If you will indulge me for a moment to enter into ‘proud father’ mode, I wanted to mark Isaac’s achievement of a key developmental milestone yesterday – writing his first word – which he accomplished in a typically (for him) geeky way.
It is perhaps not surprising that our elder son – he turned three in December – is more cerebral than physical in nature. While Heather and I both played plenty of sport when we were younger – we each represented our university at different sports – we would both admit we were always more likely to succeed in fields which required us to use our brains rather than our hands and feet.
We have tried to give Zac every opportunity to participate in sports, but it is only in the last few months that he has started to show an interest in running, kicking and throwing. However, even before he could crawl, he has always shown an interest in books and the kind of educational/fun TV programmes you get on CBeebies which has often bordered on the obsessive.
His command of spoken English has increased beyond all recognition over the past year – as it does with the majority of two and three-year olds – to the point where now his comprehension of language is mighty impressive, and he is able to string fairly complex and generally grammatically correct sentences together. We have long since stopped talking to him in pidgin English, and it is rare that we say something which completely bamboozles him.
According to the children’s communication charity I CAN, children have a typical vocabulary of 300 words by the age of three, although this can vary widely. For instance, the results of a YouGov survey published in The Times today reveals that around 30% of children have spoken their first word by the age of nine months, whereas 4% say nothing until they are three.
Just before Zac turned 2½, we attempted to list all the words he could say at that point; we gave up trying somewhere around the 900 mark. By his third birthday, it was probably closer to double that number. Language is certainly one of the areas where his development is ahead of the curve.
The next key progression is reading and then writing. He has been able to read the words “Isaac”, “Toby”, “Mummy” and “Daddy” for several months now. And in recent weeks he has started trying to write his own name in crayon, without any recognisable success yet (although I expect it won’t be long).
Which brings me to yesterday. Zac was sitting quietly on the sofa fiddling around with my iPad – he regularly commandeers it to watch Rihanna videos – when he started using the Notes application. Thirty seconds of studious peering and prodding at the keyboard later, he called out “Look! I did it! ‘Isaac’!” Sure enough, he had correctly typed out his name, unaided and unprompted. Being a 21st-century dad, I got him to repeat the feat so I could video it for posterity:
I was as surprised as I was impressed, but maybe I shouldn’t have been. How typical that my technology-loving, geek-in-training son would write his first word with a keyboard rather than a crayon. I’ve already told him I’m expecting him to produce his first best-selling novel within the year. Maybe I should invest in touch-typing lessons for him? Watch out Shakespeare …
For more information on language development in children and advice with learning difficulties, visit the I CAN website at www.ican.org.uk.