Friday, March 05, 2010

should we talk about talking

Al doesn't talk much yet.

That is right he is almost three and only says about 10 words. The clearest of which are 'no' and his versions of his brother's and the dog's names. So worry right?

Gaye and I have taken it in turns to worry about this; with one parent thinking it will be okay while the other is concerned about it. This worry alternation has facilitated a series of appointments and tests for hearing and development - with one parent almost always at the 'just in case'/'just to be sure' stage at anyone time.

See the thing is Al understands everything. EVERYTHING. He can follow and understand two or three part instructions, he is able to communicate - through signs and charm and sounds - to have his needs met. He is a happy and joy filled child. Who is engaged and connected with the people in his life and the world around him. Not even the slightest bit frustrated by his own lack of talking. As it turns out all the appointments and tests have endorsed that he is meeting all his other development milestones in fine form and has almost perfect hearing. So surely I shouldn't worry? But should we do anything?

I have learnt to use completely different language about Al's language development when talking to different people. With professionals I talk about his perfectly developed receptive language but under developed expressive language. With our families and friends I talk about how the professionals say he will talk when he is ready. With Thomas I talk about everyone developing 'at his or her own rate' and how sometimes 'we all need help with something' and in our family when we need extra help with something we are lucky enough to be able to afford a 'teacher' or a tool to do that. 'Like you with reading darling, remember you needed a teacher to help you catch up. And now look at you, years ahead of your class level.'

Thomas definitely thinks we should do something if Al should be talking by now. My mother and Gaye's mother think we should leave well enough alone. 'He is clearly bright enough and understanding everything he will talk when he is ready.' My sister who spends more time with him than his grandmothers combined thinks that she would 'be worrying a bit by now if I was you'

The staff at little school were, I think, pretty surprised at Al's ability to communicate without language. I think they thought we were a bit in denial before they spent time with him but now agree that Al can get any message across that he wants and understands 'absolutely everything' that is said around him. In fact one of the reasons we sent him to little school was the hope that interacting with other children and/or having adults (and older brother) around who didn't interpret his every need from the raising of an eyebrow might inspire him to use more language. So far it has meant a much clearer and definite no!

A couple of weeks ago I saw a TV show about an early intervention centre. As we both have backgrounds in education/children with disabilities Gaye and I understand the (positive) difference that early intervention can make. We also understand the (negative) impact that diagnosis/labelling can have on how a child is perceived.

Anyway inspired by the positive engagement and good outcomes showcased on this program I rang the centre for an appointment for Al. I then rang our paediatrician for a referral. 'The blah blah centre?' she said. 'Al doesn't need to go there!' We talked about how ineffectual the local speech therapist at the hospital had been (she kept asking me if we read to him...) and so she suggested we go to another 'if you are really worried about it.'

Last Friday Gaye took him. He behaved in ways unseen before. He was unwell and had been up all night with asthma. He refused to talk, refused to play, banged his head against the door hard enough to make the room shake, signed to be taken to the toilet about 8 times in the hour, spat his food out and did not look at the speechy. Gaye said it was mortifying. As each time the speechy asked him or Gaye something Al did the opposite. Gaye said the speechy started doing that slow nodding and 'of coursing' that a person does when they clearly think you are off your rocker/in denial. Gaye also said the speechy had crap toys and was in Al's face - surely not something you would generally do with an almost three year old?

I took him to the paediatrician that afternoon to have his chest listened to. She laughed ALOT when I told her about the appointment - as the now rested and comfy Al was charming and chatty (sounds not words) with her. 'Ohhh I am looking forward to that report Al!' she said.

We think the speechy thinks he completely developmentally delayed (she says his speech is at 15 months) and we are in complete denial. So we asked her to delay the report until after she had seen him again 'when he was feeling better.' She is coming to do a house visit next week. Sigh ...

And see now I feel quite judgemental of her - who judges a three year old on one meeting? what sort of professional who works with children has missing part/not fitting and dull toys?

Sometimes I wish I wasn't the parent who did something...

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