Monday, 22 October 2012


We borrowed and renewed the library-copy of this book so many times that I decided it was time to buy our own. Recently, it's developed extra meaning for me, as we've started along this journey of speech therapy with Westboy.

The ingredients of the book are pretty much perfect: a boy called Ben, a penguin, a lion, a page-turning story line, sweet and quirky illustrations, humour, and a happy ending. 

Ben is given a penguin as a present. "Hello, Penguin!" he says. When Penguin doesn't respond, Ben tries all the tactics he can think of to try to engage him in conversation, from tickling him to firing him into outer space strapped to a rocket. Unfortunately, despite Ben's creativity and persistence, Penguin still doesn't say a word. 

Just as Ben loses his cool and gets frustrated with Penguin, a lion appears on the scene. The story takes an unexpected twist, and culminates with Penguin saving Ben, and breaking his silence.

While Westboy says plenty of words, it's often very difficult to understand what he's saying. I can relate to Ben, drawing on every strategy he can think of to help Penguin communicate, trying to get his Penguin to "SAY SOMETHING!", ...and throwing the occasional frustrated tantrum over it all. 

Progress with speech therapy so far has been painfully slow, and I've found it difficult watching him struggle so much with something, while feeling pretty powerless to help.

In the past couple of weeks, he's been referred to an Early Years Language Centre at Mab Lane school, and after half-term he'll start going there every morning. He'll get intensive speech therapy and specialist help with developing communication skills. He's met his teacher a couple of times and she's fantastic. She understands what he's saying, -which is utterly amazing and a new experience for him. I'm hopeful that he'll make great progress with help from her and the rest of the team. The main challenges for me are getting used to the idea of him leaving his wonderful nursery, and sending him on a minibus to school!

(I'm feeling much more optimistic than when I wrote this. The Community Paediatrician's written report is much more tentative about the diagnosis of learning disability than he'd been during the appointment. Blood tests have also shown that the lead pipes in our house don't appear to have caused problems, which is a great relief).

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Week in Pictures

Westboy had an audiology appointment last week, and his hearing hasn't deteriorated in the past couple of months, which is great. His concentration when he's doing hearing tests is totally amazing for his age, and he's adapted to wearing his hearing aid so well. 

Nana looked after Westboy & Westbaby while I went to a Signalong class. She did a great job, and I enjoyed learning some new things and remembering signs I used to know. I'm starting to incorporate some signs into our day, and hoping that it'll help Westboy to communicate when we can't understand his speech. He's been referred for intensive speech therapy and to an Educational Psychologist (after doing badly in a verbal reasoning assessment the speech therapist administered). It's amazing finding out what resources are available if children need them, but each referral stings, as it reminds me that most children don't need all these appointments, assessments and interventions. 

This was a breakthrough...!!! I've been (unsuccessfully) encouraging Westboy to draw people and faces for a while. I walked into the kitchen one day last week, and found him with his trousers round his ankles, felt-pen smiley faces drawn on his knees (he'd even done them upside down so that they're the right way up to everyone else). After pointing out that rolling up his trousers might be a better way to show off his knees(!), I took some photos (...& suggested trying paper next time).

I re-covered our kitchen chairs, swapping very grubby cream fabric for a cheerful cherry red. It was a satisfying & cheap way of making the room look different. Hurray!