Thursday, 5 July 2012

Talk the Talk

Yesterday was quite a tear-filled day for me. The morning saw Pixie's first dysfluency speech therapy session (although it was parent only so he was off living it up with a friend!). 

I feel horrendously sad for him and guilty. I honestly thought his affected speech was a short-lived developmental phase but being there made me realise that his speech patterns are quite a bit more serious than I thought. As he's not been formally assessed yet I can only give my lay opinion but I believe he has a stammer (or stutter if you're from the US) and cluttered speech.

The stammer has presented perfectly typically. He's 3, he's a boy, he has parents with speech issues (his dad had a stammer, I get what I call speech dyslexia (although I'm sure there's an official name!) from my fibromyalgia), he's had a great deal of stressful change in a short period. I'm not sure he could be more of a classic presentation! According to the Speech Disorder website there are three types of stammer:

There are three main types of stammers that exist and which keep individuals from speaking most efficiently. One type of stammering occurs when specific sounds are repeated, such as the “s”. This often makes a word such as “sweet” be pronounced as “s-s-s-sweet”.Another type of stammering occurs when a specific sound is prolonged before the rest of the word is pronounced, such as “sssssssweet”. The third type of stammering occurs when some speech is blocked so that there is a short period of silence in the middle of a word, such as “s……weet”.
Pixie certainly does the first two, although he also repeats the first word or syllable as well as the sound. So far he hasn't shown any sign of 'blocking'. He also repeats sounds or words in the middle of sentences, although the speech therapist believes that because of his age he's treating them as two separate sentences. As well as those he adds filler sounds like 'um' and a sort of tut. Again this is common, apparently, as his brain realises that making those noises gives him a bit of time to get his mouth round what he's actually saying. Thankfully he hasn't noticed yet that he has a stammer.

As well as the stammer, I believe he has cluttering, which Wikipedia defines as a:
communication disorder characterized by speech that is difficult for listeners to understand due to rapid speaking rate, erratic rhythm, poor syntax or grammar, and words or groups of words unrelated to the sentence.
He can have an entire conversation with me where I can only make out a word or two of what he says. Although many websites have said that clutterers don't have any awareness of their dysfluent speech, Pixie has started to notice that people don't understand him. More upsetting, he's noticed that people are pretending to understand him. We've all done it to children who are learning to talk, replied to an unintelligible babble with "Oh yes, right! That's it, yes!" which is all well and good until the child is old enough to come crying to me because the person he's talking to isn't talking back.

My homework following the session is to see when Pixie's speech is at its most fluent, so we can use that state as a basis to improve the bad times. I think I'm the person least able to do this because I genuinely don't hear a lot of the issues because I'm so used to them. We're visiting my parents this weekend so hopefully they'll be able to help out.

I'm a little ashamed to say I cried in the session. Realising that my little baby needs help was honestly devastating. I'm even more ashamed to say I cried when a friend asked me how it had gone! We've only been friends for a couple of weeks so I don't think she was expecting tears over cake!

Something I'm finding hard to admit and even harder to articulate is the extra worry I have. There's something inside me that thinks the speech problems may be part of something bigger, more worrying. Over the last few months there have been times when I've thought 'you're just not right'. I can't tell you what, and I hope it's just an over active imagination, but I've been spending a lot of time reading up about ADD and salicylate sensitivity. More on those another day as Poppy has just woken up from her (very short!) nap.


  1. I'm so sorry Meg, poor Pixie but it sounds like he's getting the right kind of help and I know that you two will do everything that you can to support him. Take care of yourself xo