Before I start, here's a link that explains a tongue-tie. CLICK HERE.
At right is a picture of Jake at 15 months, trying to stick out his tongue while smiling. You can see how his tongue rolls back under and is forked because he can't extend it past his lips.
Jake's speech developed atypically, but he also was born with a tongue tie - which caused not only articulation problems as he learned to talk, but problems with eating.
Jake did great with nursing, bottle feeding, and baby food, but he had a hard time transitioning to chunky food -- he would often gag even at the difference between baby applesauce and regular applesauce. He also had a hard time properly CHEWING his food because his tongue couldn't make the proper motions to move food around his mouth. Meats were the hardest for him to try to eat; he usually gagged and spit them out, although hot dogs were soft enough to eat when cut up in small pieces.
I'm honestly amazed he was able to breast-feed as a newborn. I still can't figure that one out.
We didn't put two and two together and figure out how much the tongue tie was affecting Jake until he was almost 4. And it was my cousin - who at the time had 3 kids (one with autism) and had attended maybe a semester of college at that point - who spelled it out for me. All the different doctors and therapists we had seen up until that point, and SHE was the one who was able to see what was clearly in front of our faces.
I'm still a little upset the doctors didn't talk to us more about the tongue tie when Jake was born. Three doctors - my OB, the pediatrician who checked Jake out in the hospital as a newborn, AND the pediatrician we ended up going to regularly - ALL basically just mentioned the tongue tie in passing. They said that it really wasn't a big deal and we should just "see what happens" as he gets older - but they didn't tell us what to watch for! They didn't say "When he starts learning to speak, watch for articulation problems and that will be a sign that surgical intervention may be necessary." Or hey, how about "Make sure the tip of his tongue can move up to touch the back of his top teeth, because that's necessary to make an L sound"?! I personally think they should have told me to go for an exam around the 3 year mark, just to see how things were progressing. But me being a new mom, I just kind of forgot about the tongue tie -- the doctors weren't concerned, why should I be?
(To be fair, typically the frenulum - part of the tongue causing the tongue tie - naturally recedes between the ages of 6 months and 6 years as part of the growth process . . . so many children's tongue ties will grow less severe as time passes. But Jake's? was. not. budging.)
After I realized what the problem was, I told Jake's pediatrician, who referred us to an ear/nose/throat guy. We had a perfunctory visit that lasted all of 5 minutes - gotta love paying the $30 copay for those - and we scheduled the procedure. Jake turned 4 in September 2006, and the surgery was in October.
The surgical procedure to correct a tongue tie is incredibly simple. Basically they use a tool to both cut and cauterize the small offending piece of skin at the same time. It took much longer to travel to the hospital, sign in at two different places, sit in a waiting room, and be called back into a pre-surgery room to sit and wait again.
The scariest part was that they had to put Jake under for the procedure. The actual procedure? Jake was gone for less then 10 minutes before they wheeled him back into the room. Then we had to wait around about an hour to make sure he recovered from the anesthesia ok before heading home.
After the procedure, Jake was supposed to stay away from salty or spicy foods for two weeks, because it could irritate the small spots under his tongue that were healing. Folks, he was eating potato chips three days afterward. He had no problems and no persistent pain. The doctor who did the procedure said that if we had problems or questions we could come in for a follow-up visit, but that it wasn't mandatory.
It took about a year after the procedure for Jake's articulation to start to catch up (emphasis on START) - he had learned to speak with a certain set of limitations, and they were all he knew. Strangely, he didn't qualify for speech therapy - even after reparative surgery to his mouth! - but that's just another doctor/insurance mystery.
His speech still isn't perfect - he speaks quickly like me, often mutters, and still sometimes forgets to articulate. But the important thing is that there's nothing physical PREVENTING him from having the capability of speaking clearly. I only wish we had corrected it sooner.