The summer before Kid E turned two years old I started to worry. He did not talk very much at all. And with all of the very vocal people already in this house he seemed to get lost in the shuffle. Often his siblings would just answer for him or bring him toys until they brought what he wanted. When I looked into it some more I realized that he was way behind in his speech development, so as each day passed I began to fret more and more that there was something wrong with him. Speech was definitely not his go-to form of communication. He would much rather point and grunt at the things he wanted. He also did this sing-songy gibberish thing with lots of inflection. It was kind of cool and sounded pretty, but I still knew that something about my baby was way off.
Fortunately, my sisters told me that Georgia has a program called “Babies Can’t Wait,” which facilitates testing and early intervention for children under age three who are exhibiting developmental delays. I contacted the Fulton County coordinator for Babies Can’t Wait and was able to get Kid E scheduled for testing shortly after his second birthday. The test results confirmed that his expressive communication skills (how he interacted with others) were horribly low (4th percentile), but his auditory comprehension skills (what he understood) were above average. The therapist classified him with a severe expressive language disorder, but she also said in her report that he showed favorable chances for improved communicative functioning through speech therapy two times a week. His file was submitted for processing. So we waited.
By mid-October I hadn’t heard back from anyone, so I called again. I was told we were on a list. Apparently the babies CAN and WILL wait. Fortunately for Kid E, we had the means to take him to private speech therapy, so I set about the task of applying for a spot in several local, highly recommended therapy programs. You would think I was applying for a conceal and carry permit with the amount of paperwork that was involved in signing a kid up for speech therapy. And they asked me all kinds of crazy questions too.Have any shocks or unusual stress during pregnancy? Um, yes. I was shocked that I was pregnant. AGAIN. What was the child’s birth weight? Did I mention he was my 5th baby? I do not remember what he weighed. I would check his baby book, but I never got around to doing one. I’ll guess about 7-ish pounds. Apgar scores? 1 minute _____ 5 minutes _____ You’re kidding, right? I don’t even remember how much the kid weighed. Age when child: Began babbling _____ First word spoken (what was it?) _____ Using two-word phrases (age they started) _____ Feeds self with fingers _____ Feeds self with spoon _____ Feeds self with fork _____ Drinks from open cup _____ Rolled over _____ Sat without assistance _____ Crawled _____ Walked _____ Jumped with two feet _____ Toilet trained _____ Ride a tricycle/ bicycle _____ OK, So now we have successfully established that I am a horrible mother who did not keep track of most or any of these milestones and my son will probably grow up hating me and needing more therapy because of it. Thanks. What typically calms/ soothes your child? Thumb sucking. And even though you didn’t ask, what soothes me after a long day of not being able to communicate effectively with this child is a big bottle of wine. Please allow him to come to your facility for speech therapy. Pretty please. I am begging.
So we were accepted and soon we started going in for therapy twice a week. I would sit in the waiting room and the therapist would take Kid E back to some magical place where they performed voodoo rituals or some other magical wizardry of the speech therapy variety, because Kid E began to talk almost immediately. And talk and talk and talk. It was like the floodgates had been opened. His therapist was so good at what she did and he responded so well to her treatments that they kicked us out after the New Year. Fast forward to present day and the kid does not ever shut up. And I am incredibly grateful, forevermore.
I definitely pay more attention to his developmental milestones now. I even paid attention when I had a parent/ teacher conference for his preschool at the mid-year mark. When it was over I reported to Sheepdog what we discussed. I read to him from the evaluation.Kid E “is sweet and agreeable and able to grasp new concepts, especially mathematical ones. He shows less confidence outside on the playground, but he also shows a determination to master new skills, like climbing. He is positive and willing to try new things. At this time he seems more comfortable speaking to adults than his peers.”
I told Sheepdog that I had laughed out loud during the conference about that last comment because I thought it was a good thing. What? Most little kids are annoying when you talk to them. I also mentioned that the teacher said in passing that Kid E still has trouble saying words that start with an “s,” followed by a consonant. It is apparently fairly common for four-year-olds, but given his history of previous speech issues, I have decided to keep a close eye (ear) on him in this regard.
I have started playing a little game in the car while we drive to and from school. It is a guessing game. One person thinks of a word and gives some clues about it and the other person has to guess that word. Kid E loves playing games in the car so he was all for it. But I fear that he has already figured out that this game is a form of speech therapy, as I always use “s”-followed-by-a-consonant words when it is my turn.
Me: ”I have a word. It is one of your favorite dinners. It has long, stringy noodles and it is covered in tomato sauce and sometimes you eat it with meatballs.”
Kid E: He sighs at me. ”Pasghetti.”
Me: ”That’s right, but you said it backwards. Repeat after me. First say ‘spaghetti,’ then say, ‘sssss.’ ’Paghetti.’ ’Sssss.’ ’Paghetti.’ ’Spaghetti!’ That’s right! Excellent!”
Me: ”OK, I am thinking of another word. It means ‘to knock over or to topple, especially something liquid or slippery… like a drink or the beans.’”
Kid E: Nothing. He has already caught on to my speech therapy trick, and he wants nothing to do with it.
Me: ”Let’s forget about the beans. What is it called when you tip over your drink at dinnertime and it goes all over the table? That is a big…”
Kid E: Deliberately, he looks at me in the rear-view mirror and answers with all of the clarity and articulation he can muster, “Flood.”
Game over. That kid is wicked smart.
Wish me luck for tomorrow…