Yesterday was my birthday! I turned 27. Again. (Don’t bother getting all psychoanalytical on me and pointing out how I’ve grown in the years since I was 27 and how I wouldn’t have my beautiful children if I was still 27 and how it’s ok that I’m not 27 and all that crap. I’m not ready to think of myself as a full-fledged middle-aged adult, so I’m not.)
So. Anyway. There’s a shortage of doctors here in Dayton, and apparently that extends to the whole medical field, because almost two months ago I took the first available appointment for a speech evaluation for Mitchell…on my birthday. Smack dab in the middle of nap time. It was described by the woman setting the appointment as “a bit much for some children” and then, by the end of the conversation, she acknowledged that it was “grueling.” So I had that to look forward to. I’d been going this whole time thinking it was at 2, so I figured we’d go to story time (last one until June), come home, eat lunch, have a bit of quiet time in lieu of nap time, and head over there. They’d told me only one parent was allowed in the room with him during the evaluation, no siblings, so Justin was going to come watch Rosie while I took Mitchell. Well, somehow I completely forgot about story time. I looked at my phone at about 11:30 and noticed that the appointment set 1:00, not 2:00. I thought I’d made a mistake, so I dug out the paperwork, and sure enough, we needed to leave in an hour for the appointment and nobody was dressed or fed yet and Justin had a meeting until 1. So I ran around (literally) getting everybody ready to go. I had really wanted to be relaxed and mellow leading up to the appointment because I had no idea what to expect, but oh well. These things happen.
Luckily Justin’s meeting got out early, so he met us at the office. The worst thing to happen because of my mistake was Justin and me not getting lunch, but that’s not terribly out of the ordinary for me. Plus I had ice cream cake for breakfast, so, calorie-wise, I was probably good for the day.
They ended up allowing all of us into the room with Mitchell for the evaluation, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected. The speech therapist (Katie) tried to keep everything relaxed and the tests all resembled games or play. Mitchell wouldn’t say a word to her, though, so she had to rely on us to tell her all his words and habits. And even though we knew how much was riding on this, Justin and I both spent the entire car ride home remembering all the words we forgot to tell her that he knew. But even though we forgot so many of his words, his speech still tested at just 10 points shy of the beginning of the “normal” threshold at 75 (normal is 85 to I think 100, I can’t quite remember). She said he was only moderately delayed. I was pleasantly surprised at this. I figured he would be lower. His language, which is basically understanding or comprehension of words and phrases, tested at or above the normal threshold. The normal threshold is 85-115, and she quit testing when he reached 98 because she said she could tell there was no problem there and she wanted to make sure he was still responsive to the questions that mattered. But the last two questions he answered correctly she was impressed; she said they were for older children.
So, the good news is, she said he’s in a really great position. She diagnosed him with apraxia of speech. She explained that as meaning, basically, he has to think twice as hard about what he wants to say. That’s why he tends to get ahead of himself and repeat syllables and why he says some words very clearly and others are jumbled messes or completely made up. But with weekly speech therapy, he should be completely caught up to his age group within six months to a year.
Here’s where things got a bit weird, emotionally, for me. She started saying all the things we should do at home to help him because there’s a long waiting list to get into therapy. They were things like saying the name of everything very clearly when he asks for it, even if he attempts the word; enunciating the beginning letter sound (“wah, wah, water”); being very encouraging when he attempts a word, even if he butchers it; etc. With every suggestion I got more and more discouraged because we do these things already. I had truly expected to go in there and learn that we were doing everything wrong and if we started doing it THIS way instead, everything would be a-okay. So hearing that we were already doing what we were supposed to be doing made me think that the situation was actually worse than I thought. I finally interrupted her and told her that we already did the things she was saying. Instead of being worried or anything, she said that that explained why he was so far along and doing so well. She said usually, when children have high language and low speech, you get a lot of meltdowns, temper tantrums, or the child gets frustrated and just shuts down and doesn’t even attempt new words. Sometimes the child even quits saying the words they already have. As Justin pointed out when we got home, I can’t compare Mitchell’s progress to other children, I have to think about how he would be without our work with him.
So, that’s where we are. Oddly enough, I’m mostly relieved to know for sure what’s going on. I obviously knew something was going on, so it’s a relief knowing it’s something that won’t follow him throughout his childhood. By the time he hits preschool or kindergarten, he’ll be at the same starting point as all the other kids.
There’s still this little nagging voice accusing me of failing him. I’m sure all mothers have this about something or other in their children, but this just gives me something specific to point to and say, “What did I do wrong? What should I have done differently?” Rationally, I know that it’s not my fault. However, there’s a tiny bit of crazy in me (or a large bit, depending on the
day hour minute), and that bit says I’ve failed my baby.
There was one bit of the evaluation that made Justin and I feel like rock star parents, though. The whole time Katie was talking to Justin and I, Mitchell was playing with a little school bus she’d been using in the evaluation. He was rolling it around, putting the people on it, rolling it a little way, taking the people off, etc. Normal Mitchell play. But at one point she seemed to notice him still playing and said, “He has the longest attention span of any 2-year-old I’ve met! And I’ve met a lot of 2-year-olds!” Justin and I both just kind of said, “Oh, yeah, he’s pretty good” or something else just brushing it off, and she said, “No, really, most kids don’t pay attention through this whole thing. A lot of them don’t even know how to play with these toys anymore. They go for my computer right away or try to swipe across the vocabulary pictures like they’re on a phone or tablet.” So that made me feel a lot better about our parenting! I guess we’ll have to repeat the whole limited-technology thing with Rosie.
Oh, and the other awesome thing last night was that Mitchell came up with two new words out of the blue: mow and pop. When we got home, Justin started mowing so of course Mitchell had to mow, too, and he started running around saying, “Daddy mow, Ya Ya mow!” Then when I opened my presents, I spread out the bubble wrap on the floor for him to pop. As soon as he popped one he got really excited and said, “Ya Ya pop bubble!” I guess he decided that if we were serious enough about it to take him to these tests he’d better start talking. Personally, I would have rather he get motivated BEFORE we spent $340 per test (one speech, one hearing), but hey. Whatever it takes I guess.
For my birthday, Justin got me an awesome statue of a family, Mitchell got me an adorable elephant garden statue, and Rosie got me a movie to watch whenever she goes to sleep. We ate at a yummy pizza place, both kids behaved awesomely (except the slight hiccup when Rosie decided she no longer nurses under a cover, so I had to hang out in the Sears fitting room while Justin and Mitchell ate pizza), Justin made an above-average number of compliments, Dad got me beautiful flowers…basically, I had a great day.