At Nathan’s 18-month-appointment, the doctor marked on his record that he had a speech delay. I was pissed at the doctor–a man who wasn’t Nathan’s regular pediatrician–for making a medical diagnosis that my son–my baby–was different. I remember how he went through a list and I didn’t have enough checkmarks for his satisfaction and he talked about my child like he was less than and as his mother, I was at fault. I was being judged and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like that the doctor was so cold and sent us off with little more than a referral for a hearing test and the image of his stern face frowning at me. Please if you’re a pediatrician and you’re telling a new mom that her child seems to have a speech delay, don’t be an jerkface. Do they teach Don’t Be A Jerkface 101 classes in medical school? I’d gladly sign up as a case study. I HAVE EXPERIENCE.
Nathan was tested for his hearing and he checked out at normal levels. After that, Mike and I held back from seeking formal therapy, thinking and hoping that it would work itself out, that he would start talking, stop babbling. By his third birthday, he hadn’t made that much progress. We signed Nathan up for a private speech therapist, one he’s been seeing since. He started at a new daycare two months afterward and I believe these two changes have helped him tremendously. His days are filled with puzzles and playtime in a huge backyard lined with toys and swings and friends who yell, “It’s Nathan!” before we’ve even opened the door.
He still has a long way to go. He was officially tested by the Seattle Public School System last May to determine where he was in his delay and what services, if anything, he would qualify to receive. It was an intense four hours during which he was seen by a speech therapist, occupational therapist, nurse and audiologist. After they respectively tested his hearing, fine motor skills, and speech, they all met, compiled results and the case manager explained how Nathan fared. As I had expected, he did slightly better in social tests than in cognitive ones. He had poor fine motor skills, difficulty concentrating, trouble with enunciation, etc.
So next month he will begin at a developmental preschool which will address these issues. We will meet with his teacher to complete his Individualized Education Plan, an array of specific goals and how we will help him achieve them.
I watched this sweet and remarkable documentary called, To Be and To Have, a wonderful glimpse into a schoolhouse in the rural French countryside and their phenomenally patient teacher. I watched this almost in tears because the way the teacher dealt with the same comforting yet firm hand is exactly what I want, what I hope Nathan will have in his school. I know not everyone will love him or will be captivated by his jokes, his singing, his need to be acknowledged and encouraged.
I want so much for him.
I haven’t spoken much about this, partly because I want to protect him from any jerk kids later who might read this and use it as ammo, the way little jerks do. I also wanted to protect myself against the marginal parents–the other mothers who read this and cheep cheep in their hen circles how awful it must be to have a child like this, how grateful they are that this isn’t happen to their precious ones. It happens. People who have been fortunate enough to have children who speak articulately, possess normal fine motor skills, and connect with other children easily, might not understand the exhaustion of raising a child who does not function the same way. Some people offer up solutions, as if we had never thought to read to Nathan or post letters all over the walls.
I am saying this now because it has encompassed so much of our lives. There were few blogs I found from other Seattle parents going through the IEP process. I did things early, submit forms, make copies, play phone tag. It has taken an enormous amount of time and energy to assemble the right tribe for Nathan. We have a compassionate doctor, a dedicated private speech therapist, a daycare full of loving people, soon more teachers and classmates and people who will help make my boy better.
Nathan is talking more and more, making strides toward actual conversations. Every day he is engaged in ways he wasn’t the previous day, week, hour. This morning, I washed baby bottles and wasn’t paying attention to him so he repeated like a Fatal-Attraction-I-Won’t-Be-Ignored-Dan litany, “Mommy! Mommy! I’m talking to you! Talk to me! Talk to me!”
I want my son’s life to be without this struggle. I want him to find his voice. I want him to be so confident in his language that his words storm the world around him and everyone caught in that fierce air is lifted up, up, up.