How a family’s resolve to tackle her son’s speech delay has enabled him to flourish
Until my son turned three, I had no idea that he would turn my life around. In fact, life was great and my second son had brought us much happiness. But I didn’t realise that this quiet child was not speaking as he should be. We are a family of late speakers and he had a noisy, bossy older brother, so it seemed to make sense. It didn’t help that his shy nature made him even quieter.
It was an alert nursery teacher who made me aware of his lack of speech. Her remark started me on a seven year journey to find the source of the problem and a “cure” for my son.
If you have the income, you have the specialists clamouring for you to book expensive appointments. If I had waited for the NHS, I may not be writing my story today. My son was diagnosed with so many different conditions, including global delay and autism. As an anxious young mum, I was game for anything that might help him.
I saw an ear, nose and throat specialist, speech therapist and educational psychologists. The prognosis was grim. Speech therapy wasn’t available with my private care package and the NHS didn’t consider him urgent enough. With no tools to know how to go about getting help, I was a wreck. How would he survive?
That’s when I took charge. Painstakingly, I worked on an intensive language package to improve his language before he went to school. At three years of age he used five words per sentence. He mixed up pronouns and made every grammatical error going. I would analyse his sentence structure and then piece together the issue. As we are of Asian origin, he was given the time to acquire the language, as it was assumed, wrongly, that he had another working language. His language comprehension was also a problem but I always felt this was more to do with attention than his actual understanding.
It worked and he now had the speech he needed for school, although his memory was very poor and his retrieval of specific words was difficult.
School was very hard for my son. It is the social interaction that children with special needs miss. Children behave innocently, with the understanding they have, but anyone who is a bit “strange” is treated differently. It was this issue that caused the most anxiety for me. I would speak to the teacher once a week and she would tell me how he played on his own and didn’t want to interact. I would ask all parents to try to understand the feelings of a parent of a child with SEN. Do show some empathy, as it can be really hard being that parent in the playground or at the school gates.
As he was having problems accessing the curriculum in a state school, we decided to pay for a private school. Having just 20 in a class helped him considerably and he showed marked improvement.
However, the most dramatic improvement came when I looked into food and behaviour and I started him on fish oils. It was like he was now a different child. He also completed a well-known exercise programme which led to marked improvement in his motor skills. My son being moved from the E group to the A group at his football club will always remain a treasured memory for me.
He got A grades for all his GCSEs and in his A levels. He is now a graphic design student in his final year and has also been commissioned as a fine artist. The final diagnosis seems to be that he has mild dyslexia, and we now know that repeated ear infections slowed down his language acquisition.
I’m so glad I didn’t give up on him. Indeed, I felt so motivated that I also trained to be a teacher. It has made me want to advise all parents that they are their child’s chief advocate.