Even though Emmie took her first official steps a few weeks ago, she really hadn’t been “walking” all that much. At first, it was once a day, if we really encouraged it. Within the last week or so, a few times a day, usually in her bedroom or launching from a stair step, Emmie would start to get a little glint in her eye, make sure I was watching, and then would start to wobble toward me, proud as can be with herself. Then on Thursday, Emmie went to lunch with her friend Cameron to celebrate his big one-point-oh birthday. Cameron was walking ALL around the restaurant, and you could see that Emmie was dying to keep up. So she ended up walking more and further than she ever had before, just to make sure that youngster didn’t TOTALLY show her up.
Ever since then, walking has become more and more commonplace. She’ll walk across a room holding a toy (or two!). Today, she walked all the way from her bedroom, through the kitchen to the breakfast nook to see her daddy, with only one or two sit-downs along the way. She’s still quite wobbly and unsteady but she’s trying and usually totally unfazed by her bobbles, and the best part is that she keeps trying, trying, trying.
One of the funniest things is that unlike many babies, who do their best walking or standing when they don’t realize what they are doing, Emmie only ever walks when she knows *exactly* what she is doing. She will stand there and wait to make sure every last darn person is looking at her before she starts walking, and then the look on her face… Well, let’s just say it looks a LOT like this one.
As I’ve noted before, with Emmie’s big motor milestones (rolling, crawling, standing) have come big speech milestones too (babbling, first words, etc.). I thought that with her first steps we might see Emmie start to use more words, but it’s still just been “mama” and “dada.” Until Friday.
Yes, almost to the day of Emmie’s real debut of walking, Emmie has doubled her verbal output. She added “ball” and “bye bye” in one day, and now she is pretty consistently using both. Hooray!
***Major, unapologetic geek-out alert***
This is SO FASCINATING to me because one of the big underlying questions/problems with my thesis on sign development was the issue of motor development vs. language development. In most linguistic circles, linguists traditionally have been LOATHE to even consider anything motoric, for basically anything. Language, in the Chomskian tradition, is this pure abstract ideal that exists inside speaker’s brains. Language development people also have not traditionally looked at children’s motoric development for any motivation or explanation of how children acquire language.
However, when I was doing my research on acquisition of language in Deaf children, the motor piece became much harder to ignore, given that the articulators in sign are much bigger and easier to see (hands vs. tongue/lips/vocal folds). One of the phonological processes I found brought this directly into the forefront, as the terminology I had to use to describe it is most often used to discuss MOTORIC issues, not linguistic ones. Many of the kids I saw had difficulties with signs that crossed midline, like BEAR or SPIDER. These were typically developing Deaf two-year-olds, who presumably had no difficulty crossing midline in a nonlinguistic context. Therefore, this “phonological process” seemed to be highlighting some interesting intersection between our classical perception of language and children’s motoric development.
Phew! That was probably only interesting to 10% of you (and maybe comprehensible to even less), so thanks for bearing with me 🙂 I guess I should feel lucky that many of my readers are SLPs or linguists. I’d never get away with this on a “regular” blog!
The reason why Emmie’s development is FASCINATING to me is that her language development (specifically, her speech development*) seems to be very closely tied to her gross motor skills. Why? How? I have no idea. But it does seem to support the idea that motor skills and speech skills are a lot more related than many linguists (and possibly SLPs) want to admit.
Tl;dr version: Emmie is walking and talking. Yay!
*It’s worth noting that Emmie’s receptive language skills (the things she understands) have been completely unrelated to any other skill developments. I also find it interesting that her sign language skills also seem to be unrelated, and it’s only her speech skills that are connected to gross motor.**
**I am proud that my blog post has footnotes, but ashamed that I can’t figure out how to do them properly with superscript numbers and things. Sorry, fellow nerds.