Monday, December 6, 2010

My Late Talkers

I was a late talker, my son was a late talker, and now my daughter is a late talker.  She is taking longer than her brother, but she is faster than me.
Brent's cousin a few months ago posted that he had read, The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late, by Thomas Sowell. I requested it from the library and then let it sit in my house for almost two months without reading it. Saturday night I picked it up and read 3/4 of it.  I found it completely fascinating; it doesn't have too much research (just two case studies of small amounts of children: 46 children and 239), but the research it does have completely fits the bill for me and my children.  Children who seem bright but otherwise aren't speaking have a high rate of engineers as direct relatives.  Well that is sure true for my kids, their grandfather, great grandfather, two uncles have engineering degrees (and two more uncles have degrees in fields close to engineering).  On top of that, their aunt is a math teacher, who has a PhD, another uncle is going to med school next fall, and their grandma has a piano teacher for 40 years. Their other grandfather was an economist, their father has a degree in economics and is a computer specialist, and has aunts and uncles on that side who are scientists.  Since I was raised in this environment I thought it was normal, in fact thought I was sort of lame that I don't have a hard science degree, my soft science, political science degree is just lame o blame ;).  Turns out this is not normal, based on the first case study, 60% of children in their study who talk late have a direct family member (parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle) who is an engineer, but 60% of children in the US clearly do not have a relative that is an engineer because there aren't that many engineers in our country.  86 % of children who talk late in the study have at least relative with an analytical occupation.  (The second study had very similar percentages.)
Just for records, I have been told that I didn't talk until I was three, I just pointed an grunted, but when I finally started I was speaking it was complete sentences.  My son said mama, dada, before he was one, but other than that, his speaking was severely limited until he was two, when finally my husband and I couldn't stand the "ehhs" anymore and started pushing language, he still didn't really communicate until he was three. If I remember correctly Nan is actually better at communicating then he is even though he was speaking more words. I remember it clearly because he "exploded" around his sister's birth, my previously quiet child was so noisy and I had a colicky infant, for the first time as a mother I went from zero noisy kids, to TWO noisy kids and I thought I was going to scream. Although he talked, he still wasn't capable of back and forth conversation until he was four, but anyone who met my child had no doubt he was intelligent, he just was quiet.  He always made progress albeit slowly so I never was concerned, not to mention he uttered words before me. Eventhough I was never concerned, I definitely wouldn't be concerned now, he is one of the more articulate children in his preschool class, his teacher is always telling me how nice it is to have him answer correctly to her questions.
Who knows the entire path of my daughter, she is only two, but she has been way less interested in speaking then her brother.  She signed later, she said mama later, she understood mama later.  My parents told me don't worry you didn't talk.  How could I not worry?  She was 20 months old and only cried mama and bwaked like a chicken maybe once a month. For the last four months I have gone back and forth on wanting her to be tested for speech problems.  Brent, my parents, and my grandparents told me she is fine.  But seriously was she?  All her friends are speaking in sentences no joke.  Her best friend, says, look mom, its Nan, she my friend.  Her almost boyfriend says, Mom, she so cute, I want to kiss her.  Mom, she sad, I hug her.  Although I doubt complete sentences is normal for barely two, she probably just has a talkative bunch of friends to make up for her lack. Although I, and her doctor knew she was advanced in other aspects we was worried about her speech. After reading this book, it gave me the confidence to agree to my husband and parents.  Also apparently its quite normal for smart children who talk late to be very defiant, and throw huge fits.  Now you would think they throw fits because they can't communicate, that is not the case at all, at least when it comes to Nan.  She can communicate just fine she just can't talk.  She doesn't throw fits because we don't understand her, she throws fits because she doesn't like what we are doing/our answer.
This isn't much of a book review, but I will say, it presents both sides of the issues well.  He makes it clear to know that not all children that talk late, are not necessarily very bright, some children who talk late do have other things causing it.  But after reading the book, taking in account her hereditary history, watching her around other kids, I don't think she has other developmental problems.  She is just late, and extremely fussy, because she has great fine motor skills, and gross motor skills.  She can sit sill and listen to me read her books for at least 20 minutes, I never last longer. And honestly if she didn't cry so much I doubt I would have even noticed her not talking, I didn't notice my son too much. But maybe my main problem is trying to compare my children to each, which is a big no no.
I forget the best part of the book.  "A kindly old gentleman, Professor Hamilton..." said, after inquiring if the boy had seen doctors, "Mr. Sowell, don't try to teach him to talk-- not right now.  You just give him lots of love and attention.  Take him with you whenever you can.  let him known that you think he is the most wonderful little boy in the whole world.  And when he feels confident and secure-- he talk."


  1. Brooke was a late talker too, but it was because she had me to talk for her! I would literally answer questions for her, so she just never had to.

  2. Fascinating. I hope you don't mind. I'm going to share this with my sisters and sisters-in-law. I think some of them will be very interested in reading this book.