The boy who couldn’t speak..

When the health visitor came for Teddies’ 2-year check I knew she was a jobsworth the second she got out of her car. I knew she would have an opinion on Teddies’ speech but at the same time, I wasn’t surprised. We had received a generic questionnaire full of stupid questions that made you doubt your abilities as a parent but you fill it in nevertheless and wait for the list of things your child should be doing.

I cannot remember when I first thought this could be something more than just a speech delay. Gareth & my dad used to always say;

“once he can talk he’ll be fine”

they weren’t completely wrong but they missed out some extremely hard work in between. There is a misconception around speech & communication, one that many people have no idea about even professionals. When a person has no voice they can still communicate, however, they use other forms of communication such as body language, facial expression and behaviours. Using a psychodynamic approach to Teddie we were able to associate Teddies’ nonverbal communications to his wants and needs from an early age by closely observing his behaviours and body languages especially when he was upset and anxious. Not having a voice allows you to see past what someone is saying and see within a person, we all know how to put on a brave face, we say one thing but we mean another. For us, we saw past Teddies’ inabilities to speak which meant I could work on securing an environment where Teddie felt safe to express himself in a way we could understand and not judge him.

Even now when Teddie can talk and hold a conversation with you I see things no one else does. I see him wiping his nose constantly, I see his face change when he says certain words or when I hear his footsteps change or become louder than normal. All of these things are his way of telling me (us) something is wrong, he doesn’t have to tell us with speech he’s telling us through nonverbal communication. When this happens we have to backtrack and find the root cause for his anxieties, cos there’s always a reason why, even if he doesn’t know. It’s possible that something happened at school that unsettled him or I forgot to put his fruit in his bag, it can be something so simple to you and I but is quantified for him. Anyone of these things is enough to change his perspective of life at that time but it’s down to us to help him work through his anxieties before they manifest into something more serious.

I talk about visuals far too much, I know but I cannot stress enough the importance of them even to neurotypical children. Visuals do not just have to be still images, visuals can be picture sentence or videos. Children learn from their peers, they mirror behaviours (good and bad) and follow what other children are doing. When Teddie was 2 & half I showed him a cartoon video of how to use the potty, within 24 hours he was dry night and day. Teddie learns by example so using visuals was a great way for him to meet his developmental milestones in a way that he could understand.

Of late I am aware that all my post are always happy positive posts but that’s only because all our hard work has finally paid & we don’t need to think about what we are doing, we can just do it. This, of course, wasn’t always the case, we avoided so much when Teddie was younger because we knew Teddie wouldn’t be able to handle most situations which was annoying at times but it was what we had to do. Year’s ago we couldn’t individually leave the house, we all had to go out at the same time as it would cause Teddie to become extremely stressed & overwhelmed. We couldn’t spring something on him like we do now without him panicking although this only applies to our home life, at school Teddie needs the visuals and the consistency of routine

Fast forward to now, Teddie is a force to be reckoned with, he is my hero for sure. How is it possible to start school not being able to say a word to now receiving a wonderful parents evening saying how advance he is in certain areas? I knew Teddie would be ok but I couldn’t have hope for a more confident boy, his want to learn and soak up everything society has to offer is mind-blowing which is something you don’t generally see with ASD children. He is participating in class and wants to do what everyone else is doing, he is a superstar.

I will always be my children’s voice whether they have one or not, I will always guide them into the individuals they want to become and not what society expects them to be. Even as an adult I’m still not entirely what is expected of us, what is being ”normal? If being different is being kind, caring, funny & confident then sign me the hell up!

Never doubt your child’s abilities even when professionals tell you otherwise, focus on what’s best for them and not what fits everyone else’s expectations.

Bear, we love you and wouldn’t have you any other way, you have made us all better people for all the reasons above 🥰

Lets talk food…

Modern-day family. (staged of course)

The boy is eating pasta people!! Yep, you heard me right PASTA. In fact, Teddie has been asking for it almost every night. Last week we had all-day breakfast for dinner, sausage, hash browns, toast, and penne, he can not get enough of it. We are not complaining, of course, because it’s taken us years to get to this point.

