This is how I like my children…
In the garden, being noisy, having fun, not connected to app or screen or anything much. It seems a pretty perfect way to be. Bene, like his biggest sister was, is in his element when he’s being physically boisterous. He’s all about body at the moment, has been from the start in fact and very little of what he expends processing power on is about speech.
That doesn’t bother me at all. He’s exactly like Fran, Maddy and Josie were – he’s building physical abilities before verbal ones. Our children have been firmly divided into 2 camps; those who were physically able from early on but had delayed speech and the one who could talk the hind leg off a donkey at 1 but took months longer than the others to walk.
Before I wax my uneducated lyricals on this, I’ve got experience, I’d like to say. We knew Fran would have speech issues from the day of her birth; her cleft palate made it a near certainty and glue ear added to that. Maddy was a bit baffling but her Aspergers eventually cleared that up and even now she has elements of language processing problems that are just ‘part of her’. With hindsight it is as easy to see why she was a late talker as it is to see why Amelie of the high IQ and precocious brain but hyper-mobile joints spoke early and read early but walked late. (I have no explanation for Josie, I think she just couldn’t get a word in edgeways). So I know my way around how little people end up walking and talking.
In a nutshell, even with obstacles and issues, they all largely seem to get there.
We met our first speech therapist on the day Fran was born, a lovely lady who helped us get bottles she could use to feed from and talked us through all the myriad of steps that would happen to get her mouth fixed. We met her regularly, they referred her to groups and sessions and various interventions which I dutifully turned up to most of but in the end, the geography of her mouth was wrong and she had to learn to use it and a paltry 30 minutes of NHS time once in a blue moon made no difference. (Surgery eventually has). I took a non-verbal 4 year old Maddy to the ST once because I was starting to get nervous – and Maddy erupted into speech on the spot. I’m fairly sure that wasn’t her skills as a speech therapist though Nothing we did made Fran or Maddy talk late any more than we made Amelie talk early with magically improved parenting (although on reflection, Fran possibly wasn’t assisted by over exposure to Teletubbies, which just happen to mirror a cleft child’s natural issues!) I really don’t think we could have made them earlier talkers either.
We gave up with Speech Therapy in much the same way we gave up trying to force them to read early or do maths early or walk ‘on time’. The NHS turned Amelie’s flappy footed gait away but eventually she overcame it and I can safely say that my house of not-early-talkers-apart-from-one are now a highly verbal and noisy bunch.
Oh… and baby signing? I’m sorry but just no. I cannot for the life of me understand why you would teach a child you are fretting about speech delay over how to communicate without speech. Nothing focuses the mind of a small person more than being able to say “give me a biscuit!” We’ve never done signing, I roll my eyes at nursery over it – and everyone can talk. Baby signing worries me mostly because there are people making money out of it – and I just wonder about stuff like that. (Sorry, I know people love it, just not me).
Bene is a late talker; he is, oddly enough, a supremely good communicator and has been exceptionally good at getting us to understand him for a good year or more. But speech? Not so much. He’s assembled words for most things with wheels (truck, lorry, train, tractor, bus, bike, car) and obviously we have “NO!” and “CAKE!” (he’s a bit like Father Jack) and “mulk” for milk has replaced shrieking “THIS!” while pointing determinedly. He’s getting a bit better at copying this last week or so and has approximations of names for all of us; this week his cleverness has been a handful of ‘useful’ words (go, that, more, here) and the beginnings of sentences are happening – “Mummy… here.. mulk..” and “Daddy… go… juice!” I suppose he’ll be talking at some point in the next year and will probably beat his biggest two sisters and rumble in over the line somewhere close to where Josie did (and I have no idea when that was; how terrible is that?!)
I don’t spend any time checking up on if he’s on target, off target, ahead or behind. I don’t spend any time doing joining in rhymes on purpose to build speech or speaking in exaggerated sentences to encourage him. I don’t get him to ask for things or repeat things, or say words to fulfill social conventions (alone of all my children, he has a spontaneous word for thank you, “da-da-la”, which he came up with himself and uses appropriately and consistently). It probably makes me a terrible parent, but I just don’t care. He’s going to talk eventually.
What’s my point? Nothing really. Don’t sweat the small stuff, I might say. I’m convinced that unless you have an actual issue like a cleft, hearing etc or autism, selective mutism etc then it’ll all come right with no NHS ‘magic’. There are relatively few silent adults in the world (far fewer than adults who could do with shutting up occasionally anyway). It’ll probably come right. Sooner or later, the vast majority of parents end up saying “for the love of Pete… shhhhh!”
*Bene will almost certainly now go completely silent and never speak again to pay me back for writing this.