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Alarmed! First time Speech therapy referral age 9 years.

(25 Posts)
user1474643665 Thu 29-Sep-16 11:22:49


This is my first post on Mumsnet so am not sure how it works!

We have a lovely son aged 9 who is doing well at school, is socially well adjusted and has a lot of friends. His last school report described him as a ' role model' for other children. We have had absolutely no concerns about him at all, until his new class Teacher caught me by chance and said 'has anyone spoken to you about your son's speech?' I said no. The Teacher said it was just a couple of sounds and he may grow out of it. Nevertheless we were concerned so this week we have requested a meeting.

At this meeting the Teacher said that our son was 'unintelligible and made baby sounds' but he had no concerns academically. I feel devastated as I don't accept thus verdict and in the 5 years he has had at school and 3 at nursery, no one has ever mentioned his speech! Infact his last school report mentioned that his reading was extremely fluent and that it had been a successful year.
We have made an Appt to have an Assessment done by a Speech therapist but while we wait, I feel in bits. Surely if there was a problem on the scale the Teacher intimated we would have been told by now? His Godfather is a GP and his babysitter, a retired Head Teacher. Neither have ever commented on our son's speech.

My son may sometimes have odd words not as clear as it could be, but this wouldn't make him unintelligable. We have never heard him make 'baby sounds'.

What should I do now? If there is an issue, I feel the School has been negligent not saying anything before. In addition should I complain when his reports have never mentioned this and indeed should we complain about the language used to describe our son?

Also based on the experiences of others, is it possible to get to year 5 with no comment or concern expressed about a child's speech.? Do I go and see his last Teacher and/or the Head ? Or will this undermine his current Teacher? I don't want my son to be wrongly labelled or go through the SENCO.

Would love to hear from anyone who could help or had similar experiences.

mumtotwonow Thu 29-Sep-16 13:37:53

My son is in speech therapy and i understand your child is 9 and my sin is only a toddler however as far as the therapist has told me some sounds can be picked up and done out of habit so it could be its only recently hes dtarted doing it, also the teacher referring him may have had experience with this and another student and more clued up than others, a referral will just get you a assesment with expertise in this field and the can diagnose whether its an issue or not i wouldnt worry yourself too much about a referral sometimes its better to be overcautious and check than leave it and find out yesrs later something could have been done maybe the teacher is being overcautious but a referral isnt anything to worry aboit the expert will tell you if its something to be concerned about or not xxx

Lottapianos Thu 29-Sep-16 13:46:04

Hi OP, I'm a speech and language therapist. Its very unusual for a speech sound issue to only be identified at age 9. Did the teacher say which sounds / words in particular she is worried about? 'Unintelligible and baby sounds' suggests that everyone would be having significant difficulty understanding what your son says, and that's clearly not your experience, so I'm not surprised you're feeling confused by the whole thing. It seems clear that you have no concerns about his speech sounds at all, and that other familiar adults have no difficulty understanding him.

My advice would be to keep the SLT appointment. He may well end up being discharged and not needing any further input, but if he does need some support with his speech sounds, its best to get it identified now. Has he ever had hearing issues / when was his last hearing test?

user1474643665 Thu 29-Sep-16 14:19:09

Hello and many thanks to both of you for replying, I was very nervous posting on here as had never done it before, I don't even know how to change my user name to an easier one!

My son's hearing not been cheched since reception but we have no cause for concern especially as he can hear things he's not meant to!

Re speech sounds, the Teacher only caught me on the off chance while looking for my son's PE kit and it was a complete shock to me. Initially he said it was just a couple of sounds 'th' and 'L'.

We then asked for an Appt after school on Tuesday and this was only reluctantly agreed. It was at this meeting he then said that 'we must know ( our son) was unintelligible and making baby sounds'! But academically there was 'no problem'.

I feel devastated as the comment about being unitellible just isn't true nor are the baby sounds. To quote from his July 2016 report 'When reading aloud DS can read with fluency and accuracy and is also able to use expression'.

Re vocabulary 'He writes complex sentences and uses advanced punctuation'.

Re Maths 'He has developed a key skill in being able to explain how he has come to a conclusion'

General comments ' DS has had an excellent year 4 and has made good progress across the curriculum...DS always listens intently to follow instructions...DS is becoming an excellent role model for the other children in our school...'

All his new Class Teacher has said is that 'he is not bothered what has gone before' but surely the learning environment and behaviours observed and attainment achieved is relevant?

We have made an Appt with a SLT as the NHS has a 7 week waiting time plus up to 7 months for a first session.

