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.)


9 Responses

  1. Welcome to the wonderful world of People-who-have-no-idea-what-their-toddler-is-talking-about. May your stay here be brief…

    I hope your doctor has something useful to tell you. Maybe you could think of it this way – there are many things we are not particularly adept at, that we can do with lots of practice and help. (For me, it’s pretty much walking across a room without bumping into/tripping over something. I can do that only if there are no obstacles or furniture in the room.) Harry may need help in more areas, but he’s clearly not without resources if you have cause to call him a devious little bugger.

  2. Buddy and I spent 10 minutes today figuring out he was trying to say “chocolate”. And no, you may not have Mommy’s expensive chocolate bar.

    Devious little bugger.

  3. Ah yes, that’s the boy, make your mummy and daddy insane – I mean proud. I raise my ooouss to you!

    Butlins Minehead in 1992? Mysterious! Tell all.

    Also, Harry on a donkey called Jethro, ah! Fast-forward to Horse of the Year Show 2030, and Harry and a souped-up Jethro are clearing the Puissance wall!

    (Or maybe something less alarming for his parents?)

  4. That clip. That clip.

    My children thought it was hilariously funny to reenact that clip several times a day last summer. Till I put a stop to it. Then I was a killjoy with no sense of humour.

    That clip.

  5. I was very intrigued by the way he signs to himself as he sings/babbles/chatters, totally unprompted, just, seemingly, for his own amusement. And his rather adorable ‘oh, for Heaven’s SAKE, Mother,’ eyeroll when he has to sign whateveritis over again. I was just thinking, I hadn’t seen him for a year before last weekend, and he has gone from No Language to Totally With Language in that time. I know for you, actually living with His Harryship, it has been tortuously slow and frustrating at times, but to me the change looked wildly enormous and impressive.

    The tantrumical melodrama? Is there a toddler on Planet Earth that DIDN’T go through that phase? Minx used to peek between her fingers to check we were all watching as she lay on her face sobbing like a Dickensian orphan being beaten with sticks. We’d, unkindly, crack up laughing the first time or two, which didn’t improve her temper at all. But third time in a morning? OK, not so funny now, thank you.

  6. Yey to progress on both speech and mobility fronts. Sorry about the tantrums and histrionics – too wearing and result in tantrum my behaviour from frazzled mother in my experience.

  7. Yiss… teaching sign language to children with coordination problems because their speech isn’t very fluent – not so successful when they can’t coordinate well enough to make the signs comprehensible either.

    If you want to read something about speech templates (children having one sound/syllable they try and force ALL words into whether they have to hammer them in or not) here’s an article:

    (I saw her talk recently and this is relatively close to my area and I still needed looooads of explanation so don’t feel bad if it’s a bit ermmm…. what…?)

  8. I am sorry, but I really chuckled at that apple story. We get a similar ‘moo bar!’ (museli) bar battle here daily with Naan and by daily I mean every five ‘moo ‘no baby muuuuesllliuiiiii’ , ‘MOO!’ ‘No, baby, it’sMUUUUUSELLLI’, ‘MUUUUSEEELLLEEEE Mama’, ‘No’ insert wail seconds.


  9. […] vague and excitable Makaton (his core communication language) can often be frustratingly hard to interpret, which lends his spoken words even more critical importance. The status quo is […]

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