For A Given Value Of ‘Speech’

I wish I had a fiver – a quid, even – for every time I’ve been happily told by a fellow Speech Worrier that once kids start talking ‘you can’t shut them up.’ I am difficult to reassure on this particular topic, but, as it happens, my informants have been – broadly – correct.

True: I can’t shut Harry up; there is a stream of conversation and song bubbling constantly in my ears. It is equal parts delightful, wearying and insanely frustrating, because – you guessed it – it’s unintelligible. Lest you think me unreasonable and ungrateful: you try hearing – and praising! – a staccato twenty-minute rendition of (what we assume) is a particularly favoured song, sung entirely on 3 (bum) notes with 2 lonely syllables. I am pretty sure I suffered some degree of cortical atrophy in May.

This is not to say that progress is not being made. ‘Baaarrrrrrr!’ (‘Bye’) ‘Uh’ (‘No’) and ‘Airrrrrroww!’ (‘Hello’ – often delivered à la Stewie


are entirely distinguishable by his familiars in context. ‘Dere’ (‘Voila!’) and ‘Dere-tis’ (I can see it!) feature frequently. Harry’s long standing preference for ‘eess’ as a default syllable means that we can manipulate his output a little further: he can achieve an ‘Ieessss!’ when asked to say ‘Geese’ and ‘Ooouss!’ when asked what he wants to drink. ‘Ooouss’ he has to work especially hard for, cerebrally – his eyes virtually cross and his mouth works frantically for a second or so before the word bursts forth, Tourette’s-fashion.

10 days before we see his new Paed. 10 long days. I have much to discuss. Strangely, I have a paucity of expectation regarding the nature of Harry’s EEG results. All I can say with confidence at this stage is that neither a clear or abnormal result would surprise me.

His mobility is improving, slowly but discernably; we had a trip to the big park this week entirely devoid of maternal trauma and toddler bruising. His understanding seems good; certainly the phrase ‘devious little bugger’ gets thrown around a lot. His latest tantrum technique is lamentably cliched: throwing himself petulantly face-down on the floor with an outraged wail of woe, which would be side-splittingly comical if it wasn’t so tediously frequent and attached to an emotional hair-trigger. His Makaton is improving, but lesser-used signs are awfully, awfully vague.

‘Sign it again, please, Harry. Ummm… Car? No, not car. Truck? Bus? Lorry? No? No. God. Umm. I don’t know, I’m sorry, sweetie. Do it again for Mummy? Right-ho… errr… Train? No. God. Let me see… you’re moving both your hands up and down… little noise… Poorly? Naughty? No? No… Oh, I’m sorry, sweetheart, I just don’t get it at all. Try it again? Poor lad. Oh! Hands near your mouth? Harry, do you mean food? Yes? Apple? Nice shiny apple ? You DO? Yes! Fantastic! Good signing! Apple! Yes!

And no, darling, you can’t have an apple.’


Today is, incidentally, your last opportunity to propel me towards everlasting glory in the Butlins-sponsored MAD awards. Do click here to wield your all-powerful voting finger for me if you wish!

(I must tell you about John’s trip, complete with local cohort of AGM-ing Young Farmers, to Butlins Minehead in 1992. I will tell you after the September awards ceremony, though, as they may still remember the staggering repair bill and refuse to let me come, finalist or no, and I do so want to wear a pretty frock.)

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