a choice by saying “I want ____.” At first, Madelyn only used signs and most people, including myself, thought there was no way this could help a kid learn to talk. The whole point is to make words come out of her mouth, so why would using hand signals and signs do any good? Well, the signs helped bridge the gap between comprehension — which Madelyn was definitely mastering — and exchanging spoken language. Without the signs, frustration would ensue, which would lead to tantrums. And, as most of us know, tantrums are no fun for anybody!

So at first, Madelyn signed what her choice of cow or dog, and soon after, she started to say “I wa dah” for “I want dog.” We even did the same kinds of exercises with food! Snack time at speech is fun. Mahan brings out crackers and fruit snacks and Madelyn makes choices. She usually chooses the “kacka” (cracker). Pronunciation is not the goal. It’s speaking. Most kiddos drop the final sounds of words when learning to speak, so teaching and expecting to hear the “t” in “want” or the “g” in “dog” was not the task at hand.



Little by little, the vocabulary grew and we started to add more words to sentences we wanted her to communicate. This worked so well, that Madelyn began — and continues to — ask for things on her own without prompting. If she wants more water, she now says “Mo wawa” and if she is all done, she lets us know by signing “all done” and saying “all gun!” (she says “g” for “d” — fixable in time, but at least we understand). The whole process is truly amazing.

Not too long ago, Madelyn began mimicking us. She says “uh oh” about everything that falls on the floor from her hands — whether dropped by accident or if thrown on purpose! And she asks to speak with us by calling “Mama?” or “Dada?” She copies phrases and expressions. Last week, I was driving her and turned around to notice that she had just escaped the arm straps on her car seat. We were literally a block away from our destination and I sighed “Oh geeeeez” and ever since, when exasperated, Madelyn says, “Oh cheese!” She gets it. This little girl totally gets it and while I’m thoroughly amused, I’m also totally worried! She’s just too smart.

After about four months of speech therapy, a physical therapist at the CDC noticed Madelyn’s walk. She thought Madelyn had too much of an in-toe while walking and that she bent her knees too much. By almost 21 months, Madelyn should have had more of a heel-to-toe gait like we all have when we walk. So, because it can’t hurt to be conservative, she had a PT evaluation and it was determined she has a very mild case of hypotonia which means that she has macro low muscle tone throughout her body and it’s thought to be one of the reasons for her speech delay; that if she builds up strength in her body, her language will emerge at more developmentally appropriate rate. So, sure, why not? We started PT a couple months ago, and Madelyn has enjoyed having an hour a week devoted to physical strength and conditioning.

It’s like a 50-minute recess with super cool equipment she can play on while the physical therapist, Kelsey, focuses on her trunk area like her core and hips. She gets to jump on the trampoline while we sing silly songs, “swim” in a ball pit while carrying colorful bean bags, and ride a bike all around the inside of the center! It’s like baby boot camp and a total work out for Madelyn. She even walks on a treadmill with handle bars that are perfect for her height.




It’s so much fun and it’s all helping her body so much. Madelyn has one strong side and one weak side which is common with kiddos with hypotonia, so our goal is to make sure she alternates her legs when going up and down stairs. She always chooses the same leg. Since she started PT, I notice that she now is less reluctant to switch it up and has more strength in her weaker leg. We practice at home and I think it shows during our weekly appointments, too! I can tell because her run is becoming more coordinated and she needs her hands less to stabilize.

At first, I wasn’t sure if we were overreacting to sign up our daughter for speech and physical therapies. But it rules out other potential issues and insurance covers it, so why not? Yes, she functions fine and is a fairly typical toddler, but these experts can do so much more than I ever could and we thought it was important for Madelyn to develop relationships with “teachers.” She really loves and respects them and I enjoy our sessions during the week because I’m fascinated by the scientific and developmental methods they use to work with such young, little people.

  1. Mimi
    7/9/2013 10:14 PM

    Dear Sweet Madelyn~
    I just want to tell you I LOVE YOU!
    You are doing so fantastic in your “talking” class and “gymnastic” class so continue to have fun with your teachers Mahan & Kelsey.
    I love having <3 to <3 chats with you, chatty Maddie.
    Love you lots,