Tuesday, 3 March 2015

The sound of silence

“Today I stood on a sandwich, and my mummy said I could go to Little Bo Peep Land later.”
“I am a bit not full up.”
“I want Santa to bring me a doll and doors for Christmas.”
“I don’t like dreams about monkeys. I like dreams about chocolate buttons.”
“I saw the Moon smile and my daddy said we can do skipping when he cooks the dinner.”


I take my three-year-old niece to pre-school every Monday and hand in hand we have a little chat as we meander slowly down the long path to the door from the car park. Well, when I say we have a chat - she chats, I listen. And I love it. She just babbles about whatever is in her brain and it is brilliant stuff that makes perfect sense in her little world.

My two older children are chatter boxes too and it brings back wonderful memories. They are still full of non-stop natter, but their conversation is more coherent and sophisticated nowadays occasionally littered with the odd malapropism. An example is a recent discussion about whether my mum should get a dog or not that prompted my seven year old to say: “she should get a small dog like a Cockapoo.”

Kids, they do say the funniest things. It is very true.

That is why it is such a marked contrast when you have a non-verbal child. Gabe is four years old, globally delayed across the board, currently has no unifying diagnosis and can’t yet walk or talk.

The lack of walking you can almost get your head around and we are lucky that he bum shuffles so he has some independent mobility, but the lack of speech can often be hard.

The silence at times can be deafening.
  • No banter about what to have for lunch.
  • No loud tantrums about choice of TV programme.
  • No excited chatter about the day's forthcoming events.
  • No stream of consciousness as you push him through the streets.
  • No retelling of an incident at school.
  • No berating a brother or telling tales on a sister who has annoyed him.
If you have a house filled daily with toddler tears and sibling squabbles you might think this sounds like a dream. I hear you. Sometimes I admit it is nice that there is one less to fill the noisy airwaves. But mostly when the shouting or singing is at its loudest in my house and my ears feel like they are about to pop, then these are the times when I'll scoop up my littlest man and whisper a promise: 

"One day my son you'll be joining in the fun and I'll never, ever tell you to be quiet."

I don’t work on a Friday and this is my special day with Gabe. It is cherished time together as the date that he starts full time school and reception year looms ever closer.

We do lovely things (amid the chores) – swimming, long walks if the weather is nice, staying in and literally throwing the toy boxes over the floors and playing together. There are giggles and smiles aplenty, but if I let them these days could go by in a complete hush.

He does have a number of words. We’ve heard him utter: “Mummy”, “Daddy”, “Nana” and my favourite when he’s just had enough: “let’s go” (something I myself must say 23 times a day to shepherd three children and a husband). And when the mood takes him he will repeat what you’ve just said – the best being “I love you.” But the moments of noise are infrequent and they take you by surprise. The initial euphoria replaced all too quickly by the tinge of sadness that comes with knowing this is a rare event.

Maybe his little head is full of dialogue and one day soon we’ll get to hear it all. But for now we keep going with the speech therapists’ advice:
  • Repeating back any noises he makes.
  • Talking to him like he understands.
  • Not leaving him out of dinner time games and talking.
  • Using Makaton signs wherever we can.
  • Making sure we say the word and back it up with an object of reference where appropriate.
  • Keeping eye contact when I talk to him, pausing to give him chance to make his own reply.
  • Using songs bags and photographs to drive home meaning.

It doesn’t feel like therapy really anymore – not four years in – and there is a chance that it will never make a difference.

Maybe this will be as good as it gets. I hope not as I want, like all parents, to know everything about this child –his thoughts, his hopes and dreams! But more poignant than that I want to stop having to guess the basics - do you like this? Are you cold? Thirsty? Hungry? Where do you hurt?

Silence is not always golden.

But it’s okay. We’ll get by.

Because it is true that a smile can tell a million words.














Thursday, 5 February 2015

Things you do when you are on a diet

I am on a diet.

That's one of the first things you do. You tell everyone you're on a diet.
No I can't finish off your half-chewed Smiley Face, darling. I am on a diet
A sweetener in my tea please pet instead of sugar. I am on a diet.
I can't have a French Fancy mum. I am on a diet.
Listen shop keeper I don't care if your sales of Twirls are down 400%. I am on a diet.







