My child does not speak …. at all!

Isabelle is at a really terrific school, she has been there since January this year.

Isabelle turned three in June.  All good.

I might have spoken about this earlier on my blog, but the “strange” things about Isabelle is that she refused to move to solid food when she was younger.  We had been on pureed food until August/September 2011 – pureed to an inch of it’s life.

It was not that she picky about food, you could get it in her mouth.

But if the food you gave her had a texture i.e. even mashed potatoes, she would gag, gag, and then projectile vomit it out.  When this happens – several times – you start to feel that fine pureed food is easier.  You are less likely to be digging chunks out your hair, so you go with what is easier, and does not require a kitchen spray down mid-way through a meal.

The result was she ate yoghurt, and pureed vegetables.  I could not add meat to the vegetables as it would give the puree a grainy feel and if it went in to Isabelle you could pretty much guarantee it was going to come straight back out again.  On you.  On the cat innocently walking by.

That got sorted (probably more because Kennith decided to step in as he was frustrated) and now she is on normal food and that seems to be okay.  She is more likely to eat vegetables than meat, as I only introduced meat late last year.

There is nothing wrong with her growth, weight and size.  She is big for her age, both in height and weight. Her development is fine, she moved off nappies and got through nights without nappies or wet beds much earlier than our other two.

But she is a fair sized girl. I purchase clothes in the 4 – 5 age range, and some shirts go off Georgia (who is 7) and straight on to Isabelle.

Let’s just say you would not describe her as petite!

Once we got over the food issue, then it gave me time to start focussing on the other things that were just not “quite right.”

Isabelle does not speak.  I am not suggesting she does not sounds, she does, and they are audible from 100 kilometres away, but she does not form words and speak.  She has maybe 4 – 5 words that she says “MUM” “Oof” “Da” “peez” and that might be about it.

I sort of understand what she is saying by the tone of what she says, but no one else does.

I have tried not to panic and run around like a headless chicken.  I used the logic that all kids develop on a different scale and rate, so I should just be patient.  Worked quite well up until now.  Very “mature universal mom” thing going on here.

I got a report from her school – which I forgot to read and which lay on the kist unopened for about 4 weeks.  I saw a note at the school with ticks next to the children’s names whose reports had been returned.  Of course I said quietly to myself “reports, what reports? ….shit ….”

Found report and read through and was a bit alarmed.

The school has raised some concerns (it was in a red bold font) that Isabelle has not progressed with speech in the last 7 months.

She is still not making words.  She is making sounds that are not linked to any words (spoken outside Star Trek!) and worse, because she cannot communicate she is showing signs of aggression and getting in to scuffles with the other kids.

Cripes – my kid has become THAT kid who is beating up/on other kids up for the crayons.

I am a bit alarmed.  I am not blind to the problem, but I have been patiently waiting and thinking, no worries, she will get there.  SHE WILL GET THERE.

When I look over the list of what are considered “average” speech development milestones for a 3-year-old – Isabelle has reached none of these milestones – NONE:

Vocabulary around  150 words. (nope, barely makes 5 words, and those are not even super recognisable)

Able to give name, age and sex. (nope …..)

Produces 3-5 word sentences. (er …. still nope)

Marks plurals and possessives. (right ………… I think we are aiming a bit high on this one ……)

Uses verbs ending in –ing, e.g., “walking, running, etc. (cripes ….. do I get points if she actually is able to walk and run and jump?)

Answers questions with “yes” or “no.” (well she grimaces and screams …. actually she does sort of make an “essss” sound and a “nooohhhhhh” sound, so you know hat I am going to take this one as a tick in the positive direction)

Begins to use descriptive words, e.g., big, hot, color words, etc. (skip this question…..I am feeling somewhat perturbed right now..)

Begins to express feelings. (she expressed her feelings, but in interpretative dance …. no words required)

I have made an appointment with a speech therapist for an assessment.

I was hoping to wait a bit as we are in that wonderful medical aid self payment gap, but I also think I can’t afford to wait 2 – 3 months and address it then.

I do believe that every month that goes by whilst we do not address the situation will affect her in future development milestones.  The risk with Isabelle is that her speech developed issues may knock on learning development problems that are really going to come up and smack us in the face when we are trying to get her ready for Grade R.

Speech therapist assessment booked for next week Wednesday.

Yes, I am somewhat worried that my baby is a bit of a pumpkin head and this speech thing is robbing her of some development experiences she should be enjoying, and isn’t.

{insert huge mommy guilt!}

Leave a comment


  1. jo

     /  August 17, 2012

    I stumbled onto your blog via google a few days ago. I was in the midst of a not-so-slight mental breakdown and reading your blog brought me to a safe place, so thank you! I have now set up camp and am not leaving!

