Speech delay and using the wrong words

Our daughter Emma is 3 and on Sunday she asked me what I was doing. Doesn’t sound like much does it? To us though it’s huge as she hasn’t ever used those words before.

Emma has a mild to moderate speech delay that is a source of daily frustration to both her and us. She is so desperate to talk and so desperate to communicate what she wants it can lead to massive tantrums and meltdowns over the slightest little thing – from all of us! She said her name for the first time around a month ago and I’ll admit to shedding a few tears that a moment we had been waiting for had finally arrived.

Here are some of the things that have been said to me about Emma’s speech delay. None of these things were meant with ill intent but if you imagine hearing them over and over again you can see how they might become slightly annoying!

He / She doesn’t seem that behind to me

I know you are being reassuring and you are trying to make me feel better but it’s not working. I know she is way behind other children her age, her Dad knows she is way behind other children her age and her speech therapist agrees she is behind other children of her age. It’s ok to say this once or twice but anymore than that becomes frustrating for the parent who is trying to comes to terms with the situation and find ways to help their child going forward.

Did you not breastfeed them then?

Yes this has actually been said to me and no I don’t think it’s the cause. My point on this one is more about making suggestions that the parent has probably already tortured themselves over. I’ve tried to decide if Emma’s delay is because she was bottle fed, because she was delivered by c-section at 38 weeks, if she watches too much TV, if I don’t play with her enough, because we didn’t send her to nursery soon enough, because I sometimes gave her jar food or because I let her drink longlife milk while we are on holiday. If there is a scenario that I can somehow blame myself for I can guarantee you I’ve already thought of it.

Don’t you worry about what that’ll mean for school and nursery?

All. The. Time.

But thanks for pointing it out – I hadn’t thought of it for at least 5 minutes.

But this is all very negative – I know people are trying to help but if you can find a moment in my day where I’m not worrying about something to do with Emma then I applaud you. I worry about her and her behaviour and her speech all the time. I worry about what it could mean. I worry about what challenges she’ll face going forward. I worry I’m not a good enough parent to help her through those challenges. I worry about everything.

So if you know someone who has a child with a speech delay I’d recommend saying this to that parent instead –

“That must be really frustrating – if you ever need to vent or talk I’m here for you”

Because that’s all we really need – we’ve got consultants and specialists and we’ve got nursery staff and health visitors to look after our little one but we need people to help us out. Sometimes we just need a hug and to be told it’s all going to be ok.

Oh and one final thing – if a child with speech delay tries to talk to you and it comes across as total gibberish please don’t ignore that child. They are trying to do something that is a huge task to them and they are choosing to share those precious words with you. Please don’t ignore that opportunity to help no matter how short the moment may be.

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