To Be and To Have

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.

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Comments

  1. As parents, we intuitively want to protect are kids from harm and heartbreak. I have to remind myself that it’s those struggles that build character. Kids are resilient if we support them.

    You are an active parent who isn’t afraid to fight for her children. Nathan is in good hands. :Round of Applause:

  2. Woman, WE must talk. This process is so completely challenging. Our problem is we believe there to be something going on but the schools say it’s too “mild” for my son to qualify for services. It’s so frustrating. It’s not his speech but there may be an auditory processing problem. His hearing is normal, there are just difficulties processing especially when several sentences are thrown together . We’ve been to a therapist, a speech language pathologist. the audiologist. It’s nuts. Finally I met with the student support team and feel as if we have a team in place to help him be successful next year. But it’s a challenge. You just want the best for your child and want to shield them from any pain from jerks that don’t want or try to understand.
    XO!

  3. I would just like to say how profoundly grateful I am for you for as much as you have mentioned here on your blog about what is going on with you guys. When I found out that I was going down this speech therapy road with Ethan, I knew immediately that I had to go talk to you because I knew you had been there. And your lovely, detailed, helpful message took SO much stress away from me and helped me more than you can know.

    I know what you mean about wanting our kids to have lives without struggle- I don’t think that’s ever going to happen though. But maybe our boys are getting some big struggles out of the way early on and things will be easy after that 🙂

    Love the picture- he’s such a handsome little boy!

  4. I will be cheering him on!! I know 2 kids (one is my nephew) who have gone to the same program through SPS and by the end of the school year my newphew who didn’t speak at all only grunted, was speaking in full on sentences and the other boy I know who had some words before was speaking like any other 4 year old I knew. I think you are going to love the program. They are oh so very helpful.

  5. Nathan is a beautiful little boy and so lucky to have such a thoughtful, supportive mom.

  6. I feel you Mona, August turns 4 in six days and he is barely forming sentences. Maddening road, but I wouldn’t trade it. Excellent post 🙂

  7. My son, who is 4, is going through about the same thing. He’s getting better with therapy, but still nowhere near where other kids his age are at in terms of speech. It’s a struggle, definitely.

  8. Phenomenal post Mona.

  9. I believe that the system has developed in a way that more caring, considerate, compassionate, and truly interested-in-the-development-of-your-child kind of teacher has filtered into the school system to assist you in the progression of your kiddos speech recovery. Our first school experience with Curran left us thinking that school administrations looked at our developmentally delayed children as a revenue source, throwing out phrases such as special needs kids get twice the funding as typical peer children. I feel for you, because I know that the beginning years are the hardest. I hope you can find solace in the fact that your journey with Nathan will at times leave you exhausted, confused, pissed, plus many more emotional outbursts of joy and victory. But one day, maybe its when Nathan reaches the same age as Curran is now, you might feel satisfied that you’ve given your all to help your child…, and that is, in itself, a form of unconditional, unselfish love. Much loves and kisses.

  10. Nathan kicks ass. Period.

  11. I can only hope that your program has some wonderful therapists in it the way that ours out here does.
    When Chris needed his speech therapy, we had just gone through a big move, a big job change and a new baby and let’s not leave out the health complications for me! The speech therapist came to our house!! She had her sessions with my son right on our living room floor.
    And when Chris developed a moderate to severe stutter in this fourth grade year, the therapist at his school was all kinds of awesome. The tools that he gave my son have helped him to become a much better public and social speaker.
    It is people like those that make it easier for us parents. I so remember that feeling of why my kid? What did I do wrong as a parent that my child is not hitting those milestones like all the other kids? One of the first things that Chris’s first therapist team told us was that it is a more common issue than you think. Alot of kids (especially the boys) go through it and after some work, continue on with life as if nothing was ever wrong.
    You are not alone. And neither is Nathan.

  12. You are doing all the right things. Nathan is perfect and he will get there. And if I hear anyone cheep-cheeping I will call Bebop and Rocksteady and they will unleash a holy anger the likes of which those hens ain’t ever seen. Got that?

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