    A short breakdown of me: 40yr old Australian mother; 3 daughters aged 21, 7 and 5; 1 grandson aged 3.

    I feel I should tell you of my experiences with my youngest daughter, who is coincidently named Isabella.

    Isabella was my easiest baby, everything normal until she hit one. Then the fun began..Isabella had large personal space requirements, which meant anyone who got too close was swiftly bitten. More often than not it was her sister she bit, but then when she started going to child care she would average 3 bitten children a day. Around the same time she also discovered her own poo and then spent the best part of a year playing with it, painting with it and eating it. Lovely. Isabella was also on a diet of mush until about 2. Her diet consisted of tinned egg custard, creamy chicken pasta and cows milk (oh, and poo). Although she crawled fine, she didn’t walk until she was 18 months.

    Talking was the slowest process though. Her first speech was singing songs she’d learnt at childcare. She was 2 and a half. She then babbled until she was 4, with a maximum vocabulary of 20 words scattered amongst the babble.

    Then a year or so ago, she changed! It was bizarre, this delightful little girl, who had been so hard to get to know up to this point, suddenly emerged. She’s hilarious. She also never shuts up. Speaks perfectly. There was never a problem with her vocal chords, she’s SO loud.(I really hope one day she becomes an actor or singer or politician, if only so my ear drums have not been sacrificed in vain!)

    In the midst of the worst of her behaviour I was convinced there was something seriously wrong with her, but thankfully Isabella has turned out fine. I think in regards to talking, she had the attitude “Screaming works, so why fix what isn’t broken?”. As for the poo, I will NEVER understand that!

    I hope you’ll have similar success with Isabelle (minus the Poo,obviously) I wont offer any advice other than to tell you to go with your instincts.

    Thank you, once again, for your wonderful blog!
    Best wishes, Jo

  2. Jessica Guilhas

     /  August 6, 2012

    Hi Celeste – I read your blog regularly – I dont usually comment but felt compelled to after reading this post. My little boy Caden is turning 3 at the end of September and as yet, has not really spoken any discernable words. I have taken him to 2 OT’s already. The first OT visit was a nightmare and she managed to terrify him within the first two minutes and needless to say it just went downhill from there. The second OT (a week later) was amazing and let him set the pace and he was so much more relaxed with her. Basically what she said was that although there is a speech delay, it was nothing to panic about and that as long as we are seeing development and improvement, the rest will follow (she did however give us some excercises to do with him). She also said that there could also be a million reasons why he isnt talking yet – he is the youngest of 3 children, my husbands family are all very late talkers and even that he doesnt feel the need to talk, because we tend to “predict” his wants and needs (yes, that means us being soft on him and not demanding that he “asks” for things – some nice mommy guilt right there!). All of these could be factors. He has reached all his other milestones except for talking. So to sum this up because I feel like I am waffling, I honestly do know how you feel and have spent many sleepless nights worrying about him, but I have just decided to let him go at his pace. I have put him in pre-school and he has an amazing teacher who understands the situation and reports back to me on a daily basis. I just wanted you to know that you arent alone in your worries. I have two close friends that have toddlers over two that still arent talking and a good few friends who’s toddlers didnt talk until well over 3years old. I hope that this does bring you some comfort and that all went well at the assessment with the speech therapist. Oh, as as a last note – thanks for the awesome blog!! I cant tell you how many times reading them has made my day and how many times I have crawled with laughter.

  3. My 4yo will talk the hind legs off a donkey and uses every form of word possible with a real leaning towards hyperbole…

    However, I jealousy spent a longer than strictly necesary ogling Isabelles pencil skills 😦 i consider it a good day if the pencil doesn’t land up in my eye…

    They all develop at their own rates and you’ll be amazed at what speech therapy will do for them (too much in my case)

    I adopted my little guy when he was 15months old and he hadn’t had any solid food yet consequently speech production was an issue the therapist did all sorts of fun excercise such as peanut butter on his top lip to lick off and blowing bubbles to strengthen his tongue and lip muscles. 6 months of speech therapy has turned him into an unstoppable talking machine – no doubt Isabelle needs tongues and lips strengthened (and the will to talk) and you’ll be dreaming of the days prior to – well actually that isn’t a great idea mom how about….

    good luck!!!

  4. Robyn

     /  July 26, 2012

    On a side note, she is gorgeous!!!!

  5. I had to come on over from Cat’s blog because of what she said about you;-)

    All I can do is send you a hug and I hope that Isabella will be diagnosed correctly and that you can make a start with helping her catch up.