I may seem as if I am over reacting but I suffer from anxiety anyway, but I really even allowing for perhaps some potential mispronunciation ( not that it has ever been commented on ) cannot accept that my son is 'unintelligle' and making 'baby noises. He read prayers in Church for the Queen's 90th birthday in June! Just on the day too as they were short of Cubs to do it!

Lotto pianos, Woukd you see the Head about these comments? And if it is a 'th' sound and/or a L sound he us not making, in general is this easy to correct? And what times scales are we looking at? ( I know each child will vary).

Thank you both for getting back to me.

Lottapianos Thu 29-Sep-16 14:29:57

It does sound odd that the teacher said 'unintelligible' - that usually means extremely unclear and hard to understand. That doesn't match with your description of your boy. 'th' and 'l' are two of the later sounds to develop but are usually in place by about 7 years old. I honestly can't talk specifics or time scales without knowing a lot more about your DS.

The SLT should be very approachable and reassuring, and will get your DS to go through some picture books, which are standardised assessments to allow him / her to get a full profile of how he uses his speech sounds and how his language skills are. They can then decide whether he needs further support. I know its very easy to say but try not to worry!

5moreminutes Thu 29-Sep-16 14:35:18

You are totally sure the new teacher isn't mixing him up with a classmate?

user1474643665 Thu 29-Sep-16 15:54:47

Hi 5moreminutes

Yes I am sure he hasn't got me or my DS mixed up as the Teacher used my name!

All this has left me not trusting the Teacher's judgement and as it has happened at the start of the school year it risks tainting this academic year and how I feel about the school.He loves school and learning and it's hurtful that this is the view his Teacher has formed when he has only been back 3 weeks. This is especially as My DS has had 6 previous Teachers at the school and has been in contact with a corresponding number of TA's; nothing has ever been said. And my DS's reports have always been very good.

Lottapianos; I know it's difficult to estimate without knowing more about my DS but as a general ball part time frame; if it is the 'th' and 'l' sounds (if?) Would you be looking at months or years of speech therapy?
Many thanks.

SpaceDinosaur Thu 29-Sep-16 16:06:30

"Unintelligible" "baby sounds"

For a child who has read prayers in church and is academically sound this does sound bizarre. Is it possible your son is making "baby sounds" when he's thinking, either consciously or subconsciously?

Did the teacher give examples of these sounds? Just sounds bizarre.

Either way. Don't let your DS know you're worried.
Do not let this affect your relationship with his teacher. Be thankful the teacher cares enough to bring this to your attention. Just take things slowly. If you weren't worried before, don't start now. It may be your son needs a little help, he may not. Just take a deep breath. He's still the same little boy.

Lottapianos Thu 29-Sep-16 16:39:51

OP, more likely to be months rather than years, but can't say for sure

Lottapianos Thu 29-Sep-16 16:40:32

'Don't let your DS know you're worried'

Very important, very good advice

5moreminutes Thu 29-Sep-16 16:40:33

My 9 yo DS has no known SN and certainly no speech problem (there was a time we wondered about ASD or ADHD but he's copibg well now and we have never pursued a diagnosis or investigation) and he makes random noises sometimes - I have been told by friends that their kids do too (not all kids by any means, my other kids don't, but it's not that odd grin ). He only does it at home when bored/ stressed/ frustrated /overwrought and is physically restless at the same time. I'm sure it could be interpreted as "unintelligible baby noises" by an over vigilant teacher who hadn't seen kids do it before... But DS only does it in front of family and not often.

Could it be something like that? Is your DS frustrated or stressed by this teacher unlike previous ones - something in the dynamic between them or classroom atmosphere?

It sounds incredibly odd and highly unlikely that your son has the problem he's being identified with by this teacher.

The speech therapy appointment you have booked sounds a good idea just to clear the issue up - I would guess you'll be told the ST is baffled by why he's been referred and that he has no problem, but at least armed with that in writing you can then try to get to the bottom of what is really going on!

Good luck!

5moreminutes Thu 29-Sep-16 16:57:19

Are any of his previous teachers and TAs still at the school by the way? If you think the teacher is misjudging him I would try to meet with current and previous teachers together, with the head too, if that is at all possible. It's all very well the teacher being "not bothered" what his previous teachers thought, but in fact if a client and expressive child has become "unintelligible" since July that warrants investigation!

I still wonder if the teacher has read incorrectly across the class list and is talking about a different child - looking up the parent details for Ben James and slipped down to Ben Jones or something?

