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.
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).