While the language we choose to use as parents is important, I want to discuss language acquisition and parenting. As Big Little Wolf has indicated, “parenting rocks. parenting sucks. parenting rocks.”
Ever since Becca discussed her son’s lack of language, I have had these thoughts rolling around in my mind. Parents need to be aware of developmental milestones and when help should be pursued. These include many things – crawling, walking, talking, words, sentences – but they are not impossible to know what is “normal” and what is not.
Once a milestone is missed, parents need to move from parent to advocate, and usually at the whim of the system. This has to be a seamless transition as you know your child better than anyone. You are your child’s best advocate.
I share with you my own experience with not one but several of my children. With child number one came the first issue. His preschool, and I was working outside the home full time so he was in a day care/preschool setting, did annual speech evaluations. The report came home that his teacher thought he should be evaluated. I didn’t see an issue but agreed. A speech/language pathologist came into the preschool and tested the kids. Then, after a couple weeks, a report was mailed home with a request to share it with teachers.
I took the report very seriously. I called my pediatrician and made an appointment. Was my child ill? Was this a well-child visit? The receptionist was very confused. Why did I want a doctor’s appointment? Well, the biggest reason was insurance. The insurance company required a doctor’s referral to attend therapy. The receptionist asked if she could call me back. She wasn’t sure if this was an appointment or a consultation. She wanted to schedule me as soon as possible but didn’t now where to put me or my son.
The pediatrician decided that he would do a physical exam so a regular appointment slot was needed. He told the receptionist to let me know he didn’t believe anything was wrong but wanted to rule out any physical issues. My son had had some health issues as a newborn – constant ear infections for the first 15 months, problems with the well water where we lived. I was game for ruling out physical ear issues.
Two big things came out of the doctor’s appointment to the then naive and still fairly new mom – yes, I had three children at the time but still new at it. The first was there was no physical reason for anything to be wrong. This was good news. Then came the other news, which I view now in retrospect but at the time thought was just professional jockeying. He said that I should not worry about the speech report. The woman was just trying to make a living.
Then came the twins. Andy and Elise were as different as day and night from the moment they emerged from the womb. At 38 1/2 weeks, Andy came out at one ounce shy of eight pounds. Elise came out at five pounds, eleven ounces. While she didn’t walk until 14 months and he did at 11 months, she talked or babbled constantly. He did not. My thoughts, again in retrospect after parenting for 25 years and researching twins, are that she would help him communicate what he needed so why should he learn. Then, when he finally did start to speak, there were issues. He didn’t speak properly. He, just prior to his second birthday, had speech evaluation.
Andy had a severe articulation disorder. I was plunged into the school special education process and into becoming an advocate for my son. The Committee on Preschool Special Education had just begun taking over what was early intervention from county health departments here. Thankfully, our insurance at the time, once I manage to bully my way through the pediatrician to get a referral, covered six months of whatever therapy was recommended. The problem was so bad, so severe that the actual recommendation was for a language-based preschool, not just daily – yes, five times a week – speech therapy. The preschool recommendation was going to have to wait for the committee. We started going to speech therapy every day.
By the time Andy’s case was in front of the committee six months later, he had improved. This is a child whose language comprehension was two to three years above where his speech was. The committee, through my advocacy, allowed Andy to continue with therapy as it was and to stay in his preschool environment that he was in, which was my goal. I did not want to split the twins up at the age of 30 months.
What did I learn through all of this and two other children with speech issues later? I learned that I had the capacity, even then when the internet was not prevalent, to find the information I needed. I had the capacity to teach myself what was “normal.” I had the capacity to advocate for my child as I knew my child better than the speech therapist or the committee members. As parents, we may question ourselves constantly. We may wonder if we have made the “right” decision. We should never, though, question who knows our child/children best. We do!
A caveat: This is not meant to point fingers at others and their decisions about their own children. As I said, we know our own children best. It is meant as a learning and sharing experience for becoming an advocate for yourself, your family, your children.