5moreminutes Thu 29-Sep-16 16:58:18

*fluent and expressive (not client and expressive obviously)

Asuitablemum Thu 29-Sep-16 23:29:32

Have you noticed that he says some letters differently? I think it sounds like he mispronounces a few words. It hasn't been picked up yet as a lot of children do when they are in the early years and maybe a couple of teachers just didn't pick it up. Now he is 9 it may stand out more to the new teacher esp if he is used to teaching older children. It doesn't sound like he communicated his concern to you very well but he is well meaning and trying to help your son. I wouldn't worry unduly about it, they are not saying anything about his intelligence or academic prospects or social abilities or anything like that. Only that he may need help learning the correct place to put his tongue/use breath etc to correct a bad habit in pronouncing certain letters.

user1474643665 Fri 30-Sep-16 09:21:03

Hello and thank you for all your supportive posts, particularly the advice to remember he is still our lovely DS. Something primeval just kicks in when you feel your child is being personally 'attacked' in this way.

Most of his Teachers are still at the school and I have thought about contacting his last one but I don't know if this will appear to be undermining his current one.

I have heard that the Teacher has been off in the last few years with stress and he himself told me he suffers with anxiety. My first impressions following our meeting were that he was highly strung and very defensive, telling us that he was the professional. This may be the case, but both me and my husband are both educated to Masters level and we, though not experts, do know our son.

Sometimes when our son speaks rapidly his diction not always 100% clear, around 'th' and 'l' but this is a world away from saying a child is unintelligible and making baby sounds. We have never, ever heard him do this since he was a baby!

I want to have a good relationship with his class Teacher but feel very damaged by what has been said and whatever the SLT says, feel I can't let it go unchallenged. Our son's Appt is 10 Oct and I have posted his school reports from the last 3 years to get as I feel she should know about our son's academic progress and good behaviour etc in school.

We feel we have to go private ( not that we have alot of money) now as there is nearly a years waiting list from first assessment to treatment. We don't want the SENCO involved at school as our son's not got academic, behavioural or social problems and I don't want him labelled particularly when what has been said we feel isn't true.

My faith in the Teacher is lacking as unfortunately I feel he is looking for the worse and not the best in our boy and also will he leave him out of class discussions and group work as he believes he is unintelligible? The Teacher also believes he is quiet to mask his speech problems but again we feel our son is quiet because he lacks confidence and us quite shy till you get to know him!

Lottapianos; how do SLT's get a child talking if they are quiet during the assessment? What happens if our son is shy with her?

I am just at a loss that since the age of 4 he has had 6 Teachers and 5 TA's and not one of them has ever raised an issue about his speech.

oldbirdy Fri 30-Sep-16 09:39:18

I am at a loss as to why you feel so defensive about this. I think a few deep breaths are needed. How is the teacher 'attacking' your son? He has expressed a concern, that's all. Maybe your Ds is a bit nervous around this teacher and is mumbling. My 9 year old Ds certainly makes silly noises sometimes when with his friends, maybe your Ds is doing this and has brought it into the classroom a couple of times, and as the teacher doesn't know your child from before they are assuming he has a long-standing issue.

Having a teacher raise concerns about your child might be a bit confusing and bewildering, especially when your experience doesn't match theirs. It doesn't mean the teacher is wrong or lying, though there is a faint chance what would his motives be? Much more likely he us bring overzealous and proactive, which any of us who have a child with SEN will tell you, is a good quality overall in a teacher.

Go see the SLT, see what they say, and calm down. Your Ds is the same kid he was before.

I have to mention that as the parent of a child with SEN some of your implicit talk about possible SEN is upsetting. Your desire to keep away from SENCO as he is fine academically, talk of finding negatives, talk of your child bring attacked, is understandable if you are confused but just remember that many parents do have children with SEN and your palpable horror and defensiveness, moving into over reaction at the teacher, at the thought of something rather minor being 'wrong' with your ds is a little insensitive.

user1474643665 Fri 30-Sep-16 10:33:34

Hi old birdy

Apologies for any offence caused, that was never my intention. I have both a brother and a niece with SEN being brought up by my Mum since she was a baby. I have extensive dealings and give support to both of them and to support my elderly Mum.

Purely from my own experience, ( no expert) we find the system can often pull children down, rather than build them up and look to what they can do. I am also an equalities trainer with extensive experience of helping people with disabilities access employment and training.

Unfortunately both educational and work opportunities can be restricted because of inbuilt assumptions and barriers. Although my brother is in adult hood, to get any kind of disability benefit for him I have had to talk to his medical assessor all about what he can't do to gain 'points' under the DWP rules, this is distressing for him and for me acting as his representative. But all this is another issue and not for here!

Regarding my own son, I do feel defensive on his behalf, as the statement that has been said is wrong and I feel I don't want him to be wrongly labelled. He is away at Cub camp this week with a lot if children he doesn't know, how would he manage this if he was unintelligible? His Godfather is a local GP ( not ours) and a close friend who babysits us a former Primary Head Teacher and they have never raised this issue regarding speech.

