Jamie had his appointment with the speech therapist last Tuesday. To clarify the momentousness of this, I will explain that we were put on the speech therapy waiting list over fourteen months ago, after having made our first initial inquiries about Jamie’s (at the time) near-nonexistent speech development a couple of months before that. Of course, soon after the referral was made it became a moot point due to Jamie’s sudden decision to condense over a year’s worth of speech development into a few weeks, and I am assured by our health visitor that if that hadn’t been the case then she would have been liaising with the speech therapist for advice on what we could do to help him while he was waiting to be seen. Which is, um… slightly reassuring. Anyway, Tuesday’s appointment was not in fact due to him finally reaching the top of the list (last February’s referral will presumably just be discarded now, so we will never know how long we would have waited) but to the second referral, the one made by Dr M. after we saw him. Presumably this got Jamie onto some kind of special super-duper list that leads to people actually being seen, as opposed to just ignored in hopes that they’ll go away.
So, from one who has actually made it through the hallowed portals to a speech therapy appointment, here is what happened: First of all, the speech therapist explained that this initial appointment was for her to assess him and work out a treatment plan. She asked us several questions about his interactions with other children and his speech, while Jamie entertained himself playing with her toy train and then moving on to
reduce to chaos explore her other toys, her speech therapy materials, and anything else he could get his hands on. Then, she started on the actual testing, for which she sat the two of them down facing each other across a little table, with a cardboard posting box to hand.
She started with a box of cards with small pictures of ordinary everyday objects, asking him to pick out the items she named from the cards she held up and post the cards he picked into the post box. The test moved on rapidly through more difficult questions, holding up three or four cards instead of two, asking him for several items instead of one, and sometimes describing them rather than naming them ("Can you find me the one we eat and the one we wear?"). The next test consisted of a set of pictures of people doing things, which she handed to Jamie one by one, asking him to tell her what each picture was of. Finally, she got a book with flip-over pages, each one showing four pictures, and asked him to choose one picture each time. This one, again, started off simply – she asked for things like the red car, or the little clown – and moved on through more complex vocabulary and eventually to some very complicated concepts ("All the girls, except one, were eating dinner." "Which horse is not inside the field?")
Jamie did fine, managing to do nearly all of the assessment apart from the request for a list of four items in the first test and some of the most difficult questions in the third test. I think he enjoyed it – at any rate, when she’d finished and left him to play for a bit while
she talked to us, he brought one of her sets of pictures back to the
table saying "Which one should you point at now?", which is his way of
saying he wanted the game to continue. In the second test, when he described the first picture as "Someone building a tower" and she asked him whether it was a boy or a girl, he not only told her but went on to include that information in his description of each of the other pictures she gave him. In the third test, one of the questions involved picking out the girl who was splashing. "She’s splashing water on the ‘b’," Jamie said. He’d noticed the tiny identifying letters at the bottom of each of the four pictures – the picture in question did indeed have a ‘b’ appended to it.
The speech therapist’s verdict is that he does indeed have features of autism. She thinks his history of late talking would fit the profile of ‘high-functioning autism’ better than that of Asperger’s. Overall, his current language skills are very good – although she didn’t have time to work out the formal score within the assessment, she says he was going well past normal three-year-old standards – and currently she doesn’t feel he needs any treatment from her. Her plan is to assess him again at intervals and see how things are going, particularly once he starts school.
So, now we’re waiting on the Interview Of The Three Hundred Questions, for which we do not yet have a date. I’m still boggled by trying to work out how on earth it’s possible to think of three hundred different questions to ask someone on the subject of their child, but I suppose I’ll find out.