PARENTS

Children With Poor Speech At The Age Of Two Are Doomed To A Lifetime Of Failure, According To A Government Adviser

18/01/2012 13:16 | Updated 22 May 2015
Children with poor speech at the age of two are doomed to a lifetime of failure, according to a government adviserGetty
Children with poor speech at the age of two are doomed to a lifetime of failure, according to a Government adviser.

When I saw this pearl of wisdom in The Times, I could barely speak.

Two! Well that's that, then. Write my four year-old off right now. Hoist him off to the scrap heap. Do not pass go, because he doesn't pass muster.

Jean Gross, a former teacher, who was appointed Communications Champion, argues in her Bercow Report, that checks on the language of toddlers needs to become as routine as health assessments of weight and growth.

"Language development falls between the cracks of the NHS and education," she said.

"Recent research showed children's language at two predicted how ready they would be for school. By that age, children are on the path to success or failure at school. Their path is set if this isn't picked up early."

The Bercow review was highly critical of services and said early intervention was essential.

Mrs Gross said testing children in school is too late as those who are inarticulate at five have little chance of catching up with their peers.

They are twice as likely to be unemployed in their thirties, and at greater risk of ending up in prison.

Phew! That's a lot for a parent to take on board as you're trying to get your four year-old son to say "CHEER-EE-Os" not "CHEE-Os" as he chooses his breakfast cereal.

But for all my parental protectiveness, I'm worried that Mrs Gross may have a point.

As the youngest of three children, my son has always always struggled with his speech.

When he was two, his mother and I weren't remotely bothered about this because he got everything he wanted and needed by grunting and pointing.

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Besides, he could hardly get a word in edgeways because his older brother and sister would always race to finish the murmured beginnings of one of his sentences.

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But when he started nursery at three, I started to compare him with other children. I see them chattering away to each other, raising their hands in class, totally engrossed and engaged, whereas my little boy seemed a little lost and bewildered at the back of the carpet.

"It's not an issue," friends reassured us. "He's an August baby. He's a younger sibling. A late developer."

And so I relaxed again. In fact, my son's lack of speech started to become a bit of an in-joke in my family.

His granddad would phone me, and his first question was always: "Is he talking yet?" To which my answer would always be negative.

Then last August, he started Reception class – and he STILL wasn't speaking. He'd make a stab at it, stumbling over words that came out of his mouth as one stream of babble.

Increasingly, he'd become frustrated at not being able to make himself understood, and he'd get very agitated and annoyed when his brother and sister tried to help him out.

At the same time, I noticed his classmates were soaring away in their articulacy. Eventually, I made an appointment to see his teacher, if for no other reason than to get some reassurance.

And it was reassurance I got. "He's fine. Just a late developer. He'll make strides soon enough," she said.

His teacher gave me some speech therapy worksheets to try out at home – lip-reading, vowel-sounding, verb-expression, that kind of thing.

There is no question that he is improving. But it's not happening fast enough for me – and nor for him.

He's four and a half now and I fear that his inability to express himself to his teachers and to his peers will have a lasting effect.

I'm determined that that won't happen, of course. I'll keep going with the worksheets, keep getting him to read what he can, and I'll read to him too.

But I can't help thinking that if this issue had been identified when he was two years old – and not just by me and his mum, but by professionals – he would have got the support I believe would have helped him, not just for now, but for his future.

What do you think? Was your child late to talk?

More on Parentdish: Is your child late to talk?
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