  6. I know this may not be helpful to getting her to speak, but with my son I used sign language. Of course he was 10 months old when we started and he was exactly “expected” to speak, but it helped drastically. He was able to sign several things instead of becoming frustrated and discouraged.
    I know you are trying to encourage speech, but with using sign language, I was able to develop his speech quite early. It may ease tension between you two when you are desperately trying to understand her needs/wants. With my son, soon after signing he began to actually sound the words with the motions, of course, the best an 11 month old could. He was saying the usual words before, but was also able to say things like “more please” and “thank you mommy.”
    While teaching this, I would sign the word as well as say it and before I knew it he was doing the same. Maybe this can help work on building her speech and communication while you wait to see a speech therapist.
    Google it. There are thousands of “simple” signs that you can teach an infant/toddler and I feel that since your little girl is 3, she will be able to catch on fairly quickly.
    “More”, “all done”, “please”, and “thank you” are the first words I started with and his knowledge of sign language as well as speech steadily grew.
    Good luck to you. Prayers sent your way in hopes of finding a solution!

  7. Christine

     /  July 26, 2012

    You are describing my daughter, Abby, to a T. At three, she had about 3 words in her vocabulary. I was the only one who understood her. She became frustrated and developed a bad attitude. I, too, told myself “she will get there.” we had her hearing checked and it was fine. She is number three of three and I figured she didn’t speak because she didn’t have to, the others interpreted for her so why should she talk? She has been in speech therapy for three years now and is developing nicely. She is still behind a bit because of the speech delay. I just want to tell you that the “right” speech therapist makes all the difference. We wasted a year with a complete idiot who Abby just couldn’t stand. In fact the woman used all kinds of words to diagnose her, such as apraxia, autistic, apathetic to name a few. Abby is NONE of these, she just hated the woman. So please be careful finding the right therapist. It will make all the difference. And start as soon as possible! I should have.

  8. Get her to an OT please. One that is trained in sensory issues. l has SID/SPD and really the OT is key, speech theraphy will go much easier if the sensory issues are sorted out

    • countesskaz

       /  July 25, 2012

      I was just going to suggest an OT too. Its the right path. Speech is related to hand development etc etc etc

  9. I wish you luck! My son has been at speech therapy for 9 months. He started at age 2 with 4 words (by age 2, minimum requirement is 50 words, Average is 200+ words and forming 2-3 word sentences). Yes, I was the paranoid mother, reading milestone charts because I felt that something just wasn’t right – and I wasn’t wrong!

    He was diagnosed with Dyspraxia, SPD and low muscle tone by a neurodevelopmental Paed. He sees a speech therapist and OT. He has very low sensitivity in his mouth, so his feeding issues are that he stuffs his mouth and doesn’t chew that well. Isabelle seems to have Sensory issues too – but she’s probably more sensory sensitive and not chewing will affect the muscles in her jaw, mouth and tongue that are needed to form words.

    After 9 months of speech we are finally over 100 words and he has started putting words together. He will be 3 in November. But he has developmental delays too. Sadly his issues is not only with his mouth but with his brain too (Dyspraxia is neurological)! It’s frustrating for me to deal with – but I have come to accept it a lot easier now that he is making progress.

    I’m glad you are seeing the speech therapist for an assessment, and realistically, you’ll probably be best bracing yourself for at least 6 months before seeing any progress.

    Isabelle however does hold that crayon so well and seems to enjoy her colouring in – wish my son would get to that point!

  10. The Ninja Mommy

     /  July 25, 2012

    First thing that came to my mind is the colouring…she looks like shes doing an awesome job! Secondly, chewing food helps teach kids how to use their tongues…which helps with speech, it could be as simple as showing her where to place her tongue. Try not to panic..even though its hard not to 🙂

  11. Jenny

     /  July 25, 2012

    I agree with Nikki – the food issue points to sensory issue and the fact that she had no lumps for a long time may have made it a bit worse. But the problem is in her mouth, not her brain. You will get it sorted. Let us know what the speech therapist says.

  12. Princessie

     /  July 25, 2012

    My little girl turns 3 in September and doesnt hold her crayon and colour as well as your little girl. Who am i kidding, she is more likely to stare at the paper while eating the crayon…

  13. Hi Celeste – wish you had chatted to me about it. Blog community can be very supprotive and helpful. Pleased she is going for the speech assessment (that self payment gap closes quickly 😦 ) The food issues really make me wonder whether there are other Sensory issuses. It sounds like you will need to have an OT assessment too with a SI OT. – Have someone brilliant in CT but not sure if near where you are. Sometimes though it’s worthwhile going the best route first time. Nikki

  14. Charlotte aka The Stiletto Mum

     /  July 25, 2012

    Goodluck Celeste I am sure all will be fine. I cannot comment on how I know how you feel , because that will be a lie. She will be fine and most importantly YOU will be fine.

    On a more positive note she is hold the crayon correctly so she is learning something at school.



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