What caused our son's delay in speech and how we overcame it!
Our child was only 5 months old and we were on the move yet again, to another country.
photography@KellySikkema on Unsplash
Being married to a travel agent life can be quite exciting with lots of travelling opportunities to far off destinations and experiencing new things - most of the time it felt like we were on one long holiday.
And like all good things it comes with its potential shortcomings too.
For my husband and I, the constant traveling with our very young child brought about it’s negative impacts, causing a significant delay in our child’s language development.
We both used to converse a lot in our mother tongue and we used to speak in English with most foreigners, with our child in tow, we weren't aware that our constant chattering in different tongues was detrimental for his language development.
Life got even busier what with trying to settle in a foreign country and getting accustomed to the cultural differences.
And while my husband was busy at work, I used to work from home and take care of my child.
Our child was growing up fast and soon he was about to turn two. He was a very active boy and kept me busy on my toes most of the time. Believe me, it's hard work trying to work from home with a toddler interrupting you every few seconds.
Photography@Lidya Nada on Unsplash
I was happy to see him growing up a happy child, still we found that he hadn't started speaking and most of what he said was just gibberish.
We both talked about our son's development with our families, friends and my husband's work colleagues and they all adored the funny little man but some of them hinted that there might be a delay in his speech.
One of them, a parent, suggested "You could start reading to your child!"
Another parent joined in "I started reading to my daughter when she was just a few months old and now I wish I had never stopped afterwards - it really helped develop her speech - you know!"
I was kind of offended at first, then in total denial - my son was perfectly fine. But then it dawned on me that the other kids at the park, who were much younger than him, made intelligible sounds and spoke to their parents in clear words.
I did get a bit alarmed but my husband consoled me by saying that he was a late bloomer too and that his mother's sister, his aunt, had a speech delay during her childhood, who turns out to be a big gossip now.
Somehow it didn't sit with me. I loved my child more than anything and I wanted to make everything alright for him. So I started reading all about speech delay. The more I read the more alarmed I got. That’s when we decided to see a Speech Therapist.
Poor baby, our son was being exposed to a host of foreign words and phonetics - and I blame myself for it!
The Therapist said that our child was going through a phase of culture shock.
Moving around in different foreign countries our child was hearing foreign languages all around. My husband and I conversed in our own mother tongue, our native language, most of the time.
With all that noise all around him, my poor baby just didn't know which one to follow. It broke my heart to see his struggle.
My husband and I fought over it for days. But in the end we both quit blaming each other and set out to make things right for our son - together.
I had not been the best mother because I was supposed to read and find out that I should talk and interact with my child as much as I could, instead of spending my time on work and chores.
My child's Speech Therapist was a godsend. She helped me to forgive myself and encouraged me to move forward to carry on with my task of helping my child speak.
I eventually managed to set my work aside to make room for my child's development. And that meant being more attentive with my child's needs.
She recommended that we should stick to one language while we speak to our child and when we speak to each other in his presence. She also highly recommended reading to him everyday.
So there that’s how it got established —our little bedtime routine. He loved being read to, before nap time and during meal times and some days we wake up to see him with his book. His favourite book was “Freddie The Fire Engine”.
At first we thought he was just looking at the pictures but in time we found out that his eyes were following the sentences, on cue, as we read to him.
When I guided him to finger along as I read, it amazed me to see that he was pointing at the correct words.
"Oh, thank you, thank you my lucky stars - my baby can read!" I was over the moon. Yes, he started reading on his own way before he could speak.
Well this is not some kind of a break-through story or fantasy, this is how our son got to develop his reading skills. And as for his speech, it took time and effort and patience for him to start speaking at his own pace.
He started with saying only a handful of words that we could properly decipher. It took him almost a year before he was finally able to speak in full sentences.
His Therapist said that his reading ability had helped him develop his speech and that the early reading skills would help him excel in his preschool studies later on.
He is eight now and to date he loves to read and spend quite a lot of his time reading; at meal times, whenever he gets some free time and even in the toilet too - hehe.
Even today he still loves being read to sleep. Both me and his father take turns on reading to him.
Looking back on all that had happened earlier, I have forgiven myself and today I must say that I feel lucky to have helped my son overcome his challenges.
And from my experience I would like to tell all the new mothers and fathers that reading to my child was our greatest bond.
So let's never stop reading & thank you for reading!
Wishing you all good luck!