Your First Speech – The Late Talker Wins

Yesterday, I found a little word document hidden away in a folder on my hard disk. Since I thought I had lost it, I was delighted to see it. It is a copy of your first speech, which you delivered for a speech competition organized by your pre-school. You were five at the time. Interestingly, your first speech was on Mangalore. I remember that I had written it for you and we spent hours practicing it.

Shashi's speech

Your first speech! You had participated in speech competitions, storytelling competitions, and recitation competitions your pre-school had organized when you were four, but those were just a few sentences. This, on the contrary, was your first two-minute speech. You may wonder why I am scribbling an entire blog post about it. You see, I just want to tell you that I am proud of you. You did well!

You were a late talker. When you turned one, I began worrying about your reluctance to talk. I discussed the issue with your pediatrician and he advised me to take you for speech therapy. Unfortunately, I did not follow his advice … at least, not immediately.

You see, many of us do not think much about speech therapy. We feel that it is unnecessary. Many of us feel that a novena or a pooja or a visit to a sacred place will solve the problem. But we do scamper to the speech therapist when things get really tough and we cannot afford to wait any longer.

WaitPeople told me to wait. They said, “Why do you want to go for speech therapy now? He is just one! Wait!” They gave me examples of late talkers who went on to do very well in life. They told me that boys usually start talking later than girls. A 70-year-old with exceptional debating and oratorical skills assured me that he was seven years old when he started talking. I believed them. I decided to wait. I never bothered to research the subject. I still feel I made a mistake. Probably, I will spend the rest of my life feeling guilty about it.

Research studies have shown that late talkers usually start developing Baby saying rickshawbehavioral and emotional problems when they are two. You were an intelligent two-year-old baby who could comprehend extraordinarily well, but couldn’t communicate, and this frustrated you. You could just say “Mamma.” I couldn’t bear to wait any longer. I rushed you to the speech therapist, and after just a week of therapy, you said your second word “rickshaw.”

Unfortunately, your struggles did not end even after building a sizable vocabulary of words. You started going to play school six months after you started speech therapy. You had just started talking in your mother tongue Konkani and now you were exposed to a brand new language in play school—English! You must have had a tough time handling two languages at the same time. And things got worse the following year, your first year of pre-school.

Distressed with your inability to frame sentences properly in both English and Konkani, I took you to another speech therapist. I requested her to give you therapy in English and decided to fix your Konkani at home. You handled it well. In your second year of pre-school, you became a social little boy, conversing easily with your schoolmates and making friends with them. In your third year of pre-school, your teacher informed me that you just cannot keep your mouth shut and I was jubilant. And then you gave that 2-minute speech on Mangalore, and a month later, you were asked to give another speech, this time about Christmas. I was happy that our hard work had paid off.

Would life have been better if I took you to speech therapy a year earlier? Definitely! The early speakers still have an advantage over you. Their pronunciation is flawless, they can speak faster, and they are more fluent. If you had received speech therapy right from age one, it would have done you a world of good. Yes, I had made a mistake and I will always be sorry about it. But you, my dear, are going to be just fine. You have already won the battle.

Here are how the talking milestones ought to be:

                                        THE TALKING MILESTONES
3 months Baby makes cooing sounds
6 months Baby says ba – ba and da – da
9 months Baby uses other consonants and different tones
12 months Baby says Mamma and Dadda
18 months Baby develops a vocabulary of around 10 simple words
2 years Baby puts together two or three words
3 years Baby’s vocabulary increases quickly. I have known 3 year olds who can relate complex stories.

Experts on late talking have the following points to make:

  • Boys often start talking later than girls.
  • Speech delay does not put a child at risk for behavioral and emotional problems in future.
  • The parent’s income, educational qualification, mental health, and parenting methodology are not related in any way to the child becoming a late talker.
  • Late talking is not the result of a parent not talking to a child enough.
  • Late talking is not because of flaws in family life or the home environment.
  • Late talkers catch up with their peers, sooner or later.
  • Late talkers may even surpass their peers. Want examples? This website has listed some of them – Gary Becker, Albert Einstein, Julia Robinson, Arthur Rubinstein, and Edward Teller.

You can even consider the story of Demosthenes. Although it is not exactly about late talking, it is definitely inspiring.

I created this post for three reasons—to apologize for not giving you speech therapy earlier, to express my appreciation of how you handled the problem and to tell you that I am proud of you, and to assure other parents of late talkers that everything is going to be just fine.

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