Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I've been chewing on this possibility for a while.  A friend told me a while back, "A mother's intuition is rarely wrong.  Follow your gut."

Well, as I continue to flounder in the dark, waiting for E's name to come up on the seemingly endless waiting list, my spirit keeps whispering "dyslexia."  Huh.  I remember the surgence in dyslexia awareness in the 80's and early 90's ... nearly every family sitcom seemed to have a teenager who'd been having problems in school, got diagnosed with dyslexia, and boom!  Everything got better.  Never made any mention of these lovely young characters having developmental speech delays in early childhood.  Then again, sitcoms aren't exactly scientific sources.  Still, like the world of music and contemporary literature, popular television can serve as the "canary in the mine" with respect to the latest challenges faced by Western families.

I can't leave things along.  Always questing, chewing at problems.  I hate long waits ... so, I started researching dyslexia and speech delay.

First off, I learned that it is important to know the difference between a language delay and a speech delay.  All this time, I'd been saying E had a "speech delay," not realizing that this could be an erroneous observation.  According to Wikipedia (I know, great resource, huh? :-p), a language delay is "a failure to develop language abilities on the usual developmental timetable. Language delay is distinct from speech delay, in which the speech mechanism itself is the focus of delay. Thus, language delay refers specifically to a delay in the development of the underlying knowledge of language, rather than its implementation."  Conversely, "because language and speech are two independent stages, they may be individually delayed. For example, a child may be delayed in speech (i.e., unable to produce intelligible speech sounds), but not delayed in language. In this case, the child would be attempting to produce an age-appropriate amount of language, but that language would be difficult or impossible to understand. Conversely, since a child with a language delay typically has not yet had the opportunity to produce speech sounds, it is likely to have a delay in speech as well."

This is important to take note of if your child managed to (like my son) sneak by his or her pediatricians in terms of developmental milestones.  I recently completed one of those "self tests" for red flags of autism, and I was intrigued by the results.  E showed 80% of the "speech-affected" signs of autism spectrum disorder, but none of the signs falling under the social or stereotyped behavior categories.  Granted, he does appear to "check out" when he is severely overstimulated (say, at the end of a long weekend of hubbub); but as a rule he is very interactive and receptive.

So, how did I get on this dyslexia thought? 

Well, it kind of came out of my frustration.  Despite the language delay, E was quick to learn his alphabet and the bulk of their phonics.  He began to attempt to read words before he could even say them spontaneously.  The problem was, he insisted on "reading" from right to left.  Similarly, he insists on counting from right to left and inverts several letters and numbers.
The other day we were practicing saying clear simple sentences, and I asked him to repeat me, "I see pigs."  Very slowly and deliberately, he responded, "See I pigs."  So, I tried again, as did he.  Same result.  And again.  I decided we needed to quit before we both got frustrated.

Now the thing about E's speech is that more often then not, it simply comes out garbled on account of him trying to speak too quickly on too advanced a level.  When he does slow down, it comes out very hesitantly and deliberately, and the poor kid is generally looking at me as though I'm the idiot.  Or, he gets half-way through his statement, loses track, and either gets frustrated or shrugs his shoulders and moves on to something else.  If he's feeling shy or insecure, he simply parrots back what he hears you ask (which, of course, becomes confusing or infuriating to the person attempting to interact with him).  However, there is and has never been anything wrong with his sophistication in comprehending and/or using facial expression and vocal inflection.

On a whim today, I Googled "language delay and dyslexia," and found an article titled Early Signs of Dyslexia.  This jumped out at me (I bolded those words that accurately described my son):

"The simple and often overlooked problem with a slight speech delay may be an early indication of dyslexia. The problem of processing and decoding auditory input is believed to be the reasons for problems of reproduction of that sound. Stuttering and cluttering, which is the speech and communication disorder that at times very difficult for the listener to understand, mainly due to the rapid speaking rate, along with erratic rhythm and poor syntax or grammar with words or groups of words unrelated to the sentence.

"Problems speaking clearly is also an early indication of dyslexia. The sounds of multi-syllabic words are often mixed up. For example, the word spaghetti would be pronounced bisghetti, hekalopter for helicopter. Problems articulating letters such as the L's, M's, N's, and R's will often make for an immature speech such as 'gween and wed' for "green and red" even if the child is in the second or third grade. Problems with a full sentence may be present. The fast speech, hesitant speech or cluttered speech may be present. Speech therapy is required for many children with dyslexia."

That last bolded statement describes E's efforts perfectly.  Generally fast and cluttered, and when he does slow down (because he realizes he's not being understood) he becomes downright hesitant and even whispers.  Even the comment of mixing up multi-syllabic words -- he's pretty horrible about that.
Sadly, there's not much I can do with this now, but once I can finally get him in, I' going to insist on a screening for dyslexia. 

Sometimes I thing the Autism Spectrum Disorder awareness has become such a giant that it's now casting an unfortunate shadow over other disorders.  If there are other moms reading this, please: do your homework.  Follow your gut.  Look outside the box.