To describe a child like this and making baby sounds with no previous cause of concern either from Teachers or those in the wider community, would I think cause any parent to be bewildered and upset.

oldbirdy Fri 30-Sep-16 11:09:31

Yes, but I would be bewildered and confused not feeling like attacking the teacher's professionalism. I would assume the teacher was maybe over interpreting an anxiety response rather than assuming he was 'bringing my child down' for some kind of (vindictive? Incompetent?) Motive.

As the parent of a very bright child who has severe functional communication difficulties caused by anxiety, I would add that if your son is having difficulties in class caused by shyness and doesn't come out of himself over the course of this term, I would absolutely be knocking on senco's door for a bit of gentle intervention to build his confidence. You can be the most academic kid in the class and still have special educational needs.

Lottapianos Fri 30-Sep-16 12:41:39

OP, I can hear how extremely anxious you are. I suffer from anxiety myself and I know how simplistic it is to tell someone to 'not worry', but for your sake and DS's sake, I would try to take a step back for a second. As another poster said, your DS's speech sound development is separate from his academic, intellectual and social abilities and he seems to be doing just fine in all those areas. He is the same child he was 3 weeks and 3 months ago. There is clearly a mismatch between how you perceive your child's speech sound ability and how the teacher perceives it. The way forward here is for an independent professional to find out some more detail, which is what is going to happen. If the teacher has genuine concerns, it would have been negligent of him not to have raised them with you.

Please try not to fixate on what may or may not happen during the assessment regarding DS's potential shyness. The SLT will quite possibly have worked with hundreds, maybe thousands, of children and will be quite skilled in making things go as smoothly as possible. Prepare your DS for the assessment a day or two before ( no longer) by saying that you are going to meet a man / lady (use their name if you know it) who wants to find out the bits of communication that DS is really good at. Talk about what communication involves (listening, looking, taking turns, understanding, talking etc), don't mention speech sounds specifically unless he does. Do not put any pressure on him to talk to this person, don't set up any expectations that he will 'have to 'do anything during the session, no promises of X or Y reward when its over (that will make it seem like a big ordeal to be endured). Call it a chat or a meeting or whatever word you think he will feel most comfortable with.

I agree with other posters that the SENCo is not someone to be avoided here, but rather someone who could be a great source of support for you. I hear your anxiety and I understand where you are coming from, but none of this process is a criticism of your child or you

user1474643665 Fri 30-Sep-16 14:47:35


Thank you both for your replies. I am not attacking the Teacher's professionalism, he is entitled to his view, but it doesn't always make him or any other professional for that matter, right. Especially not after 3 weeks. My Mum was told by a Teacher my brother would never read and he did and that he would never work; and he did that too!

Our son enjoys school and is not demonstrating an anxiety response either in class or about going to school. The Teacher has never said he has an anxiety response either. He is a very happy boy. He may be Initially shy when he first meets people but this isn't an ongoing issue that is a barrier to enjoying life or learning.

Regarding the SENCo, one of the TA's (who works with a hearing impaired child at the school) has told me to avoid going to the SENCo as she is ineffective and nothing will get done. She said we were better making our own arrangements!

All we can do is see what happens on the 10th.. We have booked a home visit to make it as informal as possible.

Enjoy the weekend!

user1474643665 Fri 30-Sep-16 14:49:18

Just realised old birdy, you were perhaps referring to my anxiety response and not my son's!

CotswoldStrife Fri 30-Sep-16 15:01:11

You seem to be taking this extremely personally, OP - the teacher may be trying to help your son. The SLT will ask for any information that they need and no label has been attached to your child. Don't project your brother's experiences on to your son and please don't panic!

If your son doesn't need the intervention then it won't happen, see it as giving him the best chance of success rather than a potential disaster - I do think birdy was referring to your anxiety response, please don't worry so much.

user1474643665 Fri 30-Sep-16 15:24:49

Hi CotswoldsStrife

Thanks for the post. I am not projecting my brother's experiences onto my son, although we are all shaped by the personal and familial experiences we have had to deal with in life. I also believe the Teacher is sincere in his view.
However, just because someone is a 'professional' it does not make them either automatically right or immune to challenge from a different point of view. Our son , as I said to his Teacher, is a joy to us and we will always be in his corner.

Tunafishandlions Fri 30-Sep-16 15:30:10

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

shouldwestayorshouldwego Fri 30-Sep-16 16:16:54

If there is any issue then surely it is better to get it assessed and sorted before secondary school? I don't think it is you versus the teacher. The teacher has only suggested it because he is concerned.

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