Nathan is not a big talker. His expressive speech delay means he has very few sounds and until recently no words at all.
I was a bit worried because he’s so far behind his peers in this one regard – around 2 years behind by some measures – but we are getting help in Speech and Language Therapy, and he understands spoken language well. His signing is coming on rapidly, and he seems happy enough with his ability to communicate most of the time. It also helps me emotionally that Nathan is pretty advanced in understanding written language, at the age of 3 (2 years 8 months corrected) he knows the entire alphabet in phonics and by proper name, and all the digits from 0 to 10 plus many of the numbers up to 100. Obviously this is because my boy is a genius, and nothing to do with the amount of Cbeebies we watch in our house (thanks Numtums and Alphablocks!). Also in no small part to the flashcards we do as part of the Snowdrop program.
Nathan does make open vowel screeches meaning “i want something” or “I’m frustrated”. He can also repeat some consonants when directly asked “can you say…”, he can make most phonic sounds except a few that involve fine tongue movements like “l”. Recently we used singing to encourage him to make more noise, especially Old MacDonald Has a Farm, and were rewarded with regular cries of “E I E I O” both in context and just randomly when he felt like saying something. We also got “ooh ahh” as in the chorus of “why do fools fall in love”, and “uh-oh” as in “oops something bad just happened”. We’ve really enjoyed seeing his sense of humour flourish as he played games like “bus crash” where one toy is run down mercilessly by his toy bus to the sound of giggles and a quietly spoken “uh-oh”.
That was the extent of Nathan’s vocalisations, until a few nights ago. It was bedtime and we were reading “Wibbly Pig” which is a story about a naughty pig who is trying to put off going to bed. Rather apt. After reading it 3 times we told him that it was time for sleep and no, we would not read it again. Nathan decided to read the book to himself. This involved sitting up and turning the pages, and making a sign for each page of the story – “bath” for the page where Wibbly is in the bath, “hot” for the page where Wibbly says his drink is too hot to drink quickly. He got to the page where Wibbly is supposed to be climbing the stairs to bed but instead is counting the stairs. Nathan likes to touch each step as we count them. But without our cooperation in reading I expected him to quickly turn to the next page. Not so…. instead, in a calm clear voice, he started speaking…. “One, Two, Teee, Fff, Fiii, Sss, Sssseh, Eyyy”.
Amazing! In fact, I got a bit teary. I’m sure my clever boy waited until after his third birthday to have a sudden leap forwards in his abilities. Maybe we are finally approaching true speech and i can get to know his character even better.
Since then, we have had lots more words, clearly spoken and in context. Yesterday evening at bed time I got a “night night”. On leaving for nursery this morning I got “byeeeeeee”. And my favourite, yesterday when indulging in his habit of hiding in the downstairs loo and opening and shutting the door repeatedly, Nathan treated us to a series of “boo”s.
I am reminded of a comment on the Bliss message board, something another parent said to me when we were worried about Nathan’s physical developement and when he might start to walk. With great wisdom, she noted that we spend so many months worrying about the development of our premature babies, urging them to start walking and begin to speak. Then we spend the rest of our lives telling them to sit down and shut up.