This week is European babywearing week. Yesterday's theme was "the joy of communication." There is much evidence to suggest that babies who are carried develop communication skills earlier and social skills develop well because they are involved in conversations much more so due to being right in the midst of the action.
Bethany and Luke my eldest were early and great talkers. Bethany in particular was talking in full and completely understandable sentences at 18 months. (No brag, she just was). Luke followed suit.
When Samuel was was born and the reached the age of beginning to talk, he did not follow in the same way. He did a bit, said mama and Dada but no where near the level of talking the other two did.
MANY MANY people "blamed" it on the fact the he was the youngest. That the other two spoke for him (not true). That because I was busy and there were three of them, he didn't get a word in edgeways. Others said it was because he didn't need to speak because I did all the things he needed without him having to ask. But he was still so little...it was in the realm of "normal".
Fast forward a couple of years to preschool and Samuel was definitely talking by this point but was also challenged by it. There were lots of sounds he struggled with and he would often lash out (bite) if he couldn't be understood. It was tricky for him and for me.
We raised it with the HV and preschool. The option given was a speech and language group where I would be taught how to talk to him better so he could learn from me. And the conclusion was he was just a bit behind.
That didn't seem quite right to me. It wasn't that he was ignored by me. It wasn't that he didn't have opportunities to speak that was holding him back.
The thing is, Samuel is incredibly bright and so even with a speech delay, he was doing well. He was able to make his needs and wants known. He also had a truly wonderful key worker at preschool who listened to him and learnt very quickly Samuels ways of saying things. But again, we figured he was just a bit delayed.
Fast forward again to reception at school. Very quickly he began to be unhappy. He wasn't being understood at school and he was getting frustrated. We are incredibly lucky to have a dedicated speach and language centre as part of the school who assessed him and offered him a place in the speech and language class.
This was a success from the beginning. It also triggered a hearing test. Which we thought wouldn't be an issue. He'd passed his newborn test. No one had suggested it since then. He could hear us. It was just his speech right?
It turnedrns out poor old Samuel has a severe high frequency hearing loss. This means he can hear, but not the high frequency sounds (f,p,t,s, etc). And this was the root of his speech delay.
I have massive massive love for the audiology dept at Broomfield and in particular Kirsten the paedatric audiologist who we saw (and still see) at every appt and who fitted Samuel's hearing aids. These have made so so so much difference to him. He noticed the difference straight away and his speech has improved significantly, so much so that he has just been discharged from speech and language care. He still struggles with some words and without his hearing aids - well he definitely needs them (we can all tell when one has run out of battery!). And likely will for the rest of his life. We don't know what caused the hearing loss but it's there...
So what's this got to do with European babywearing week?
Well, I look back on my time babywearing Samuel and just think "thank goodness". I deal with mega guilt about how long it took us to uncover Samuels hearing loss.There are many pictures of him in a sling right up close to me and I am so grateful that I carried him because it meant that he could hear me, up close. Because we were physically closer he could catch what I was saying. That the times it was noisy and he couldn't hear me, at least he had the physical reasurrance that he was safe. We were together. And maybe, just maybe, hopefully, even with hearing loss, that early communication was a good foundation for him too.