Tell me what you see…
This picture doesn’t look like much to you does it. You see a little blond boy standing in an attic holding a torch. The attic is filled with insulation foam and a box of Christmas decorations. You can see one of the pipes attached to a ventilation fan and some piles of stuff. The sorts of things you would normally find in an attic.
I cannot believe this photo was taken a year ago. It seems so much longer. When I was looking through pictures it actually took me by surprise. You see the little boy in this picture is my son BusyBee and this picture represents a critical moment in his life. In this moment BB who was challenged with Selective Mutism had his breakthrough, and I caught the moment on camera.
BusyBee had a speech delay. We picked it up early at aged two so we got right onto treatment. After a year with a lot of hard work, BB had developed his language beautifully and we celebrated. At home he was a little chatterbox which was music to our ears. For so long we wished we were the parents who could complain their child would not stop talking and now he was, except we were not complaining. We understood how precious a gift this was.
The only problem was that BB would not speak in public or to new people. Even with people familiar in his life. I would take BB to his playgroup and report back to his teacher about his beautiful words, and talk about what a lovely voice he had. He had the sweetest little voice, like the world’s most perfect sound. The sound you just cannot get enough of. It changes the way your neurons fire and you fall into that blissful state of mind. No matter our attempts we could barely get two words out of him. I could see he wanted to, something was holding him back.
After the visit to my sister’s place where she showed us her new attic, things changed. BB is obsessed with anything electrical, mechanical, involving torch light, plugs and pipes. He is particularly obsessed with air conditioning units and their inner workings. Oh and fans, he is fanatical about fans – pedestal fans, ceiling fans, giant fans, tiny fans – so long as they have a ‘propeller’. BB watched the ceiling open, the ladder descend and he suddenly had a new obsession. BB realised we had our own attic at home too which made it more exciting because he could compare the two.
As part of the Playgroup program BB was in, we kept an Experience Book. This is a scrap book which has photos of day to day life, and we use it to help build language. I had put his precious pictures of his Auntie’s attic and our attic in his book and he loved it. He looked at it all the time and was so excited.
The next week at Speech Therapy we took his Experience Book in to show his Therapist and without prompting BB just started to speak. He spoke nonstop, describing in detail each attic and everything he could see inside them. I watched in total amazement and relief. The tears just rolled down my face. Our therapist glowed with satisfaction. This had been a battle for such a long time.
The following week we had playgroup and we arrived with BB’s book under his arm. I asked one of the specialists if she had a minute so I could show her something and she sat on the mat with BB. He did it again, and once again the tears flowed down my cheeks. That morning BB spoke to as many people in the room as he could find to listen.
Things started to get better from here. Gradually over time, with strategies to help him self-manage, BB has gained confidence. Today one year on, you would not know this child has been on this journey. At times he is ‘shy’, but when he has something to say there is no stopping him. These last few days BB has been so excited about our new puppy he has been sitting with the Yaya’s on our common lawn, here in our new home in the Philippines. He is keeping them entertained with non-stop dialogue about his new puppy, his scooter and anything else he feels is news worthy. When I go over to him they look at me and in broken English say they cannot understand him. Their English is not good and we speak with fast Australian accents – hardly anyone understands us! Yet they sit and pretend and he loves it. On his play dates with new friends he is sure to set them straight if rules are not followed or if he has an idea for a new game.
Language development is unbelievably complex. Yet it is something so many of us take for granted, for when it is uncomplicated it is not something we give much consideration to. I still well up when we go into a new situation and I see BB relaxed, happy, confident and talking. I feel such relief, such pride in the courage of my son. I still say to people – a year ago he could not do this. Because this achievement has been extraordinary for this little four year old. He has overcome speech delay, selective mutism, a stutter, an audio sensitivity and social anxiety. We still have a way to go, but not far, I see the end in site and I see my little boy racing to the finish line.
A major decision making factor to move to the Philippines was around BB, his progress and access to the services we have been using back home to support him. Thankfully he is transitioning well, and aside from feeling homesick and missing his friends he is doing really great.
This week I am trying my hand at writing for Mama Kat of Mama’s Losin’ It!
The prompt I chose was Throwback Thursday where I was to pick a photo from last May and write about it. I honestly could not tell you what I was doing last May so I was pleasantly surprised to find this photo, because it is one of my most favourite stories that I would love to share.