I am no stranger to the world of delays with my children. I have or am still going through Early Intervention with 3 out of 4 of my children. I have been a part of the world of PPTs, IEPs, IFSPs, and all of the other wonderful little letter abbreviations that go along the world of disabilities and delays for over a decade. And I am here to tell you that there is no shame in knowing what these abbreviations mean or in having to get them for your children.
As a matter of fact as far as I am concerned there is more shame in letting a problem fester. It does no good for your child just because you are worried that he will be labeled or people will think you’re a bad parent. Because bottom line is it’s not about you it’s about what’s best for your child. If your child is hurt or sick and something is not working right you wouldn’t hesitate to get him help for that. Well, same thing with a delay. But somehow there has become this negative stigma with developmental delays and people want to do the wait and see approach. If I ignore it maybe it will go away. This is not always the best approach.
Nearly 13 Years Of Developmental Delays
When my oldest was around 15 months old she had no words. No mama, no dada, nothing. I talked to her doctor who said well lets see how many words she has at 18 months. I’m a little impatient though. With the prodding of my mother who thought it was not normal that she wasn’t saying anything, not even babbling, I decided to call the Early Intervention in our state which is known as Birth to Three. I had no idea what it was all about and honestly I didn’t entirely think she would qualify, but as soon as I called I had an appointment for an evaluation in my home the next day.
They came out and told me they felt there was enough of a need that she could receive services and I was given a bunch of papers and told acronyms I had never heard before and they left. And I sat there looking at my beautiful baby girl and I cried because I thought I broke her. That something I had done had caused this and it was the end of the world and everything I dreamed for her would not come true. And I cried to my husband who tried to reassure me that it was nothing I did and we’ll just get her the help she needs and she’ll be fine.
I remember searching the internet trying to find something that might fit her so I could say okay well she’s autistic, as if that would make a difference. Speech delay just seemed so broad and there was no way to pinpoint a cause. But maybe I didn’t talk to her enough or read to her enough because that was one reason that speech delays happen when there’s not enough communication. It was like everything I found made it my fault.
It Wasn’t My Fault
There was nothing I did or did not do that caused this. When the speech therapist who would be working with us came out to write our IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan) I talked to her about my beliefs. She told me that sometimes some children focus on other areas of their development more and we just need to help them focus more of their efforts on other areas. Oh, okay that makes sense. I mean this is the child who could hold a crayon correctly at 15 months old. How many children that young hold a crayon between their fingers and not in their fists? So we knew her fine motor skills were off the charts good.
That was something I could focus on. That it was just one area of her development and we were getting her help in that. We made our plan and the therapist came out every week to work with her. She was teaching her sign language and I was seeing no progress and then the therapist just told me one day this is my last time coming I have a new job and they’ll get you a new therapist. Ugh, so we were starting at square 1.
They sent a new therapist right out. A very pregnant therapist. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with women working through pregnancy. I do however have a problem with no continuity in something very important to my child’s development. I understood that they just were left between a rock and a hard place, but really sending out a pregnant therapist who would be leaving in a few months anyways did not make me feel good about things. They finally hired someone new though and just in the nick of time. And I have to say she was great.
I will never know if the addition of this new therapist was what made my daughter begin talking or it was just a coincidence, but when you find someone good you do not let her go. I took her with us when we moved, even though it was out of district for her. And she stayed with us until my daughter turned 3 and we transitioned her into the school system.
That was another whole new experience and battle in and of itself, but my daughter received speech until she was halfway through her Kindergarten year. And when they discharged her I questioned if she was really ready. And what if she falls behind again? What do we do? They assured me she was fine and they would watch her and for the next two years each new teacher I constantly talked to them about her language skills until I finally realized she was good. She had it. There was nothing more to worry about with her.
After That I Knew This Is Nothing To Be Ashamed Of, Ever
I didn’t think I would ever be able to stop worrying about my oldest daughter. But here she is going to be 14 years old this year and she is in the gifted program and two advanced classes in school. She is on the track to college and you would never in a million years know that talking was a problem for her.
Would she have come out of the speech delay on her own? Perhaps. I guess she could have accomplished all of this stuff without my interference. But why would I have put myself through that frustration? While she was talking by 2 she wasn’t speaking in sentences yet by 3. A combination of starting school and of speech I think really helped her. It certainly didn’t hurt her. And honestly all of the time spent focusing on sounds that words make and breaking them down to isolate each sound in a word had to have helped her with reading. It was like a jump start into learning how to read.
All Of My Kids Would Have Benefited From Speech Therapy
My middle daughter was an early talker. It was a bit maddening at times with her talking before she was a year old and her older sister having taken so long. We didn’t have any developmental concerns about her. It wasn’t until she got into Kindergarten really that we began to see any sort of problems. Reading did not come as easily to her as it did her sister. But each child is different. Her sister had her struggles, we try not to compare.
She was falling further and further behind though in spite of lots of effort on her part so I began questioning this. It took me two years to get them to write an IEP (Individual Education Plan) for her which allowed for extra time on tests and some pull out to work on her reading. Other special conditions too like she couldn’t be marked down for her writing. And when she started being taught a different way to read it was by pulling apart the word and identifying the sounds the letters make. Could she have benefited from some of this when she were younger when it came to reading? I’m sure she could have.
