Struggling to Speak


Lots of this list is very familiar. Bertie suffered with persistent ear infections until just before his 2nd birthday when he had grommets fitted (on Woody’s due date!). It was truly transformative for his health and also his speech.

Laura Bentley shares her experience with her sons language development:

  • We all know it is a bad idea to compare our children to others but sometimes the comparison is what you need to support your concerns.

  • We noticed from about 1 onwards that our son wasn’t able to say as much as his friends could and he never repeated what we said to him in that parroting way kids do.

  • I compared him to everyone! Girls, boys, younger kids, fictional characters and even Peppa Pig. Damn that Peppa is a chatter. Even now, at 4, I still compare him to all those brilliant kids on ‘The Secret Life Of…’!

  • At 2 he could say around 30 words, but not very intelligibly, and he was considered to be in the 11-16 months range for communication skills.

  • We started to get worried, especially when some of his friends were talking in full sentences and the extent of his vocabulary was to say ‘biiii daa’ if he saw a lot of cars coming.

  • At his 2 year check the health visitor suggested there might be an underlying problem with his hearing and so we got into the system to wait for an ENT referral.

  • A few months passed in which he had numerous hearing tests, Drs appointments and a first visit with an NHS speech therapist.

  • The speech therapist told us to wait until after the hearing test diagnosis for more treatment with them, which was disappointing to say the least, but that is the way the system works.

  • The diagnosis was eventually glue ear ‘bi-laterally’ meaning he couldn’t hear properly in both ears, hence the lack of speech. He had essentially been hearing through a muffled barrier for, we suspect, a year or so.

  • In all honesty a hearing problem felt like something we could deal with and fix, as I had started to worry about more serious developmental issues being the cause.

  • He needed grommets fitted to open up the ear passages which had become blocked with sticky mucus after the normal onslaught of kid bugs/colds over his first couple of winters at nursery. He had the operation just after he turned 3. It was routine and only took 15 minutes but he still needed general anesthetic which was a huge heart wrencher for us.

  • Holding your child as they ‘go under’ is awful but makes you so grateful for the amazing work the NHS do on limited resources; all the staff we dealt with were kind and caring.

  • Also trying to explain to your 3yr old that they can’t have breakfast or even a drink was fun. I didn’t want to eat as a sign of solidarity but that made us both very grumpy so I mainlined coffee to steady my nerves about the op.

  • I expected his hearing to improve overnight, as many of the success stories I’d heard had claimed their kids’ speech was transformed by grommets.

  • It took him a lot longer!

  • We had hearing reviews a few months after the op and thankfully his hearing is now perfect (but he is still SO LOUD!).

  • We had a telephone consultation with the NHS speech therapy centre and they thought his continuing issues would sort themselves out over time.

  •  That meant we weren’t eligible for NHS speech therapy (I think due to under funding).

  • We would have had to have waited until summer 2018 before he could receive any, in preparation for starting school.

  • It was my husband who pushed for the private therapy, which initially I didn’t want. I think I had my head in the sand about his (lack of) progress.

  • Ultimately we didn’t want to wait and let him get further behind, so we made the decision to start private therapy in April this year. Nearly 8 months on we are finally cracking it!

  • His assessment with the speech therapist identified his exact struggles. He couldn’t say a lot of the letter sounds and especially struggled to finish words (known as ‘fronting’), for example ‘buh’ instead of ‘bus’ and ‘ha’ for hat. This stemmed from having to listen extra hard to a word and then his brain not being able to catch the whole thing.

  • He also replaced the beginning of words if he couldn’t say them, such as ‘dop’ for ‘shop’ and ‘binduh’ for ‘finger.’

  • ‘Father Christmas’ was a particular challenge but he got round it by rubbing his belly and saying ‘ho ho ho’ instead!

  • The speech therapy is fun; it is based around play and phonics and we can replicate it at home. It is a shame that the NHS weren’t able to help us but our private speech and language therapist has been so amazing.

  • A lot of his problems were resolved by a technique called ‘aural bombardment’ which means listening to the problem sound in a focussed session.

  • He can now say most of the sounds he was missing before, except for the tricky ‘S’ and finishes all his words really clearly. But it is still a conscious effort for him and takes a lot of practice and repetition.

  • His vocabulary and sentence structure have vastly improved and he is doing so well; friends and nursery staff have also noticed the change which is great.

  • Thankfully none of this affected him outwardly. He was(is) sociable, funny and expressive and I think even more so, because he’s had to work harder to get people to understand him.

  • His confidence has stayed high and he even performed a ‘joke’ on the children’s stage at Wilderness festival in the summer even though it made no sense. But people are kind and they laughed! I was so proud.

  • If you have any concerns about your child’s speech then let your doctor or health visitor know as soon as you can. It takes a long time to get the operation for grommets in our experience, so the sooner you are in the system the better.

  • Speech therapy takes a lot of patience and is hugely frustrating for you and your child if you are not making progress. We hit that block in the summer, so had a break for a few weeks before coming back to it fresher and ready to go again.

  • Most importantly they will get there in the end!

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  • Reply archibald nascimento March 18, 2018 at 7:02 am

    Really reassuring to read. My son had a cleft palate at birth and has had it repaired twice at GOSH. We are now starting speech therapy privately as he has many sounds missing. I can see it’s no quick fix and at 2 it’s hard to watch them struggle…

  • Reply andthensheclicked March 18, 2018 at 7:15 pm

    This is really encouraging to hear! I’m glad you’ve made good progress. We have a small 3.5 year old who can not for the life of him say any k’s or g’s he is also rather loud, eats and chews incredibly slowly and never took a bottle as he couldn’t inderstand how to suck! he has a runny nose all the time too! I’m convinced it’s all related to underdeveloped tounge muscles at the back of this mouth, his sucking. We are on a waiting list for speech therapy… and are not getting very far ☹️

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