Remember this post when Lily was 18 months old? We're still there. Practically in the same place. With more hope, more information, but not necessary more words.
Here's the scoop:
After her last hearing test we consulted a speech pathologist who recommended signing as well as using words and sounds constantly & always asking the child to repeat the sounds/words we were using. Lily caught onto signing in an hour and never looked back. She loves communicating, so another form of communication that will a) get her what she wants and b) get praise from us was an easy win.
The problem was that two full months later she was signing up a storm but no sounds or words were coming.
By no initiative of our own, we stumbled upon another speech pathologist. She was adamantly against signing. Super. The second speech path encouraged us to draw the hard line with sounds and words, only giving Lily things when she made a non-whining, non-crying sound. Even if the sound wasn't anything like the word. This would teach her that verbal sounds and words are how she gets things, not gestures, which she already had down pat. She also taught us about gross approximation words, and how when a child has a speech delay, speech paths look at "words" the child is using, even if they're not used exclusively for one object. Mama and Dada came to mind immediately - she uses them correctly for us, but also babbles them or uses them in other contexts. But they were counted as words and we needed to celebrate!
By no fault of the first speech path (there are different schools of thought regarding speech delays and ways to combat them), we had some back tracking to do. It's frustrating for Lily and us, because she still signs all.the.time. We've been instructed to never ignore a sign (because that would mean ignoring communication) but to do our best to not see them. And never do them ourselves or encourage them. So when we know Lily would normally sign for milk, we make sure we're not making eye contact when her and then say Lily can you say M M M if you want Milk? So far she's repeated sounds back after us for objects - something she was never doing when signing! When we ask her to say Berries she'll say ba ba ba (a sound she rarely even used in babbling!). When we ask her to say Yes she'll say ya ya. When I ask her who I am or to say Mama, she'll respond with Mama. Not every time, but much of the time. These might seem like silly things to celebrate, but we are thankful, and it is indeed progress. We also understand that because we spent two months signing which we're now not doing, it may be even longer before she's yammering away, but based on the progress already we know stopping sign was the best thing for Lily (though it works for lots of children!).
We are thankful and encouraged. She loves to communicate and is very social and is taking steps towards verbal communication. Discouraged, because she's still signing (she prefers it most likely because it's so simple) and not talking yet, but also hopeful because her hearing is excellent and she's making progress in such a small time. Today she had her second and final hearing test to make absolute sure hearing was not the problem for her speech delay. She passed with above average hearing. So proud of her.