DS is our fourth child so by the time he came along, I had a pretty good idea of what was normal when it came to milestones.
Compared to the girls, he sat, crawled, stood and walked a little earlier. But there was no waving, clapping or pointing; this worried me a little as I have a brother with Aspergers. However he seemed to be very social and was always keen to interact with the people around him so I didn’t worry *too* much.
I had noticed that he didn’t seem to do much babbling, instead he used ooh and ahh when he liked something and screeched like a banshee when he didn’t. But I just put this down to him being a bit slower with his speech; everyone told me boys often were.
DS was just over a year old when I really began to worry about his lack of sounds. A friend came over with her 6 month old who was babbling incessantly. DS was fascinated and as I listened to the baba dada nana noises that she was producing, I got a horrible sinking feeling.
Over the next few weeks I made a point of listening to the noises DS was making and realised that he didn’t have any consonant sounds. Google suggested autism, which I was reasonably confident he didn’t have, or verbal dyspraxia, which seemed to be a good fit.
Verbal dyspraxia is a speech disorder of children where they have difficulty in making and co-ordinating the precise movements of the mouth, lips and tongue required to speak properly. There is usually no evidence of damage to nerves or muscles. Children with VD have difficulty in producing individual speech sounds and in sequencing sounds and their speech, when it comes, can be unintelligible. But his understanding was good and sometimes he was the only one in the house who did what he was told.
When DS was about 18 months, we paid for a private ST to assess him. She told us the sounds he was making weren’t babbling; developmentally he’d not even reached that stage yet. He had the language skills of a 3-6 month old baby and was falling further behind by the day.
I took him to our GP who told me I was worrying unnecessarily and to come back if he had no words by the age of two. I ignored him and solicited an appointment with the local Child Development Centre through our Health Visitor. DS was assessed with a speech disorder and referred for Speech Therapy.
I felt like we were getting somewhere but the first lot of Speech Therapy we attended felt like it was worse than useless for him. We were required to attend group sessions with 5 other children. DS was 2, but the other kids were 3 and 4 and most of them had some words. The class was really designed to help children expand their vocabulary, not deal with a toddler who didn’t have enough sounds, let alone words.
I found the ST unhelpful and unapproachable and she kept insisting I put DS in the naughty corner every time he had a tantrum. And because the class comprised of the therapist taking out a toy, demonstrating how to play with it, then everyone having one turn before passing it on to the next child, he had a lot of tantrums. But it was a hoop that had to be jumped to so we could access some one to one therapy for him, so we persisted with the classes. Luckily they only last for 8 weeks.
I was hugely dispirited by the time we finished that first class and started looking at our options. We visited the Speech, Language and Hearing Centre in Christopher Place and received a similar diagnosis as we had from the first private ST we’d seen. They suggested we start signing with him, so I went on a Signalong course.
He picked up signing quickly and started to use a sound or two along with the signs. We were told this was normal. Then he acquired a consonant and began to say Mumma spontaneously. He was attempting specific sounds, as can be seen in this video of him making animal noises. A lot of them sound quite similar.
At this stage we were still waiting for more speech therapy on the NHS, but it was 7 months since we’d finished our group sessions and I was slowly giving up hope. We saw yet another private therapist who agreed VD was the most likely diagnosis, and said his speech was now at least 18 months behind his age. We were planing to ask her if she’d give him weekly sessions but instead she convinced me to give the NHS one last go. She told me who to ring, and what to say; I rang on Friday and miraculously the following Monday there was a phone call from Speech and Language services saying a space had come up for DS.
We started one to one sessions that Thursday and have now been going pretty much weekly for over a year. He likes his speech therapist and she is using the Nuffield programme with him; he’s progressing well.
This was what his speech was like just before Christmas 2010. You can see he’s still signing a lot.
But we persevered. He started to refuse to do his worksheets at home, so his lovely nursery stepped in and assigned a staff member to go through them with him every day he was there. We bumped his days at nursery up from 2 to 3 and I made a real effort to work what ever this weeks task was into everyday life.
This was his speech in February 2011, after 5 months of weekly one to one sessions. At this stage, some words were very clear when used on their own but very unclear when used in a sentence.
By September 2011, we could have conversations like this with him. He’d pretty much stopped signing except for the word ‘chocolate’. He was onto the third level of the Nuffield Programme but was constantly being held back by his inability to form his back sounds; k and g.
But we kept plugging away at it and last week, during his weekly session, it all came together and he started to consistently be able to make back sounds. He can now say yuck instead of yut, and car instead of ar. I’m so proud of him and quite rightly, he’s pretty pleased with himself as well. It’s music to my ears.
I haven’t got any video of him using his new sounds yet, but it’s only a matter of time. And when I do you’ll have to endure another Proud Mummy Post. Sorry.