Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Einstein Syndrome

I wrote a post a few days ago about Buzz, my late talker. I credited finding the book "The Einstein Syndrome - Bright Children Who Talk Late" by the Stanford Professor Thomas Sowell, as a breakthrough moment for us in finding out why she wasn't talking. I wanted to write a little bit more about the book and my own observations concerning Buzz.

The book goes on the premise that Einstein did not talk until 3-4, yet was a genius. This kind of gives you the hope that your mumbled mouth toddler who relies on caveman speech might indeed by the next intellectual phenomenon. After years of feeling like a failure as a mother who can't seem to teach her child to say simple things like milk, cup or "Hi", this was the boost of confidence I really needed. Buzz had hit every milestone either a little early or right on time, but not talking. Not only was I feeling pretty low about my teaching skills, but I had many (well-intentioned) family members questioning her abilities and even strangers would give me that "look" when she couldn't answer the basic question of "what is your name?" It took our beloved doctor mentioning Early Intervention and speech therapy to finally light the match under me to find an answer. Once we had a couple of appointments with Early Intervention and them mistaking her lack of speech and unusual shyness as Autism, I stumbled across this book. It lists the following "qualifiers" for a child with "Einstein Syndrome"
  1. Outstanding and precocious analytical abilities and / or musical abilities
  2. Outstanding memories
  3. Strong wills
  4. Highly selective interests, leading to unusual achievement in some areas and disinterests and ineptness in others
  5. Delayed toilet training
  6. Precocious ability to read and / or use numbers and or/use computers
  7. Close relatives in occupations requiring outstanding analytical and/or musical abilities
  8. Unusual concentration and absorption in what they are doing
Buzz matched perfectly with all 8 of these "qualifiers". At the age of 10 months she was obsessed with her tiny piano and my own keyboard. She would slowly hit the keys performing a perfect scale with a patience that amazed me. Just for fun, I cut out small circles of different colors of construction paper and provided her with a piece of sheet music for a simple 3 note "Mary Had A Little Lamb" using the coordinating colors with the notes to be played. She had it mastered in no time and has since displayed an unusual ability to verbally replay music she has heard.

Then there is the puzzles. It started with little 4 piece board puzzles but progressed to her being able to do 50-75 piece puzzles by herself at age 2 1/2. The child put together puzzles that would have made me pull my hair out and sling the box across the room.

Her father also talked late and has grown up to be a mathematical genius, doing complicated math problems in his head as though he was just reciting off his favorite colors. He is also highly logical/analytical...but he leaves his dirty socks in the floor.

I only highlighted a few of the qualifiers with Buzz but the main observation I made was her own personality suffering for her lack of being able to express herself. Being both strong willed and fiercely independent, made talking late just as devastating for her as it was for me. Because she couldn't tell me her wants, needs or feelings, she was left to using two strong emotions to get her point across. Happy or fury. If she wanted a cup of milk, but I thought she wanted a cup of juice; there was Fury. If I took her to get her haircut and she was afraid of the situation and strangers, there was Fury. I messed up a lot between the ages of 18 months and 3 years old. More times than I care to admit, I forced her to just suck it up and deal with it because I couldn't understand what she was feeling and was just tired of the tantrums all the time. Now that I look back at it, I can see that 90% of the tantrums were not just a two-year old thing, but a lack of communication thing.

Once we met with Mary Camarata whose studies were included in the book of Thomas Sowell's, I began to better understand Buzz's behavior and began to learn with her and how we could communicate with each other. We only attended one session with Dr. Camarata but she provided countless phone consults and insight that furthered my education on late talking children. I learned that Buzz could be taught to use body language and tone inflection to communicate. We could use pictures to show wants and needs. I encouraged her to do things herself, rather than take over. (For instance, if she wanted something to drink, I opened the fridge and let her hand me what she wanted) This let her know that her "voice" was important and what she wanted really did matter. It gave her a confidence to keep on trying to communicate.

Now for my disclaimer...just because your child may not be talking, do not assume that they fall into "The Einstein Syndrome" Have your child evaluated by your pediatrician and discuss your concerns about lack of speech. As I said in my previous post, there are many reasons for late talking and you need to be able to rule these things out.