I’d like to say that we all sit at the kitchen table and eat the same food, but we don’t. Is it annoying? Yes, of course, it is, but ask yourself if you would eat something you do not like. I’d love not to make a million different dinners each night and have the mindset that my children will eat what they are given but the fact is they won’t! I think there’s a real misconception about the ‘perfect family. Modern technologies like social media allow us to see each other’s family dynamics, to know what’s for dinner next door or how far Joe Blogs has run this weekend. What they don’t show you is them eating a frozen pizza from Tesco on their lap in front of the TV or the kids eating a bag of sweets for breakfast. My point is we do all things like this, not everyone is lucky enough to sit at a table and eat together. Some families choose to feed the children first and then cook for themselves and their partners later – there is no right or wrong here, do what works for you.

As a child growing up in the 80s, we ate what was put in front of us, whether we liked it or not, or we went hungry, but times were very different then. My sisters and I were lucky that our parents always prepared big, healthy meals, especially in autumn and winter, but in summer we subsisted on Twizzlers, Chicken Drummers and Chicken Kievs, mainly because they were cheap and easy to make. In the 80s, money was the main problem for many households, so wasting food was not an option, but I know my parents never prepared anything for us if we did not like it. Money is still an issue in many households, especially recently. We save money by cooking what we all individually like.

I do not believe for a second that all the ‘perfect parents’ out there claim their children will eat anything put in front of them. As children grow up, their taste buds are constantly changing. I have a 17-year-old, a 13-year-old and a 7-year-old son and I can tell you that as the boys grew up, the foods they ate as babies change and they started to decide for themselves what they like and do not like.
Gareth and I have always encouraged the boys to think for themselves and make their voices heard. Even as young children we treated them with the same value as we treat each other, so why should food be any different.

For us, mealtimes are particularly complex as we have two children with sensory issues. Alfie has been extremely sensitive to certain foods for 2 years. He has problems with the consistency of pasta, Lasagne is always off the menu for him as the lasagne sheets are too much for him. Teddie would not eat lasagne as he can not tolerate any of the ingredients in it, I do not eat mince so I would not eat it either. Both Gareth and Harvey love lasagne so I like to make them one as they are the main eaters in our house. We very rarely all eat the same dish. To accommodate everyone’s likes and dislikes, I prepare a million different dishes to suit everyone’s changing taste buds.

As a baby and toddler, Teddie ate everything that was put in front of him. It was not until he was about 3 years old that his sensory issues started. Teddie is an extremely good eater, but he only eats the foods he likes;

Breaded chicken
Breaded Turkey
Sweet and sour chicken balls (minus the sauce)
Square potatoes
waffles (sweet & savoury)
Hash browns
Bread (by the loaf)

Fruit has never been an issue for Teddie whereas vegetables are another story but we still put a tiny portion on his plate with the hope he will eat it.

Many years ago I read an article about picky eaters. An American doctor pointed out the importance of putting a tiny amount of food on the child’s plate, even if you know they will not eat it because they might try it one day and find they like it. We have been doing this for a while now and it’s finally paid off. Teddie is much more open to trying new foods and the school meals have certainly helped with that

Teddie has a packed lunch majority of the week, although the school menu contains lots of foods he eats there are normally lots of sauces or gravy involved so he’s better just having lunch from home. Is his packed lunch the healthiest? Probably not, but I know he’ll eat everything in it, we wouldn’t want our boy going hungry.

Try to take the pressure of mealtimes by giving your loved ones the foods they like and not the foods you force upon them as their anxieties around foods will only grow stronger. Instead, sit together as a family and enjoy one another even if that means you all eating something different while watching the T.V.

We love our Bear and wouldn’t have him any other way.