I love words. Boggle and Scrabble were some of my favorite childhood games. My main “love language” is “words of affirmation.” Some of my favorite pastimes – reading, writing, crossword puzzles, blogging, talking with friends – all revolve around words. So it’s only natural I would be on the lookout for my child’s first words, ready to record them for all time.
Only, for my son, they weren’t coming, at least not when I expected them. My friends with one year olds were all posting about hearing “dada” or “mama” and my son wasn’t saying anything.
True, he was only a year old, but “something” was nagging at me that he wasn’t on the same schedule as my as my older daughter. In fact, he seemed to be on a schedule all his own. When I added this concern to the others we’d had for the last several months (including low weight gain and problems learning to eat solids), I was one nervous mama.
So in this modern day and age, I did what any other nervous mama would do. I turned to the Internet and began my search. I came across a tool provided by Easter Seals – their Ages and Stages Questionnaire. For no money and twenty minutes of my time, I could complete a questionnaire about my son’s milestones and they would let me know if my concerns were justified or not. I completed it, and within a week got a response – which solidified my concern.
They suggested I fill out the questionnaire again in a month or two to determine if there were changes in my responses. I did, and this time the results came back that I should share it with our pediatrician and seek out assistance, as our son scored significantly low in a couple of areas. Our son’s fifteen month check-up was just around the corner, so I went armed with our questionnaire’s results, and came out with a referral for a local agency that would test him for developmental delays.
A year later, my son is receiving early intervention and speech services for a confirmed language delay. He still is not speaking, but he has made progress in his comprehension and also with using sign language and other “bridges” to spoken communication that help reduce his frustration in our inability to understand his desires. And in the last twelve months, I have learned some important lessons.
Trust Your Instincts
People around me kept telling me not to worry about his speech because he is a boy, his older sister talks for him, so-and-so has a brother who was a late talker and now he’s a lawyer, etc., etc. But I knew that something was off, which was confirmed by the Easter Seals questionnaire. Don’t let other people tell you your concerns for your child are “nothing”. No one knows your child as well as you do. If you’re wrong, you’re wrong. If you take that extra step and have your child tested, you will know for certain
Be Your Child’s Advocate
I hate conflict, and being pushy about getting services for my child feels like conflict. But it isn’t. The people you are contacting, whether a pediatrician or a specialist or an agency, are paid to help people like you and your child. And if you don’t push for your child to get the help he or she needs, who will? I am learning, too, that the earlier you can get services the better.
Look for Resources in the Community
I was delighted when a friend told me about Babynet, “South Carolina’s interagency early intervention system for infants and toddlers under three years of age.” It sounded too good to be true – free services if my child qualified. But it was true. Babynet is funded by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and available to anyone who qualifies. It provides our son’s weekly home-based early intervention appointments, speech therapy, and other services that we may need along the way.
Prepare Yourself for a Journey
I kept hearing stories about children with language delays who suddenly start spouting off whole sentences – which partly made me wonder if I was just making a mountain out of a molehill. However, our speech therapist confirmed it doesn’t usually happen that way. Rather, it is a step-by-step process. Our son has been receiving services for six months now, and we are starting to talk with our early intervention provider about what will happen when he is three. At that point he will “age out” of Babynet’s services and, if he still needs services, he will transition to speech services through the public school system. We are celebrating each small step toward our son’s goals, but also looking at the road ahead.
Celebrate Your Child “As Is”
Earlier I shared my main love language is words of affirmation – words my son can’t give to me yet. But I’ve learned to appreciate the ways he does communicate – through his hugs and his infectious smile and the mischievous twinkle in his eye. And while I could get hung up on what he can’t do, I’m learning to notice and celebrate all the things he can do, whether it is climbing all over the furniture or showing his problem-solving skills in putting a puzzle together. God gave me the privilege of mothering a beautiful, special son, and I am thankful for the people He has brought into our lives for this part of the journey.