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.




arrive tomorrow.

I have rather pinned my hopes on them helping.


12 Responses

  1. Dearest HFF-ess,

    Reading this post made me kind of teary. You’re so brave about facing up to what must be a difficult thing. No parent wants to see their child left behind by their peers.

    Hoping the SALT does have miracle powers and young Harry is chirping away, soon.



  2. Not to minimize your knowledge of your son, but it seems to me that boys are just more difficult and stubborn about talking. My friend has a boy, now about 10, who is bright and articulate, who ABSOLUTELY REFUSED to talk. She and he used sign language – he just wasn’t ready for talking. Her second son was similar, but not quite as stubborn. My husband’s nephew can’t speak half as well as his twin sister. But, I think the sign language will definitely help because you’ll be more able to know what he wants from you. Yes, Harry might be delayed, but then again, he may just suddenly decide to speak in full sentences one day. Regardless, taking action always feels better than waiting for something to happen.

  3. Have you considered the Signing Time dvds? I don’t know if they make a region 2 version, but they were great for teaching signing since they involve real kids singing and signing.

  4. Even if you did nothing, that doesn’t make you a bad parent!!!! Don’t beat yourself up over this. You did what the experts told you, and you did keep pressing until they had to finally admit that something was up. You are most certainly not “failing as a parent!” I hope the books help, and I’m glad that you finally have some answers.

  5. I completely agree that not doing anything sooner doesn’t mean you have failed. If he’s showing frustration, now is the time to do something and not, necessarily, before.

  6. Not sure about what TV channels you get, but on Cbeebies there is a great programme called something special where they sign everything. It has this wonderful hyperactive guy acting it, plus lots of different children. Might be worth recordign a couple of episodes?

    I found the books ok, but a particular website which had pictures of children signing was even better. Of course now I can’t find it for love nor money – I’m only finding the commercial ones by googling – but I’ll look at home and send you the link if I can get hold of it.

    Good luck sweetie.

  7. Ha found it.

    These kids are doing US signing, which has some diff signs eg for mummy and daddy, but the basic signs that Pob really enjoyed like ‘more’ ‘eat’ ‘sleep’ ‘bath’ ‘hot’ look to be mostly the same.

  8. A horrible parent is someone who fails to do anything and isn’t at all attentive to their child. You can’t retrospectively look at what you think you should have been doing, because it’s impossible to see the future unless you have some ability I’m not aware of. Who is to say signing would have been successful anyway? Many children just aren’t into it, like mine. I tried, but she was either too lazy or too belligerant to bother. You could have spent all that money and travel time on signing lessons that wouldn’t have been advantageous anyway.

    We happen to have that book too, and I think it’s certainly worth seeing if Harry is receptive to signing. Just don’t beat yourself up over this issue that is unlikely to have changed anything.

    I was just reading about 18 month old tantruming, so it’s not just Harry!:

    I know it’s futile asking a parent to not second guess themselves, who doesn’t do it? However, I’ll just add to the chorus and say that you’re doing everything you can for him, and that’s all you can do right now anyway.

  9. I second the signing times DVDs – they’re fab. Being surrounded by signing children (all my friends have used signing here) it goes beyond “just” signing or even basic communication its a brilliant gateway to a child’s mind and just how much they notice. Case in point some friends were over with their 14 month old who doesn’t talk really yet and she was playing with my dog and kept signing bear and laughing. We kept saying “not bear, dog” and doing the signs until we realised she was laughing at a little stuffed bear dog toy. It was amazing that she noticed and then told us about the little details.

    You are in no way a bad parent – only hindsight is 20/20. Enjoy the signing – remember that you and the hairy husband need to do it together and all the time but most kids I know have started picking up the signs within 4 – 6 weeks of introduction so don’t expect it overnight! Good luck!

  10. Serves me right reading posts backwards. I hope that the signing and the speech therapist both help. I think you have done totally the right thing trying these things. From my limited experience I would also second what “a” says above – boys are just different to girls. My girl was like Thalia’s Pob – loads of words early, talk, talk, talk. My son just wasn’t like that – really not much intelligible speech at all until he was 2. Since then he is a different child and now at 2 and a 1/4 its all talk, talk, talk.

  11. What they all said.

    Also, howling shrieking raging turning-purple tantrums at this age? I’m sorry, but they are utterly normal and expected. Sorry. My mother, used to my placid biddability (no sniggering) recalls taking Trouble to the doctor about her 18-month Screamathons, and the doctor listening kindly and then saying, ‘well, what IS wrong with her, then?’

  12. Professional hat on, I think you are absolutely right to have gone ahead with the referral and I hope not too many people in real life have been saying “he’s a boy, he’ll catch up”. The difference between boys and girls represents about 3 weeks of language development, you’re looking at something bigger than that here.

    Having said that, signing is supposed to help with frustration in particular (it probably won’t make him speak faster but it will make life easier while he isn’t!), and although prematurity is pretty much always associated with a little delay, try and look at the big picture if you can – he’s definitely not grossly delayed, and he’s definitely on course for a “mainstream life” if you see what I mean!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: