WARNING: if you are of a delicate disposition about the ways of the world, look away now!
I am back at work with a vengence. My day job involves working with children under five in a Childrens Centre. Many of these children have speech problems.
As it is September we are having a large new intake, so the next two weeks are taken up with visiting our new children at home. I loathe it, because it brings home an essential part of parenting that is missing in this, and previous, generations.
Yesterday I visited a child who has no speech at all (this is quite rare). Tests and records show that this child has passed hearing and sight tests, there is no outward genetical problems and all is intact physically. No disfluency, no oral dyspraxia, both parents have language but the child could only point and make a grunt if he wanted something. So what's the problem?
During the whole of my time with this family I had to shout to make myself heard above the sound of the television. I asked politely if it could be turned off for a while but they looked horrified at my request and just turned the volume down one notch. Luckily I can lip read.
This little boy sat there the whole time with his eyes glued to the screen, oblivious to what was going on around him. He couldn't even drag himself away with the temptation of the exciting bag of toys that I had brought with me.
"Oh yes" said the mother "he's ever so good. We don't hear a peep out of him from morning until night, so contented".
How I managed to refrain from strangling the pair of them I don't know, but I do know that for the next year or so my work with this child is going to be totally focussed on trying to bring him into the real world. This is happening more and more. We have 30 new children starting over the next month and 18 of them have speech difficulties.
So.....TURN OFF THAT BLOODY TELLY AND TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN!