It’s been a while since I have blogged. It’s been a hectic few months with lots of positive developments. Marigold is stronger than ever and recently started crawling, a year or so later maybe than your typical baby, but now she is on the move there is no stopping her as she speed crawls round the lounge leaving a trail of destruction in her wake. NOTHING IS SAFE. Just this week, she has pulled a large mirror off the bedroom wall, tried to eat Lego, pulled the DVDs out of the cabinet at least 50 times and is trying to pull herself up on the stairs. All this we welcome without complaint, remembering a time when we weren’t even sure if she would be mobile at all.
As one area of development progresses however, our attention turns to another area where a Marigold is delayed, and speech has been more of a focus for us recently.
Clearly everyone who knows me (and even those of you who just know me from this blog may have suspected), I am one of life’s talkers. I am the daughter of a heavyweight. The woman who used to ‘pop down the road for half a cucumber’ and return five hours later, having bumped into twenty people along the way. Chatting and pots of tea were the framework to my late great mother’s day, and if there was nobody around to chat to, she would even have a little talk with herself, much to our amusement.
So it is no surprise I have grown up with a love of talking as well. This has stood me in good stead throughout my life, especially in many an awkward social or business situation. When Harrison was born, I was so delighted at my new, captive audience, and it was mummy singing and talking all day long for nine months of maternity leave. Unsurprisingly, he became an advanced talker. He is such an articulate little fellow, it is easy to forget that he is only five. Now of course he never stops and can even outtalk me, so there is some karma in there somewhere.
I firmly believe that talking makes the world go round. So it has been a change and a challenge to face Marigold’s speech delay due to her unique genetic condition, 3q11 trisomy mosaicism.
Like other areas of her development, Marigold is delayed with her speech. She has always been pretty vocal, so we have high hopes that she will talk, but not according to usual timelines, which is of course Marigold’s way.
Speech and language therapy (SALT) has been eye opening for me. As new mothers, we are constantly told that the best thing you can do is talk lots to your baby (clearly this has been no problem for me.) And maybe when they are in that new born passive stage taking it all in, this is absolutely paramount. But much of my SALT with Marigold now aged two is less about talking, and much more about ‘tuning in’ and following her lead. One of Marigold’s therapists is incredible at this. She will often say to me “Did you see that? That was a lovely bit interaction there” and I will be absolutely clueless. What Jackie will have observed which has totally passed me by, will be a subtle glance, or movement which she observes and interprets. Marigold and her have an amazing rapport where they play together for hours and communicate beautifully with no words whatsoever.
We are currently working through Hanen’s “It Takes Two to Talk” which presents a simple strategy to work into your everyday communication with your child called OWLing;
Observe – observing your child’s body language, gestures, facial expressions, tuning in and learning what your child is interested in and what they want to tell you.
Waiting – this is a powerful tool. Waiting gives you time to observe what your child is interested in and gives them time to start an interaction or respond. You need to stop talking (hard one for me), lean forward and look at your child. Waiting in this ways sends the message that you’re ready for her to respond, or for her to lead herself.
(As you might guess, I am spectacularly bad at waiting. I have a natural desire to fill silence with speech. But I am trying.)
Listen – paying close attention to words and sounds, not interrupting (uh oh – once again, an area of development for mummy) even if you have worked out what she is trying to say. When you listen, you’re letting her know what she says is important and it builds confidence and esteem.
So kitchen productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber hits have now come to an end as what Marigold needs to help her communicate is not entertainment, but interaction.
Because what makes a good conversationalist? Who do you like to talk to? Not someone who constantly talks at you, but someone who genuinely listens to you and responds with interest.
So as Marigold learns, I am learning: that you don’t need words to have a conversation, to wait, to listen, to observe and not ruin precious moments of communication by talking over the top.
In the virtual world however, you can’t stop me still!
If you would like to find out more about Hanen Programme, this is available on the Internet on http://www.hanen.org.
*Title of blog dedicated to Sean McKenzie.*