Vocabulary

The baby signing books have arrived, and I have started to waggle my hands at Harry accordingly. He is taking absolutely not a blind bit of notice.

I surprised myself by recalling a few BSL signs from the early 1990s when I learnt a little. I found I could remember how to say ‘Wifey’ ‘I love you’, ‘Fuck off’, ‘I’ve had it up to here with you’ and, bizarrely, ‘My hamster died of a sore bottom’. Until I expand my repertoire, I feel any conversation I might start with a passing deaf person could only sink into dark places.

I am still looking for the signs that will enable me to say, clearly and simply, ‘shutup shutup shutUP you rotten little perisher you’ve screamed your tits off all bloody night and now it’s 4.30pm and you’ve been screaming in your cot for 30 sodding minutes and you still refuse to nap and you’re now the most odious little ragey person in the entire world’.

So far, I have figured out ‘shut up’ and ‘tits’.

ETA: Hubby has just volunteered the fact that one of his ex girlfriends could sign, and he learnt a few phrases off her for use in the pub. He has just signed ‘would you like to sit on my face?’

I repeat, we will not be engaging any deaf person in conversation. Realms of the dark… etc.

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Complacency

Be careful where you drop that pin. You’ll wake the toddler. 

Even bunged up with cold, Harry’s hearing was absolutely tip-top. Which we were expecting, given that we can’t keep the opening of a packet of crisps private anymore, so I’m not at all sure why we were so cheerful leaving the appointment. It involved, incidentally, some exceedingly funny toys being suddenly lit up and waggled in dark speaker boxes and some very odd sounds indeed. There was minimal ear-probing and much toy-waving. Fingers were retained by all parties. 

The speech and language therapist rang me this morning to say she could come out for Harry’s home assessment next Tuesday. The Tuesday that we will be in Wales. Arse! Thankfully, she is also free the following week, so we now have exactly a fortnight before being told officially that Harry is facing a developmental delay.

It’s a funny thing, but until I spoke to her, I wasn’t actually thinking any further forward in time than the assessment itself. It’s as if I somehow assumed that once Harry was taken under the wing of the professionals, he would magically start speaking overnight; that the People Who Do Speech would find a set of control buttons on him somewhere, have a quick tweak, and… voila! Talking toddler!

But the girl on the phone sounded… well, a girl. About 18, or thereabouts. It wasn’t that I lost faith in her ability whatsoever at all, but it did make me mentally re-assess my expectations. I was consequently obliged to demote Speech Therapists down a notch from ‘Deity’. I asked myself, for the first time, ‘What is it that this person can actually do for Harry?’

The answer, which I should have come up with many, many months ago, is ‘help me to help him.’ And how will she do that?

When Harry was 9 months or so, a friend went to a series of baby-sign classes, and enthused that I should go along. I vaguely considered the idea, looked at the cost and the travel, and rejected it, on the basis that Harry would doubtless be talking soon enough. 

When Harry turned one, I had another think about it, but I was already pretty fully committed throughout the week with one baby group and another, and I thought the words would be coming pretty soon anyway. And so it has gone on.

Harry has no real contemporary among the babies we see every week- they are mainly a few months either way – so his lack of speech has not actually been glaring to anyone. For the last few months, I have kept vaguely thinking to myself that, yes, actually, baby signing would probably have been a good thing for Harry to start when he was a little younger. He would be the oldest child in the class if we started now – and surely, the words won’t be much longer coming, will they?

And today I have realised just how much I have let him down by not doing absolutely everything I could to help him communicate. I was beginning to realise on Saturday when we met Pob, who was born the week Harry was due and is communicating beautifully, at a level simply light-years beyond Harry’s pointing, urgent grunts, and snatching. The difference in disposition also struck me – Pob was the absolute epitome of toddler tranquility amongst her toynapping tiny visitors, whilst Harry often treats any child visiting Hairy Mansions with barely-veiled hostility. He is beginning to have epic, kingsize, storming meltdowns that leave us both utterly distraught; I have to take him to the supermarket tomorrow, and I’m already dreading the inevitable scene when the constant supply of placating satsuma segments lose their appeal.

His temper lapses and frequent misery have come about because of my failings as a parent. I was still uneasy after his Paediatrician’s ‘don’t worry, give him time, but I’ll refer him anyway’ reassurances last November, but took no action. I imagine he is actually quite right. I’m sure Harry will talk, given time. The two words that he has spoken – months ago now – were crystal clear and would have done a BBC newsreader credit. I feel sure – except in the dark pit of the night – that this is a developmental delay, not a disability. Ditto – slightly less confidently – his wobbliness.

But. But but but. 

Harry is likely to spend many months catching up, and those are important, formative months. Months that he will spend screaming in continued frustration that we simply cannot understand him – partly because we haven’t made every effort.

So, we will now try to repair the damage.

baby-signs

and

baby-sign-meal-time

arrive tomorrow.

I have rather pinned my hopes on them helping.

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