Averageness and Appropriate Worry
I’m not a neurotic mother.
Ok, I’m a slightly neurotic mother but generally I think I have my head screwed on OK. If I’ve learnt one thing as a parent it’s that children tend to do things in their own time, in their own way and there’s not an awful lot you can do to change that.
I try not to worry about stuff. Or I try and worry an appropriate amount anyway.
But for a while now there have been some concerns about Kai’s speech. I’ve had that awful balancing act of not over-reacting and accepting his speech was developing slower than other children but that it would all happen in its own time, but at the same time not burying my head in the sand and missing the opportunity to pick up any REAL problems nice and early.
I was told a few months back to get in contact with my health visitor if Kai hadn’t shown any progression in his speech development by 18 months. And he hasn’t to be honest, at least, not in terms of recognisable words. Ironically he is the most chatty child you could ever hope meet and babble and sings in his nonsensical language all day long. But at nearly 19 months he doesn’t really say ANY proper words. And the odd ‘real’ word he used to say he’s now stopped saying at all, or says them once and twice and then not since.
So I phoned the health visitor this morning, and after a few questions she asked to come over this afternoon.
She stayed for over an hour, observing his play and our interaction and asking lots and lots of questions. And she tells me she is concerned, not so much about his speech but about his speech coupled with his behaviour, wanting to see him again in six weeks and possibly regular checks after that.
I don’t know how to feel. On one hand I think she’s probably just being very cautious, wanting to stay vigilant and ensure any problem is picked up early – that she’s doing a good job. On the other hand I think she’s hugely over-reacting, that surely 19 months is way too young to be worrying seriously about this kind of thing, and that most things can be explained by Kai’s temperament and personality and will work themselves right in time.
Either way I’m left feeling a little worried and upset.
On the positive side she thinks that Kai is very bright, and that his comprehension, imaginative play and concentration is very advanced for his age. He has an excellent internal vocabulary, understands very complex instructions and ideas, and a very good memory for detail. She suspects that he may actually be perfectly capable of talking properly if he wanted, but can’t see the need, or doesn’t want to. Despite knowing what a huge number of words mean he makes absolutely no attempt to say them and has no interest in trying to imitate word sounds. In fact, he just laughs if you try and ask him to.
She predicts he will talk when he decides to, and that he may need some help in the future but that long term he’ll be absolutely fine.
What she’s worried about his disinterest in speech coupled with his behaviour, more specifically his very obsessive and hyper-attentive nature, his complete inflexibility and fixation with things having to go a certain way and refusal to compromise or be distracted, and his general anger and frustration when things don’t go how he wants (which is most of the time!).
She’s also worried about his difficulty socialising. Admittedly he does find socialising with children very difficult, getting very easily overwhelmed and upset. He’s fine with younger babies where he feels safe and in control, but really struggles to handle and relate to older children that do their own thing. He tends to keep away from them, rarely if ever initiates play, and is usually that child at playgroup sobbing hysterically because someone else is playing on the bike that day. He barely last more than an hour before getting completely overwhelmed and asking to go.
I don’t know whether any of these are real ‘problems’.
I don’t know why this is concerning.
I thought all these things were just Kai, part of all the things that make him unique and special and wonderful. I LIKE that he’s different and quirky and strong willed.
I don’t want to change him.
I don’t want to be neurotic.
But I also want to be responsible. If there IS a problem I DO want it picked up early.
I guess we just have to do as the health visitor suggested. Watch, wait, and see. And try not to worry too much. She says we’re doing everything right, which is reassuring, and that we shouldn’t force anything. Just wait. She was lovely actually.
But I’m a little sad that already, at not even 2, my boy is being told he doesn’t ‘fit’ and that he is different. Why must we insist that all children fit a certain box? That they all be the same? Is there no room for individuality, personality, temperament? Or is everything ‘not average’ a ‘problem’?
Do I really want an average child anyway?