Scooter's speech never feel outside of "normal" in the technical sense, but all of his official scores put him in the very bottom of the "normal" range. On the one scored test he had, at 3 years 11 months, he performed best in the area of "expression." But this was measured by his ability to name objects--something that an Aspergian profile would expect to be a strength--and not by his ability to communicate thoughts and desires. And so even though he was never given an official label of "speech-delayed," I have used this label to some extent.
After his semi-diagnosis of sensory processing issues and the subsequent improvement in his speech after even a couple weeks of OT, I started to develop a theory of what had caused his delay. Since Scooter is particularly sensitive to auditory stimuli, I suspect that most sounds came at him as nothing more than a bunch of noise. In environments with multiple things going on at once or heavy background noise, he could not pick out the important streams unless his attention was drawn very specifically to them. I think that this also affected his pronunciation, as he had some trouble repeating sounds and words with precision.
At any rate, his speech began improving when he started OT, as if gaining physical control of his body helped him gain some control of his senses (which is pretty close to what was happening). But I still thought of him as speech-delayed. Not horribly and any improvement in communication was cause for celebration. But I was also aware that his peers continued their own jumps forward in language, and so I saw Scooter's development as keeping pace rather than catching up; he lagged at the same distance, but at least the gap wasn't growing.
One thing I had noticed is that Scooter is doing a much better job of picking up on words used in conversation and then working them correctly into his own sentences. He has also become more interested in narrating what is going on around him or recounting something that happened recently. And he's telling stories--cute, strange, funny stories that start from the familiar and then veer off into the absurd.
Scooter and I went back to see the school's OT this week. The pretext was further evaluation, but really the OT didn't see why he should have to go without a service he obviously needs while we wait a few weeks to get the paperwork in order. He'll be visiting her on a weekly basis soon enough, and in the meantime she can get to develop a relationship with him. At the end of the session, she again told me what a pleasure he is. And then she added, "His strong verbal skills should really serve him well in school."
Which took me completely by surprise. My son? Strong verbal skills? I said something to her about how his talkativeness is a fairly recent development. And then thought about this the whole way home.
I have gotten so accustomed to thinking of my son as lagging behind his peers that I forgot that he would catch up at some point. This is not to say that he is entirely "normal." He will almost certainly receive some speech therapy for his pronunciation issues. And his mode of expression continues to be a little different than one would expect from an almost-five-year-old. He's definitely headed towards being a "little professor" and will need continued instruction and role-playing for the social side. But a lot of things have fallen into place, developing so naturally that I didn't even notice how far he'd come.