Buzz turned 4 in December and is now gaining new words every day. The tantrums have stopped...well, the ones due to communication...and she is turning into a social butterfly.

If you have any questions about this subject, please feel free to contact me using the "contact me" button in the sidebar.

12 comments:

Alison said...

When my latest talker was barely understandable at 4 yrs old, her youngers sister was talking sentences when she was not quite yet 2... it was kind of crazy, our earliest talker seemed to spur on our latest talker... they are so incredibly individual!
Our late talker was also our latest potty trainer, by far, and in as many ways as she seems 'slow' she has other ways in which she seems simply amazing. And the next younger, the incredible early talker, has issues in other areas that have me wondering at times... they are so different!!
I haven't read that book, though I have heard of it and have appreciated Thomas Sowell... I may have to add it to my evergrowing list...

Cop Mama said...

Good for you for taking charge and figuring out what was going on. That's amazing that she could play a simple scale and do large puzzles. Thank you for being so honest. I think this is good information for all parents.

ANASHD said...

OMG- you just described my third son who is 18 now...i need to e-mail you..Thanks for posting this, you've opened a new door for me..

Blessings,
Ana

LJFredricks said...

Thanks for sharing! What a good mom you are!

Missy said...

Your little girl sounds alot like our little guy. 2.5 to 3.5 was the hardest for us. He's really hit his stride lately. I can safely say 5 has been the magic year for us. There's just been a tremendous onslaught of language in the last 6 months. I've heard that from the parents of other late talkers, too.

Keeslermom said...

My son fits that list of criteria perfectly. I guess I better read the book! His diagnosis is Asperger's syndrome(high functioning autism), which lead me to some questions:

What's the difference between Aspi and Einsteins? Why not go with the autism diagnosis and get the offered therapies? You'd get the needed speech plus OT for sensory issues. Kids with ASD get more time and money for therapies, so even if you don't agree with the diagnoses, wouldn't it be better to get more?

Crayon Wrangler said...

Keeslermom,

This is just my opinion...It's the same as going to the doctor for a stuffed up nose. You may be given a nose spray for allergies when you really have a cold. Sure, the nose spray may clear your nose; but it is treating a symptom and not the problem. Long term, it may/may not have the same benefit.
Yes, some forms of Autism and LT share the same "symptoms" and possibly speech therapy and some of the OT might be beneficial, but I made a choice to seek help from those who were researching LT and had proven techniques specifically for LT. She might have thrived just fine with the Autism diagnosis and the help might have been just as good. I just felt she was not Autistic and wanted more "specialized" help.
Does that make sense?

Susan Fobes said...

This is very interesting. I am so glad you did not settle for the Autism diagnosis! I am convinced that this is the new "catch all" used to label children who don't fit a certain mold. What child is like every other?

I too was worried about my son (second child) who was a slow talker finally saying "yes" at age 2 1/2(everything else was no.) My daughter on the other hand came out of the womb talking and has been doing it ever since. Our pediatrician eased my fears about this and about the toilet training problems-my son did everything on his terms in his own time... But after these first few setbacks, his vocabulary skyrocketed (he was spelling words for me in our car rides together) and at 7 he is reading my 10 year old's chapter books and completing 100+ puzzles. You just never know, right?

Keeslermom said...

That makes complete sense!

We gladly took the ASD diagnosis, because we'd struggled for 3 years to get services for sensory processing disorder, which out school district refused to grant services for, or even admit was a real thing! I'm delighted you guys were able to get the best fit for your little one! Our kids deserve the best!

Arizona Mamma said...

I have never heard of that before, and as I read, I was evaluating my 18 month old in my head. He does say words, but so many of them are just caveman like. I keep saying "he's only 18 months," but my daughter was already using two words together at that age.

Mom of the Perpetually Grounded said...

Here's another one for you. My niece had to go to speech therapy for several years as a child. When she was small she was not understandable at all. She did later excel in math and is now a middle school math teacher.

Amanda T said...

Hey there Im a new follower from Friday Follow! Hope to see you around my blog sometime! :)

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