Today Zachary had his speech therapy assessment with an independent Speech and Language Therapist named Gill.
We had decided to see an independent therapist after we were invited to a Parent Empowerment session by the NHS Speech Therapists and felt that the ‘invitation’ itself was rather patronising – a two-hour session with no children allowed and they would only see Zachary for therapy sessions based on what I told them, not them assessing him themselves.
I contacted Gill through her website and she was able to offer me an appointment within a week and coming to our home to assess Zachary.
Paul had taken Abigail with him to Jake’s tennis lesson and as Kyla was upstairs, it meant that I could talk to Gill about Zachary and she could assess him without too many interruptions and distractions.
Gill took the usual history of Zachary – pregnancy, birth, illnesses, problems etc. Then we moved on to what is going on and what he can and can’t do etc.
Once a history and background had been taken it was time to assess exactly where Zachary is at with his speech and development.
Gill had brought a range of various toys with her and got down to play with Zachary.
First of all she had some stacking cups. Gill sat stacking the cups, with Zachary watching, and then let Zachary stack them. She was looking out for a number of things – how well he understands, does he get frustrated if he can’t do it and does he ask for help.
Zachary picked up the stacking cups fairly quickly. He didn’t get frustrated when trying to stack bigger cups on top of smaller cups – instead he looked at Gill, which was him asking for help.
Another game they played to gauge his understanding of objects was a lift out puzzle game. Gill wanted to see if he could repeat any of the objects and whether or not he could grasp where they needed to go. Again, Zachary was ready to play and knew straight away that the puzzle pieces went in to the holes. Gill would show him each piece and say the object. He said his own version of “teddy bear” and when she showed him a tea-cup, he made a pouring action, and similar with the phone, he put his hand to his ear as if he was talking on the phone.
It was quickly established that Zachary was and in fact has been signing to us, without us intentionally realising! I didn’t think much of it when he comes to me, looks to the kitchen, looks at me and then points so I follow him – but that is in fact a 3 step communication method.
Gill advised that as he has already established his own signing method, that he was a great candidate to start using sign and so she taught me a few simple Makaton words as we are going to start using this with Zachary to encourage him to communicate with us.
From then on, Gill was using Makaton when she spoke to him. She played a game of bubbles with him which he thoroughly enjoyed. She would blow some bubbles (making the sign of bubbles to him), he would the laugh hysterically whilst chasing them around. She would then put the lid on and wait for Zachary to ask for more – and when he looked at her for more she made the Makaton sign for more whilst saying the word. Gill showed Zachary this sign twice and then he did it straight away when he wanted her to blow more bubbles.
He did his usual screeching, and Gill very quickly picked up on that sometimes he does it for no reason. She believes that this is a sensory issue and that he could be doing just because he likes the vibration it makes in his throat. She also mentioned that teeth grinding is a sensory sign – which he does also! She encourage deep pressure cuddles when he screeches to reassure him. These are methods which are used with autistic children, but she reassured us that Zachary doesn’t have signs of autism – although to us, already having one child with special needs isn’t a big deal if he was.
Zachary is so desperate and eager to communicate, but just cannot seem to get the words out – which we think may be linked to his hypermobility, so we are going back to the doctors to push for a hospital referral to get a full development check.
I am so glad that we had the assessment done. We know that Zachary is an intelligent boy and has great understanding, and his frustration is because he is non verbal, but he will talk one day – that we are certain of. Hopefully we can now learn Makaton and teach him so he can communicate with us until his words come.