Little V was 3. He had just begun to talk complete words and incomplete sentences.
V’s mom had a hard time keeping up with him because he did most of the talking with his little hands and feet; than with his mouth. AT 3, he could build complex structures with his blocks. He could run up and down the stairs all day long and still not tire. He could draw abstract things. He could put together jigsaw puzzles.
So, as any parent would, V’s mom set about finding a good pre-school for him. She found a very homely and accommodating Montessori playschool in the vicinity of her neighborhood. She thought that homeliness would make V comfortable because of his hyper-active nature. The sweet senior teacher took him into her fold. He blossomed with the freshness that new unencumbered learning brings everyday.
And then, the senior teacher left. V went into the care of another teacher, much younger.
All was well until V’s mom received a call one morning- mid-session.
Teacher- “Your son beats and scratches other kids when asked to write.”
V’s mom- ” But he’s only 3. Why does he need to write yet?”
Teacher- ” All the other children write already. And we have to prepare them for regular school which needs extensive writing even in lower classes…”
V’s mom- Well, if my child refuses to write, please don’t force him. I do not expect him to pick up writing now. Please let him be. Other children can do what they are doing.
Teacher- All right.
Everything seemed under control. V would go to school and come back everyday. All was fine- until V’s mom noticed that his words and broken sentences were getting fewer and farther between each other. His responses tapered to monosyllables and simply nodding. And finally, he simply stopped talking. He would just draw and draw and draw on pieces of paper and crumple them out …
His parents were rattled. Was it a developmental disorder? Was it physical? Was it psychological? What could have affected him so much? What has been so dreadful that it has reversed his development?
They stopped school for him. They showed him to one doctor after another to rule out dreadful, unthinkable possibilities.
Finally they approached a child psychologist. She heard them out. She told V’s parents not to expect miraculous results.The child may take a lot of time to pick up speech again. And yet, she told them one thing with absolute certainty. V needs to be relaxed to receive treatment. He needs to be himself again.
So, V visited the therapist every evening. They would go out and buy chocolates and candies. And the three of them would just sit by the store simply watching people, other children and their pranks. A month passed. V was still not talking. But they could see that he was enjoying his therapy visits.
V’s mom was instructed to keep track of his activities. What was it that he spent the most time doing? What was it that he liked doing? When his mom mentioned his obsession with drawing, the therapist asked to see all of V’s drawings.
Some more time passed. No talking yet.
And then the therapist made her big observation- “You son shows signs of having been locked up in a bathroom somewhere. I can see it in the pictures he makes”.
V’s mom was puzzled. She was sure it has never happened in her home. The only other place where he spends substantial time is the school. How can she make sure? V wont talk. The school would deny. How?
And then it came back to her.
One evening, when V was being particularly difficult, a classmate of his had shouted out to her, “Aunty, V is very naughty. Lock him up in the bathroom.” She remembered wondering if that’s what the child’s parents do to him when he gets mischievous. But, other than that figment of thought, she had just brushed it aside as a child’s remark. And now she realized its significance. That child had said it because he had seen V being locked up in the bathroom for being naughty.
V required more therapy and enormous patience to get him back his speech. He finally got back to talking only around the age of six.
Note: This is a true story as narrated to me by a mom. V is now a teenager. Though he does talk normally. he still struggles with expression through language. However, he has found his expression in the world of music and is a budding violinist training under the aegis of a renowned world-class musician. Here’s wishing him the best.