Talking in borrowed words

Don’t don’t don’t. Don’t have music playing in the background when you have a speech delayed child is just one more don’t I had to learn. It makes it extra difficult for them to focus on the speech around them; harder to differentiate the separate sounds against the background noise; the wall of noise inhibiting them from attempting to talk. Don’t.

But what is music? Before X-factor, before Sony, before disco it was (it is) a way of communicating. Stories and emotions. Bob Dylan is a Nobel laureate; music communicates language and poetry too.

I did comply. I tried to not let her lose a moment of language learning opportunities. But her language was delayed already and I couldn’t suppress the strain in my voice as the hours rolled through with me providing both sides of the conversation. A little bit like our relationship with technology, I rethought the issue. Listened to the risks but also watched her interactions to identify the benefits.

Echolalia – echo speech – is a natural stage of language acquisition. Some children pass through it quickly, others echo much more. Junior echoed. It was subtle – she didn’t echo immediately, but rather replayed them in some future instance, like a human voice recorder. A vaguely context appropriate utterance above her normal language level, replayed verbatim including any regional accent present.

So in the end I’ve found music is a friend for my little Echo nymph. Not too much. Not all the time. Not indiscriminately. I built a playlist on Spotify. To make the cut, the songs had to appeal to a child, but also lift my spirits. Clear articulation of words without speaking down to the listener. A good beat. No nursery rhymes.

The music brought in a second voice. And then a third voice joined in. A little third voice yowling in the chorus without knowing the lyrics. A week later, in the shop, I got a little tug on my sleeve. It wasn’t to tell me “I want water”. It wasn’t to say “Go home”. I got two serious grey-green eyes focused straight on me to say “You stole my heart”.

Little girl, you stole my heart and made it your own.


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