I must have been on 6,286 diets in my time so I am a bit of an expert. Well when I say expert, I mean it in the loosest sense. I haven't actually managed to get rid of that half stone of weight each of my children left behind when they invaded my body like graffiti tag artists marking their turf. Bless them - so creative!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

What are we so scared of?

I paid it absolutely no heed at first. I didn't even click into the story when I saw the article floating around Facebook about the adults with learning problems being refused entry into the Legoland Discovery Centre in Manchester.

At the time I gave it a passing 'Oh that's a shame' and then went on to nose at some random posts about someone's dinner or to giggle at the photo of my mate's pile of mismatched socks. To be fair I was probably more outraged by the mismatched sock mystery than I was about these men.

Then a blog post was shared on a support group I access asking What does the future now hold? by the marvellous Innocent Charms Chats that made me stop short and think.

The gist of the story is that a 40-year-old man with a mental age of seven was turned away from the attraction due to a policy of refusing entry to adults without children. Also in another case, a 20-year-old man with learning disabilities and his carer were also refused entry.

I then read the comments on the blog post. 
I then read the news story in the Manchester Evening News
I then read the comments on the news story itself. 
I then read The Mail online version of the story.
I then read the comments on that news story.
I then read the thread on Mumsnet.

I then thought oh sh*t Crikey!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Kids, things that are just not on

Dear children,

I once had to write Daddy a letter to remind him of the rules, which he was flouting far too frequently for my liking. It is with sad regret that I now feel that I have no choice but to also remind you three of your contractual obligations as well. When I signed up to be your parent I did so with certain caveats. A simple ruling system was set up to be adhered to at all times. Lack of understanding and generally being small children are not deemed to be suitable reasons for non adherence.

As previously stated:
  • These rules are communicated telepathically.
  • They are also subject to change at any given whim.
  • The list will be ever growing and infinite.
  • They can be made up on the spot.

Monday, 5 January 2015

5 reasons why I am glad the festive fun has finished

The decorations have come down (to the heartbroken tears of one little boy); the selection boxes put up high out of reach (to the heartbroken tears of one little girl); the DS3, iPad and Wii are all back on rationed time (to the heartbroken tears of one bigger boy) and the empty bottles of Prosecco have been recycled but not replaced (to the heartbroken tears of one Mummy).

Christmas was aces. On toast. With jiggle bells on.
We all had a blinkin ball. But tomorrow the children are all back in school and it's time to hit the ground running with work. And fitness. And diets. And the 365 resolutions that will hopefully last more than 365 minutes.

Its overrrrrrr!!
Again. For another 10 months (we all know it starts in November as soon as we have washed off the fake blood stains from our clothes). As much as I have enjoyed it there is a big part of me happy to take down the tinsel.

The top 5 things I am most looking forward to are:

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The greatest gift of them all

I was distracted the first time a physiotherapist told me that Gabriel may never walk.
He was 10 months old at the time and as floppy as a rag doll.

The distraction was my pre-school daughter who, bored with the appointment, was applying my lipstick to her face. I remember the day was hot as hell and I was wearing a clinging tee-shirt. Her words drifted past me as I simultaneously tried to not lift my arms for fear of a dreaded sweat patch and grab items from his older sibling who was starting to resemble a horror version of a beauty pageant contestant.



It was only when I got home with my babies that I processed her words and grieved.

The following week we had a consultant appointment. Bad news was to become a trend. With a sad smile she informed me that she didn't think "we were going to get away with this" and to prepare ourselves for a "specialist education" for him.

I was livid rather than upset and vowed to walk him into her room at the next appointment.
That didn't happen.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Nik Naks Nark

It was just a normal Saturday.
It was just a normal shopping trip.
It was just a normal supermarket shelf.

*Oh sorry this is to be said in a blockbuster action movie trailer voice. You need to go back and start again...*

They thought this would be a food shop just like any other.
They did not know what was about to happen. 
And how it would change their lives forever.

No one saw it coming until it was TOO LATE!