When Sawyer turned 2 (at which point I was 3 months pregnant with his sister. Yes, I know – we’ll talk about it later) I started to realise that his speech was, although developing, coming along very slowly. Nursery had noted that he was behind with his speech, and I was becoming increasingly aware of other children his age (and much younger) who had far better speech than he did. He seemed to not only have fewer words but was also unable able to string together simple sentences using the words he did have. I started, naturally, trawling the internet and came across several speech therapy websites that gave indications of how many words children usually have at certain ages. Of course this varies from child to child but I very quickly came to realise that Sawyer was actually further behind with speech that I had thought. The realisation that this was something more than ‘just not having many words’ yet came when I read about the other side of speech, which hadn’t occurred to me yet. Listening.
It makes perfect sense to me now, that in order to learn to speak, a child must first be able to listen and absorb information. As I read through page after page of speech and language websites it became clear to me that Sawyer wasn’t following simple instructions. I recall some of the exact instructions that one website suggested children are usually following by age 18 months. One suggestion was that children of around that age usually enjoy games like peek-a-boo. I can remember thinking that Sawyer would never be able to sit and pay attention to me long enough for that sort of game. Another one was ‘bring me the ball’. At that point he might have heard/listened that instruction 1 time out of 20, but I definitely couldn’t have said that he could categorically complete that task. Point to things when you ask them to? Urm, no not really. Enjoys pretend play such as pretending to talk on the phone? No.
I grew up with a younger sister and with lots of children around me. Of course I had seen that children like to make believe. That they like to do peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake and all those little things parents take for granted (I’ve still never done either with Sawyer. Again, another post for another day). Slowly the realisation was sinking in that if I was completely honest with myself, Sawyer did none of the speaking/listening things that were typical of a child his age. Or even of a child 3, 4, 5 or 6 months younger than him. Sawyer simply could not concentrate. He couldn’t stay still. How was he supposed to learn the language we speak, when he couldn’t stay still long enough to take anything in? I started to understand at around that time, that his inability to speak stemmed from an inability to listen and that the inability to listen was clearly coming from… something else. I began to recognise for the first time that actually I wasn’t worried about his speech at all. What I was worried about was something much deeper. Something that I didn’t yet understand.
Isn’t that terrifying? I knew something was wrong with my son but I didn’t know what. Isn’t that haunting? So why didn’t I feel scared? Why didn’t I feel much at all at that point, aside from tired? I think part of it was, plainly, that whatever this problem was, it wasn’t life threatening. He wasn’t about to die. Beyond that, I’m not really sure why I felt so detached, but I have a hunch that it simply had not sunk in. You know what? Now I come to mention it – I’m still not sure it has sunk in yet. Not completely anyway. Shall we come back to that later? I’ll add it to my list.
With the realisation that Sawyer’s issues extended beyond speech, past lack of concentration and landed somewhere I hadn’t thought of yet, came several others. Could he have ADHD? We’ve all heard about those children *rolls eyes ironically*. Google told me fairly quickly that the symptoms seemed to fit well with his characteristics. He was inattentive, hyperactive, impulsive, had a short attention span, excessive physical movement, unable to sit still. I called the Health Visitor and booked an appointment for the following week to discuss my concerns.
To be continued.