I don’t know what I would do without words. It’s how I communicate my needs and desires to other people. It’s how I create; how I express my emotions – and goodness, do I have a lot of them.
So it pains me that my son doesn’t have any words, or at least he can’t release them. You can see the words form inside him, rise to his throat from his chest – and disappear as they touch his tongue. For the longest time, we exchanged cries and questions between us, as he struggled to communicate and I failed to understand.
Blame the naivety of a first-time mother, or the blind optimism of a 20-something-year-old, but I absolutely took for granted that my son would reach his development milestones on his own. I was told by all around me that all we needed was to speak to him, to read to him.
All I needed was to inundate him with words, and eventually they would force their way out of him. One day though, the unsettled feeling in my gut became too pronounced to ignore, and my husband and I consulted childhood experts about our little boy’s development.
"You can see the words form inside him, rise to his throat from his chest – and disappear as they touch his tongue." Image: supplied.
Then three words I’d never heard together before became known to me. They would impact our days ever after: Global Developmental Delay.
Talking to him would not move him, neither would reading aloud; my words would not be enough to help him. In the year or so since our little boy’s diagnosis, our speech pathologist has been impressing on us two things in particular – that there are other means of communicating other than speaking and the importance of learning through play.
We are teaching our son key sign language, so that he might have a way of communicating with us before the day he speaks. Pairing the word ‘up’ with the motion of toy cars speedily ascending ramps, accompanied by the motion of an upturned pointer finger. Waving goodbye whilst saying farewell to a toy that is to be packed away. Or, in one of the first cases of my son imitating key sign language, taking turns stacking Duplo bricks.