I hate labels. I hate people insisting on labels because it somehow makes life easier for them if you are pigeon-holed. But lately I have learnt that labels can sometimes be a good thing. Like when it comes to labelling my child as having Special Educational Needs. This label means that she is able to get the extra help and attention that she needs. This label means that the school are giving me their full support in helping my child. This can only be a good thing. Although I must admit that it was hard to swallow when I first read that letter from school. It was of course the help and recognition that we needed but seeing it down in black and white made me stop and take a gulp.
My youngest daughter was a late talker but I never felt that this was such a big deal. At the time I mostly put it down to the fact that she had older siblings to do all of her talking for her. Because they did. She took to her role as the baby of the family like a duck to water and has been doted on since the day she was born. As she turned two, she could barely say a word but I always thought it would just click one day. Well we all did, health professionals too. And indeed as she got older, her vocabulary did grow and often in great spurts. (In fact, I came across this old post the other day which really made me chuckle. Oh and she still calls her Daddy ‘Father’ to this day by the way!) But as she approached her fourth birthday, it became clear that she had some problems with her speech. She was missing the ends off words and having trouble pronouncing certain letters. Her nursery (who were bloody marvellous) asked us to consider referring her to a speech therapist. At the time I didn’t want to believe that she had a problem. I wanted to believe that she would just get there in time. But the truth was that she did need that extra help and of course I was never going to stand in the way of that.
My daughter has been seeing a speech therapist for almost a year now. Anybody who has any experience with speech issues will know just what a long and often repetitive process it is. With my daughter it has been essential to go right back to basics and she is being taught how to make the simplest of sounds before we can move on to perfecting whole words. There are all sorts of ‘games’ that we play at home every day with her, she has monthly speech therapy sessions and she now has one on one time at school thanks to her amazing SEN assistant. The thing with speech therapy is that it can’t be rushed. That means that at times, it can terribly tedious and frustrating. Although it has to be said, more for me than my daughter. I just desperately want to help her but this isn’t something that can be pushed.
Through all of this, my daughter has just been amazing. We have always used sign language from being a teeny tiny baby (we have with all of our children in fact) and I think this has been a huge part of her never feeling frustrated by her struggles. And she does really really struggle. But if anything, struggling has made her even more clever. She has the patience of a saint and if we don’t understand a certain word that she says, she will always find a way to make us understand her. Whether that is through sign language, an impromptu game of charades or saying every other word that she can think of that is associated to that one word we don’t understand, she never ever gives up. I don’t think I have ever known such amazing determination.
This week sees my daughter start weekly sessions with her speech therapist. We’ve been on the waiting list forever and I can’t wait for her to start. I really hope that this will be the extra (gentle) push that she needs. There’s no question that she will get there. I have one very determined little girl. And I honestly couldn’t be prouder.