‘He still can’t talk!’

It was just a comment from a six-year-old outside Pudding’s school. Honest surprise that in the term since my little boy had left mainstream his speech hadn’t miraculously improved.

What that child didn’t know is that his words made me cry. It had been a pretty rubbish day for a variety of reasons so I guess his comment affected me more than it would normally.

But the hard truth is that Pudding says far less than he used to.

Speech and language therapy (SLT) was the first intervention that we had, starting when he was two years eight months, even before he was diagnosed. I had heard all the usual comments –  ‘Mine didn’t talk until he was three’, ‘He’ll probably start speaking in full sentences’ – but I knew that something wasn’t right. It wasn’t just that Pudding didn’t speak, but it was his lack of understanding too.

Early SLT sessions started working on trying to encourage two words being put together. Not just ‘More!’ but ‘More apple’ or ‘More juice’. We never got anywhere with that one!

Slowly though, his understanding of instructions improved and his vocabulary climbed to over 50 words. He even managed to work on his own sentences – in 2015 we were over the moon when he came out with ‘Where de moo?’ as the pantomime cow went backstage. Getting on the trial (which should in theory halt any deterioration in the brain) I thought that his language may continue to improve though I never hoped for any miracles.

In the last year or so I have lost that hope. Slowly, so slowly that we barely noticed, many of his words have been lost. He still chats away in his own language but recognisable words are fewer (with the exception of some random outliers – ‘Des a Bunny!’ shouted at top volume is a joy to hear).

Pudding wearing a crown of flowers and grass.

At the end of term we of course got a report from his new school and it was a lovely read. Apart from one sentence that suggested a target for him would be to use ‘Yes’ in appropriate situations. He actually did say ‘yes’ even before ‘no’ appeared (an early sign that he wasn’t an entirely normal child!) and continued to use it really well. Yet now, ‘no’ is often used for both.

He used to melt hearts with his enthusiastic ‘Dank Kyou!’ but he doesn’t say it anymore.

He used to shout ‘Duck!’ when Sarah and Duck came on TV.

I’m not even sure when I last heard ‘Mummy’.

I have come a long way with acceptance in the last year. It used to be that when I saw a young child chatting away to their Mum my heart would sink as I wished that I could have that with my Pudding. I know now that that will never happen. And the other week I was so proud of myself for feeling nothing but simple enjoyment as I overheard a conversation on the bus where a lady was answering every question under the sun from her inquisitive two-year-old. I marvelled that it didn’t hurt as it always had.

I can be content with my Pudding as he is, but I don’t want to lose any more of him. After the latest positive hearing test, I can’t stick my head in the sand and put his lack of speech down to hearing loss. It may still not be the start of the long slow Hunter Syndrome decline, but I have to face the possibility that it could be.

And that is a scary thought.

Sleep (again)

So, any regular readers will have been waiting on tenterhooks for an update on how Pudding’s move to his own room went and whether we’re getting any sleep. Or, more likely, will have completely forgotten about it….

After a massive clear-out of the office (which has now taken over our bedroom), Pudding moved in just before Christmas. The change didn’t seem to phase him at all, though I discovered that with his door directly opposite ours he sounded even louder at night. We waited until after Christmas though to take the cot sides off, and I am very glad we did.

When T graduated from the cot we did all the usual things. We chose new bedding, we talked about how he was going to be in a ‘big boy bed’ now he was growing up. It was an exciting time. But with Pudding it was different, as of course everything is.

When a child has communication problems and little understanding it is far more difficult to prepare for a change. I had no idea whether he would take it in his stride or whether it would throw him completely. Turns out it was the latter.

I suppose that having been in a cot for almost 5 years, apart from a few nights in a hotel room with me, it was quite a reassuring space. To suddenly have that security taken away rocked his world. He understood straight away that he could climb out of bed, and he did, finding it far more distressing that he was going to be left in the room by himself.

Every so often, like when we have the hour change in spring or autumn, he has found it more difficult to settle at night. At those times we’ve simply had to stay in with him until he fell asleep, only for a few nights, and I expected this time to be the same. It was a much slower process though: sitting by the bed with him on my knee to read stories, turning the light out, persuading him to get into bed, staying close by and talking or singing until he was fast asleep. Time consuming but totally worth it to save him from as much stress as possible. Gradually, gradually this has changed and I can now get him into bed, look at a book, turn the light off and go straight out. (On nights when it is Hubby’s turn, Pudding still has him wrapped firmly around his little finger though!) Dropping nap-time completely has helped too – he often can’t keep his eyes open much past six thirty now.

