The first light of speech

I’m trying something new with this post. Click the links to see some videos posted on the Facebook page that go with this story

Watching Wade develop is a bit like watching the sun rise. If I sit and watch the sky, I can’t really tell if its getting lighter. Minutes tick by and the world seems pretty much as it was and then all of a sudden I can see it. The sky is different. It’s changing even though I’ve been here the whole time.

Something has shifted in him recently. His speech is starting to take shape and his ability to communicate is coming along. It’s been a long time coming and it has made me doubt myself on more than one occasion. Sometimes it feels as though months have gone by without anything new happening and then all of a sudden I catch myself and say… “When did he start doing that?”

I’d love to know what it is that spurs him on to the next stage. I have a theory about him only being able to work on one thing at a time. (The jury is still out on whether this is a Down syndrome thing or a male thing!). But once he masters one new thing, he very quickly learns two or three more.


I shouldn’t be so impatient but as I start to see the gradual changes that are inching him closer to full language, I am getting excited about the conversations we might have. Earlier today I tried to put him down for a nap but he obviously had something on his mind.
He lay his head down on the pillow and pushed my head down too so that we were looking into each other’s eyes and he started telling me something. The look in his eye was very focused. I could tell he was thinking deeply about something. He opened his mouth and started his story using words that made sense only to him. He kept using the same sound in different parts of the sentence and his eyes were dancing as he thought about the next thing he wanted to say. He babbled away using so many different individual sounds but I have no idea what he was saying. Towards the end I recognised a part of a song we sing together. (We sing the end of Old MacDonald in an overly dramatic way…like its a national anthem. He thinks it’s hilarious.)
I’d love to know what he said. (It sounds a lot like this)

With more language there is also a new ability to articulate what he really likes and what he doesn’t. In the past, I would ask him a question and he would smile, nod and say “Ya…Ya”. It was cute and it felt like we were talking.

“Do you want breakfast?”……ya….ya
“Do you love your mum?”….ya….ya
“Is there a little green man on my head.”….ya….ya

But lately he has been more discerning with his answers. He is saying yes when he means yes and no when he means no. There’s is a lot more NOs than there were in the past which can be really annoying is super exciting! The best bit is watching him develop his own taste for things. He used to be pretty easy-going about things and I was always surprised that, despite having limited language, he wouldn’t throw a tantrum when didn’t get what he wanted. If he couldn’t have something or it was taken away from him, he would move on to something else. Now though, he has embraced his new ability to have his say and is trying it out on us with ever increasing frequency. We are so thrilled as he points at something exciting and tries to use the words to ask us for it. Lost in the joy of engaging in a new conversation while indulging his every whim, it sometimes takes a while to realise we have just been played for chumps!

It has been hard waiting for his communication to catch up with the personality I know is in there. His light has been shining since the day he was born but I couldn’t help wondering how much of it was my interpretation of it. He is definitely funny and has great comedic timing… he speaks to me with his eyes and his touch but there was always a part of me wondering if I was looking at him through mummy goggles… With more language and gestures, I can work out more clearly which are his ideas and which are mine that I have imposed on him.


He now has a new love for all things horses. It’s developed slowly, almost imperceptibly but he has come to it all on his own and has developed the language and the communication to tell us all about it….and it fills my heart with joy. I don’t know how it started. We have shown him pictures of all types of animals for a long time. He had a bit of an affinity with elephants and some of the other African animals for a while there but somehow he has landed on horses. We have always sung him a couple of songs that have horses in them so maybe that’s it. There are a couple of ride-on hobby horses at childcare that he likes to play with so that might have something to do with it too.
He learnt the sign for “horse” a while ago and would mangle use it when he saw a picture in a book but as time has gone on, he has started using a “tic tic” sound with his mouth instead of the sign. He is mimicking the sound we use and I can tell when he is telling himself a story about horses by the different sounds and actions he is using.