Then there’s my son who did also receive Birth to Three, but not for speech. His delays had more of a causal reason which we could pinpoint with his failure to thrive and misdiagnosis by his original doctor. When he was evaluated I was just working so hard to get him back on track and get someone to listen to me that I think I was totally relieved that any action was being taken. Any action other than just keep feeding him fatty things anyways. And as we went through and he began to catch up and was eventually discharged from Birth to Three I got that same nervous I don’t think he’s ready feeling that I had with my oldest. These people became like a crutch I could lean on to tell me he was doing fine. Before he turned 3 I even had them come back out to evaluate him for speech. I wanted him back in the program. He did not qualify, but I will say even though he is not receiving any more physical therapy or speech I still often talk to his teachers about concerns that I have there. Now it’s expanding out to other areas too though.
He’s so young and in Kindergarten. He is making huge gains, but still far behind his peers with reading. Do you know what they are doing with him? Breaking down each sound the letters make in the words. Getting him to isolate those sounds. Just like what his oldest sister had in speech. So at least he’s ahead of where his middle sister was.
The point being that speech therapy helps in so many other ways than just teaching a child to speak. So how could that ever be a bad thing? How could we all not want our children to have that kind of jump start into their learning?
Not Afraid To Ask For Help
I did not hesitate when my youngest wasn’t speaking as well as I thought she should be to seek out a referral for speech. At her 15 month check up we discussed it with the doctor and she immediately said Birth to Three. I called them right up, had them come out for the evaluation, and she has been receiving speech therapy since last May. In all honesty I didn’t believe she’d get in. In spite of the no language or babbling from my oldest daughter it was still hit or miss that she would get in because she didn’t really have two separate areas of need. My youngest was babbling and making sounds at the time though. So my main objective when I called Birth to Three was to see where she was and what we were dealing with. At the very least get some pointers of what to do and a plan that if she’s not doing XYZ by the time she’s two then we’d call again.
It didn’t go down quite as I had anticipated, but you know what, this was so much better. We started her speech therapy and began to get rid of the frustrations which her lack of language had caused. While I knew about sign language from my oldest and I was trying to incorporate that she had zero interest in learning sign. If I tried to hand over hand show her how to do a sign she would melt down even more. It was an endless cycle which we needed to figure out how to break and I honestly had no idea what to do.
Now 8 months later while she’s not often using sign language or traditional signs we have a way of communicating. We have expanded on the gestures she was already doing to try to get her to communicate her needs and wants to us. We still don’t understand everything of course, but hey sometimes I still don’t understand what my 13 year old is trying to tell me so I know this is all normal.
She is even beginning to string together phrases and using different intonations in her voice to express herself. Despite the fact that I have been through speech before with a child, this has just been different. My youngest was doing different things to begin with than my oldest. Once my oldest started talking she would say each word correctly, but we couldn’t get her to put words together. She would repeat what we told her, but only one word at a time. So if she wanted milk she would tell us milk, but if we wanted her to expand on that and put it into the sentence of, “I want milk!” then we had to have her repeat each individual word. So it would go something like this:
Me: “I want milk!”
Daughter: blank stare.
So this went on until she was around 3 when I could get her to put two words together, but nothing more than that. It was quite the process, but she repeated everything. My youngest for whatever reason will not repeat what we say when we say it to her. However, spontaneously while she’s playing she will come out with things and then we might never hear it again from her. She absolutely will not repeat it. Although, some things she is starting to repeat, but if it’s new she will not repeat at all and we might hear her playing around with the sounds during play, but not usually when she thinks everyone is listening.
This is why I embraced the help. While it might have been easy to draw on my past experience or even the experience and recommendations of others I knew that I didn’t have the experience or training to deal with this nor did any of my friends. I can give you tons of recommendations of activities to do to get your child to talk, but it’s simply going to be based on stuff I have learned in dealing with my own two children. Not based on any education that I have received or observing tons of different children with different degrees of learning disabilities.
Do Not Be Ashamed
There is no shame in asking for help. There is only shame in not asking for help. My children might have been fine without early intervention, but I truly believe they are better off for having had it. And to me I’d rather have people come out to evaluate my child a thousand times and tell me he’s doing great, then not at all and watch him struggle for the rest of his life. Labels aren’t a bad thing. It’s those labels that help people understand the help that a child needs.
And just because a child needed a little help in the beginning, doesn’t mean he’s going to need help the rest of his life. My oldest daughter was discharged from speech therapy eight years ago after receiving speech for 4 years. She hasn’t looked back once. There was never a need to have her reevaluated for her speech and she has done nothing but sore in her education since. She will begin high school in the fall. She has been taking advanced classes and maintaining a B average. The only label that is on her now is gifted.
So if you ever have a doubt in your mind that your child might not be developing normally, do not hesitate to seek help for it. If the end outcome ends up being a gifted child who is a grade ahead in reading, then why the heck wouldn’t you want to do that? And if people think poorly of you or your child, then that’s on them because advancing early isn’t always a good thing. Slow and steady does win the race after all.
I am proud of each one of my children for working as hard as they have to overcome obstacles. And if that meant I had to get in people’s faces to make them recognize my child’s potential then so be it. Because I don’t want them thinking anything can ever hold them back. Whether it’s speech, reading, or motor issues. These are all things which can be overcome with the proper help so you won’t see me advocating for a sit back and see approach to things with my children. Get out there and get them the help they need as early as possible!
Do you feel there is a negative stigma on developmental delays in children?