His distress was of course tough to deal with. What mother enjoys seeing their child in tears? However the worst aspect was that it brought on a period of separation anxiety at the start of the school term. Whilst previously Pudding had run in laughing to give his TA a hug, all of a sudden he was clinging to me and crying. This I found very hard and was one of the contributing factors to my low mood last month. But again, with the help of his TA (who became very good at pretending to hide from him) we’ve got through it and out the other side.

Strangely enough, the thing I was most worried about – him getting out of bed at night – hasn’t happened at all. As long as it’s still dark, he has stayed in bed for his nightly partying. We’re not taking any chances of course; he has a very stiff door with a stair-gate on the outside of it.

I’m just not looking forward to those summer mornings when it starts getting light really early…  Knock, knock, knock. ‘Mum-meee! Muuuuum-mee!’



What’s on your mind?

For a while now there’s been one question that I’ve wanted to know the answer to more than anything. More even than the ‘What does the future hold?’ question, which I have sort of accepted that I will never know. The question is ‘What goes on in Pudding’s head?’

I live with him and love him. I know loads about him. I know that he loves watching Octonauts or Sarah and Duck. That he has a mean left kick in football. I know (mostly) what foods he will or won’t eat. I know (usually) when he’s about to hit me or throw something.

But I never really know what he is thinking. Because he can’t tell me.

When chuckles suddenly erupt from his round belly for no reason that I can fathom, what has started them? Has he seen something that tickles his sense of humour, or is he remembering something funny? Or, is it another new symptom to worry about? (Gelastic seizures, which cause a sudden bout of laughing or crying, are another thing I’d never heard about before Pudding’s diagnosis with MPS. Unlikely at this stage, but that doesn’t stop me running the possibilities through my head.)

When he is chatting in his bed alone at night in the pitch black, who is he talking to and what is he saying? I’d love to be able to join in sometimes as it sounds like a lot of fun.

When he asks for ‘Beebies’ for the twentieth time in a row with that beautiful hopeful smile, does he expect the answer to be different to the previous 19 times?

He does sometimes show problem-solving skills such as coming to find me when he needed a milk spillage cleared up, or getting a stool when he wants to reach something. So I know that he can identify a problem and find a solution.

I’ve often wondered how much he recognises people that we don’t meet very often and remembers things we’ve done with them. He’s so happy to see anyone and gives smiles and cuddles out freely regardless of whether he knows them! But I had an insight when we met his cousin’s cousins recently after a gap of only three weeks. The first time we saw them was in a restaurant and we whiled away the wait for food by playing one of his favourite games. It’s very simple – we point at each other and say ‘You!’ then someone replies ‘Me? No, you!’ (Really, don’t ask. Don’t all families do weird stuff like this?) Well, the second time we met up, as soon as the little girl peeped around the corner, Pudding pointed at her and shouted ‘You!’ Not his usual greeting, so I’m sure he remembered the time before.

Unless his language makes a huge leap forward, I probably never will have much idea of what he’s thinking about aside from the basics. I wonder what he would have been capable of, had his brain not been gradually clogged up with waste sugars for the first four years of his life. One thing I can be sure of though – there’s more that goes on in that curly head than I will ever really be aware of.

Guessing games

This morning Pudding woke up crying. I hear him whimpering in his cot and go to get him out. When I bring him downstairs he sits on the sofa, his normally cheerful face red, contorted and tear-streaked.

Cuddles make no difference.

Even breakfast doesn’t tempt him.

Was it a bad dream? Was he feeling sick? Was it something else?

I put on the TV and Twiglet finds his favourite show, ‘Sarah and Duck’. The magic box soothes him, the storm passes and a few minutes later he starts on his cereal. I hover with towels and sick bowl at the ready, just in case.

It is this that I hate most about having a minimally verbal child. That I never quite know what is going on for him in his times of need. That I have to play the guessing game. That even when he does talk I don’t always know what he’s trying to say. No matter how many times he earnestly repeats ‘De de de Doo’ at me, I haven’t a clue what it means though I know it’s obviously important to him.

I know we’re better off than some. His language is improving all the time, slowly increasing in vocabulary and clarity. He can now put two words together, though only in limited situations. And I am hopeful that he will continue on this path.

Of course it would be fabulous one day to hear ‘I love you, Mummy’. But he doesn’t really need to tell me that because his actions tell me that every day. What I would love him to say even more is ‘Tummy hurts’. Words like that could make such a difference.

He’s fine again now by the way, sick bowl still unused. I’m just faced with the problem of how to turn the TV off without becoming very unpopular again.