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How Reading Gave My Silent Child a Voice

Posted on March 15 2017

How Reading Gave My Silent Child a Voice

When Jericho was born, he had this look about him that made you think he was just going to open his mouth and start talking. He was so stoic. His eyes were so knowing. It was like he understood so much more than any of us ever could, one any minute he was going to divulge the secrets of the universe. That look only intensified as he grew older. He wasn't a very giggly or smiley baby. He wasn't a very chatty baby. He was just stoic. Always stoic.

We didn't think much of it and just assumed it was his personality. It wasn't until he started missing verbal milestones that we began to think maybe he wasn't just stoic. Maybe something was a little off. We were told so often that many times children are quiet and then one day their vocabulary just explodes. They go from hardly saying anything to saying EVERYTHING. Many people told us that their children used to only say a handful of words and then they, seemingly out of nowhere, started speaking in full sentences. We wanted to pull hope from all of those stories, but it wasn't that Coco was only saying a few words, he wasn't saying any.

It was around the time he reached a year and a half in age that we were referred to a speech therapist. Again, we were flooded with stories of hope and how much therapy had helped other people's kids. We heard so many people say that it only took a month or two of therapy before they started seeing results in their children's speech. My husband and I were so excited to get Coco the help he needed and to have someone to guide us along in helping him. 

About a month in to his therapy, his SLP told us that she was struggling to get a handle on him. She had pulled out every trick in the book to try to find what would work for him, but he wasn't showing much interest or reaction to any of it. He had always been so independent, and that was part of the struggle. Most children will want at least one thing badly enough to work at requesting it when it's withheld from them. Not our boy. If he couldn't do it by himself, he would just move on to something different. 

We tried so many different tactics over the course of a year. I can't even tell you all of the random, ridiculous games we've tried with him. We had to think outside the box. We had to get creative. Whenever we found something that seemed to spark progress, we would pour everything into that, only to have him lose interest a week or so later. I started to feel like he was never going to talk. We were never going to have that breakthrough moment with him where we figured out how to get him to communicate. 

By the time the year had passed, we had added an in-home SLP and an occupational therapist to our team, who both had the same issue of struggling to figure out what made Jericho tick. He was up to four days of therapy each week. We had seen so many of our therapy buddies make huge strides. We saw kids who had been so silent one week walk in talking nonstop the next. We saw kids who had been going for half as long as we had graduate the programs. While I was so happy for those families, it was hard not to feel a tinge of jealousy.

Some nights, I would stay up late just trying to think of anything we hadn't tried that might help him have that breakthrough we all had been working so tirelessly for. It was hard not to feel defeated. It was hard not to feel like he would never speak. It was hard to watch him struggle because he couldn't communicate his wants and needs. It was just hard. Then something amazing happened.

I was giving our two boys a bath one day, checking my emails while they played in the water. Jericho has always loved playing with the foam letters and numbers in the tub, so I wasn't paying much attention as he lined them up along the edge. What made my heart stop was that, as he laid each letter and number down, he said its name.

"Six. T. H. One. P. Q. K. Eight."

I was in shock. I started clapping and cheering for him. Happy tears started streaming down my face. I had NO idea he knew his letters and numbers. He had always enjoyed watching the Leap Frog movies Phonics Farm and Numberland, but I never realized how much he had absorbed from them. I tried throughout the following few days to get him to sit and do his letters and numbers with me. I brought him the foam ones he had used in the bath. I brought him blocks. Books. Anything I could think of. But he only wanted to do it on his own terms. Typical Coco.

During all this, he had begun to count "one, two, one, two..." He would point to items and count them, only ever repeating one and two. Then, somehow, in less than a week he was counting from one to ten. He was pointing out every number he saw and saying it. He was organizing his blocks and numbers into numerical order. He was counting out items randomly. He was counting out loud without any visual aids. I was absolutely flabbergasted. 

At his next speech therapy appointment, his SLP mentioned that he may be on his way to Hyperlexia. I had never heard of this before and had to do some digging, but I learned that it is essentially when a child is able to read before they can speak or even understand what they are reading. The idea of it was something I found so awesome, but I didn't want to get my hopes up. 

To encourage his progress, we downloaded the apps Endless Numbers and Endless Alphabet for Jericho. He took to those apps like wildfire, and less than 24 hours later he was reading. I was so blown away. This was it. This was the breakthrough we had spent over a year working for. No, he wasn't talking, but he was READING. This gave us something to work with in helping him eventually speak.

It has only been a few days since this all began, and Jericho is like an entirely new kid. He reads signs we pass in the car. He read every number and letter he could in the grocery store last night. He reads his snack containers before he gets some. Even writing this gives me chills and floods me with emotions. It's going to be a unique challenge to work backwards with him, teaching him first to read, then to speak, but I am SO ready to face it head on.

Reading has always been precious to me. Books have been my comfort and safe place for as long as I can remember. There is such a deep love in my heart and soul for the written word. I can't even put into words how profoundly this past week has affected me. To see my silent son dive head first into the world of reading like this, to have reading be the breakthrough he so desperately needed, it means more to me than I will every be able to express.

Reading in such an amazing thing. It is time and money never wasted. It is so powerful and precious. Reading is what has given my child a voice. Reading is what's given this mama hope. 


-Maddie Rose


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  • Jessica Pope: August 06, 2018

    Why am I just now seeing this? This blog post is so inspiring! My son is type III Hyperlexic, and I completely understand all the struggles! We don’t have a formal diagnosis since he eventually met milestones…just a little later than normal. But hyperlexia has expanded my view of what reading means to me as a teacher and librarian. I believe having a hyperlexic child has given me the tools to help all children enjoy and love books just for that reason only. Reading just for the love of it is so very important to learn and understand. So thankful our children have taught us their undying biological need for reading. Love it!

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