At 3.5 years old the so called problem is still considered “cute” and I know kids love to babble incoherent words and at this age one should not expect 100% intelligibility but I can see several raised “red flags” in his speech patterns. When he pronounces several words, some consonants seems to be missing, i.e. instead of saying “elephant” he says “ephant” or “Ryan nak pergi toilet” would sound like “Ayen nak peyi toiyet”
I struggle to find the source of the problem. He seems to be hearing just fine, he managed to take instruction both in English and Malay and he responds and reacts to our questions (albeit being incoherent sometimes) I monitored his speech patterns and we tried to help him in other ways too. We intensified play activities at home and minimize tv and his bottle usage. I started teaching him phonics and we did see several improvements within the 6 months since he started school.
What I did next was to discuss his progress with his teachers. His class teacher assured me that Ryan behaves well in school, interacts with his peers and managed to follow instruction while doing class activities. He seems to have friends (haha) and we even have little kids screaming his name in recognition when we go out to the mall or play gym wanting to play with him (an indication that he’s pleasant to be with I guess?) Despite his speech being a bit limited, he’s able to complete his school “Fun English at Home” activities by memorizing 5 new words weekly. What was even more interesting was that Ryan was one of the few who manages to recite each words from cover to cover successfully.
But I still see red flags… I can’t decide whether I was being overly cautious or plain paranoid. Some family members and more “experienced parents” assured me it was normal and he will be over it before he starts school, quoting “si ABC” but since I’m related to ABC and having help tutor the said kid when I was younger I also know for a fact that he hated “reading subjects” and even cried when I tried to teach him simple things. I know the problem was due to the lack of understanding due to early communication issues. So how now brown cow, do I want to risk this on Ryan?
I arranged for an appointment with a speech therapist at Baby & Be.yond Clinic, Bangsar for an evaluation. After the evaluation, the therapist confirmed my suspicion of Ryan having a phonological problem (the fancier words for pelat ;p) She proposed that Ryan attend weekly speech therapy to assist him deal with the problem. The difficulty with her proposition was that her clinics are only opened on Wednesdays and in Bangsar.I wanted to help my son badly but at that time the odds was against us and having to wait for several more months “hoping” for an opened slot on Saturdays is not really an option.
I believe that when there is a will, Allah will help find you a way and upon further research I managed to find another speech center in Section 13, Shah Alam. Ryan had his second evaluation with the new doctor last Friday, he had to undergo both “speech evaluation test” and “occupational therapy assessment” which looks looks at Ryan’s physical, mental and psychological abilities. Alhamdullilah, he cleared his OT assessment with flying colors.
Doctor did admit that Ryan is a bit of a curious case. He seems to have acquired all of his expected milestones but something is hindering his speech development. The doctor commanded us for seeking help at a very early stage and my answer to that was simple. “Being in denial won’t help Ryan”. I believe that Allah also made it all a bit easier for Lan and I when a slot for the heavily in demand Saturday classes cleared up because the kids parents is going to further his studies in Harvard :p
We attended his first class last Saturday, Ryan was receptive for the first 15 minutes and got overly excited and his attention waned after that. Doctor gave several instructions and exercise for us to repeat at home. Trust me having to tutor my 3 year old who admittedly has an attention span of a gnat severely tested my patience. Thank god Lan is very helpful and being the non-verbal parent (i.e not the family nag ;p ) Ryan is more receptive to him in several situations. We’re also scheduling for a hearing test to double check his hearing.We have also weaned Ryan of the bottle entirely to help his jaw reflex. Other than a few tantrums and him coaxing a new Hulk action figure from us, he has been bottle free for 3 days. See that is one silver lining.
Writing this down is not easy but I think people need to be more Phonological Aware, that is why I’m sharing. Nobody likes to admit that their child is not perfect and living with the feeling that you’re screwing up their life somehow. But I’m done thinking of what “others” might think and any thoughtless comments towards Ryan limitations are a reflection on them not our family. Ryan’s intelligibility is not a reflection of his intelligence. I believe that and it is up to me to help Ryan understand and hold his hands through the process.
I believe that this is test from Allah because he knows our family can handle this minor obstacle. In sha Allah, if we managed to go through this successfully Ryan would be a “stronger and even smarter boy” and our family we’ll be even happier than we are now. God works in the most mysterious way. You just have to believe :)
Have an awesome week ahead everyone…