I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago and it is amazing what has changed in that time. We have been watching Bear's language development very closely over the last 8 months because he was not reaching milestones on time.
The first time it was flagged for me was at his 18 month check up with the child health nurse. I could see her ears prick up and her eyes slightly widen when I reported that Bear really wasn't using any words. She asked "but he'd be saying 'mum' and 'dad'?" No he wasn't. "He's probably saying 'ball' or 'dog' or 'car'?" No he'd never named things like that. "What about 'bye bye' or 'hello' or 'night night'?". He said "hi" sometimes - but that was about it. At that point we decided to watch and wait. There were no other concerns about his development.
2 months ago at his 2 year old check up it was quite obvious that he was not keeping up with other 2 year olds. He was only using a handful of words spontaneously. We could ask him to say other words and he would have a go but he didn't seem to take them in. He had never made a word of 2 syllables. He had never put two words together. When we thought about it carefully and observed him closely we could see that every warning sign for expressive language delay was there.
When to seek referral:
We were not concerned about his hearing or receptive language. The nurse agreed that he was obviously hearing and understanding her as well. We were not concerned about his social development or behaviour. We were reassured but advised that putting Bear on the waiting list to see a speech pathologist within the next 12 months would be a good idea. That's what we did.
Still this "isolated expressive language delay" worried me. I had to make a conscious effort not to panic. I had to actively suppress the ridiculous and unfair questions that were exploding in my head ("Have I done something wrong?", "Should I have picked this up sooner?", "How is this going to affect him in the future?").
It is fascinating and reassuring to read Montessori's model for language development. She describes the process in The Absorbent Mind like taking a photo - all the complexity of the image is captured effortlessly in a moment. Mysteriously in the dark. It is developed in the dark. Then it is finally revealed in all its complexity.
"The mother does not teach language to her little one. Language develops naturally as a spontaneous creation."
I also read a post at how we montessori that described a similar thought process and anxieties. The tension of waiting and watching and trusting. I felt myself poised at the start of a 100m sprint. My whole being was ready to burst off the blocks with all my effort to help him. But I had to wait for the gun. I had to trust him and give him space.
Over the last few weeks that tension has melted away. Gradually at first. Little by little he started to talk! A new word would just pop out of him and take me by surprise. "'izard" (lizard) or "'uck" (truck) or "mooch" (mulch)". Then two words started popping out at a time! "'een 'uck" (green truck) and "'eam 'ain" (steam train). Then three!! "Daddy 'op 'ee" (Daddy chop tree). I think we will be able to take him off the waiting list for the speech pathologist.
What an exciting time and what a relief! I love knowing what's going on in his head now that he can tell me. It must be so difficult to have a child who isn't able to develop this skill. My anxious wait has certainly helped me see how wonderful this ability is.
My name is Vicky I am wife to Ranger and mum to two boys - Bear (2) and Fox (8 months). Somehow I stumbled across Montessori and now my goal is to raise and educate my children with a Montessori philosophy in country NSW Australia.