Mr 4 is a slow talker. I don’t mean he drawls and takes his time, he just started talking late, and has not caught up with his peers. I didn’t worry about this at first. Miss 10 was also slow to start. She started pre-school at 2 years 8 months, virtually silent, but within a term she was talking in sentences, and within two terms you wouldn’t have noticed any difference between her and anyone else. I assumed that Mr 4 would do the same, if a bit slower as boys do tend to lag girls in speech development.
He went off to pre-school, cheerful, happy and quiet. They were obviously aware of his lack of speech, and after a couple of months recommended that a speech therapist come to assess him, and I agreed. Luckily they had regular visits from a tame speech therapist who came to do small group work with those who needed it. She played with him and chatted to him, and said that, whilst he was behind, she didn’t think it was quite serious enough to need a referral for one on one speech therapy, but he should definitely be part of the small group work.
The following week the council cancelled the small group work as part of a cost cutting exercise, and Mr 4 got added to the waiting list for one-on-one speech therapy.
The next time I went to Hay on Wye, I picked up a book called Childhood Speech, Language and Listening Problems. I was hoping that it would either reassure me that he wasn’t doing that badly, or give me ideas of what a speech therapist might do to help. It did neither. It reinforced that he was way behind where he should be, and had no practical suggestions other than ‘refer to a professional’. I think he was about a year behind in his speech, and when you’re just about to turn 4, that’s significant.
A while later, Mr 4 had earache, then had some earwax the texture of gravel come out. Now he has come off the waiting list again, because his speech has improved so much. I re-read some of the book, and now, it does reassure me. He is catching up. Of course, it might be a coincidence, but now that his speech has improved, he can tell me that sometimes his hearing is ‘fuzzy’ and a couple of drops of oil seems to sort it out. How funny if it was something so simple all along, and it’s just that no-one checked. He could always hear – he could sing along, and all his vowel sounds came out right, but the consonants have taken a long time to come right. Hearing things fuzzily could definitely cause that.
I am writing all this now, because a couple of days ago we went to the dentist (a whole family outing, don’t complain we never do anything exciting!). He was chatting away to everyone there, telling them about his cough, and his castle he’s going to live in, and demanding stickers, and they understood him. I suddenly realised that these weren’t people used to him, not childcare specialists, used to toddler pronunciation, but actual normal adults in an adult world. He can communicate.