There’s a couple of paddocks down the road from us that we drive by regularly and there’s two beautiful brown horses that stand on the ridge looking out over the hill. They always look so majestic with views of the city in the background. The other day I decided to stop and show Wade. We walked up to the fence and one of the horses trotted over to us, probably looking for food. The horse put his lovely soft nose over the fence and I could feel Wade get so excited. He has been to farms before and had the opportunity to meet animals and pat them but this was the first time he has been this close to a horse. His reaction was completely different. He kept saying “wow!” and reaching out for a pat. It was amazing to feel and see him have his own reaction to something that he obviously loves.

Some nights when we are getting ready for bed we will give him a “horsey ride”. He climbs up on our back and we clomp around the house on our hands and knees. He giggles and laughs as his strong legs curl under my ribs and his arms are wrapped tightly around my jugular. He squeals with delight as I rear up and try to shake him off. Yesterday morning as we were getting dressed he crawled out of the room and into the hallway. I wondered what he was doing because he doesn’t really crawl anymore now that he walks full time. Then I heard the familiar tic tic sound….then “go go” which is from one of the songs we sing about horses. He crawled all the way down the hall, then reared up like a stallion with his hands pawing the air.
For no reason, he was thinking about horses and pretended to be one. Love it.


Wade meets Dylan the donkey


This surge in language is also giving me an insight to how he is putting together his thoughts. I had presumed that he struggled with concepts that had no immediate connection to each other. If I tried to bribe him with something like get dressed or we won’t go to Nanna and Grandads later, it had no impact. I thought that he couldn’t grasp the concept of something happening later on. So, I presumed that he wasn’t making other connections too.

Now that his language is developing, he is showing me how much I am underestimating him AGAIN! I was talking to my sister on the phone the other day and Wade wandered up to stare at me. He loves it when we’re on the phone.

I said, “Do you know who’s on the phone?…..Sam.

Instead of trying to copy the word as he usually does, he started saying “coo, co, coo, coo, co”
I thought he was pretending to be a chicken (Sam has chickens at home) but we realised he was calling out for Cohen, his cousin. He was walking around signing “where” and I realised that when he thought of Sam, he thought of Cohen and wanted to know where he was. Without the ability to articulate his thoughts, I had presumed that he only knew who Cohen was when he was standing in front of him. I had no idea he could not only visualise who he is when he is not there, he could make the connection that Cohen belongs with Sam.

This explosion in language is lifting the lid on his thoughts and his personality in a way I hadn’t imagined. It’s one thing to see your child learn and copy the skills you are teaching them but to see the hidden aspects to his thinking just fills me up. It is taking its time and is not without its frustrations but I am loving watching the gradually breaking dawn of his development.


11 thoughts on “The first light of speech

  1. I love your sunrise analogy, it makes total sense! I’ve been trying to articulate what I’ve been feeling about Tessa’s progress and I think what you said is perfect. I should go back and watch some of my old videos to see how far she has come recently. 🙂

  2. your blog is amazing! yes yes yes it is not the 60s any more!! in fact, from a medical and information point of view, we have never lived in a better time for people who are born with DS or other medical needs, to live, treatments for their heart conditions or reflux, etc. are at an amazing level, and information available to parents and society as a whole is available at our fingertips – yet doctors will continue to frown upon a woman (as they did with my last pregnancy) if one refuses to be tested because of the pressure to abort. In my experience the medical profession have absolutely no regard for these children as people, as sons and daugthers and I’m constantly left with my mouth hanging open at the opinions of doctors on this subject, and these are people who could, and should be, changing attitudes. I don’t have a child with DS but I will do my utmost to advocate for acceptance and tolerance to all people NO matter how they are born. I am so pleased that I came across your blog and can follow Wade growing up! BTW that tip on one of your posts ref. the life is therapy too, it is brilliant and it took me 3 children to learn what you posted, my youngest has more fun, and learns so much, helping around the house than he does playing with his toys, great tip for all toddlers!

    • Thank you! I’m glad you like it. It just astounds me that health professionals are either unaware or unwilling to pass on this information! They hold so much power in how well parents start this journey and get it wrong over and over.

  3. Pingback: I’m not going to force him to be nice to people….and there’s a reason for that. | Embracing Wade

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