I’ve been really moved by the pieces of writing circulating on the internet about children with delays in their speech. So, I thought I would share some of my experience today.
When your kid is living with any kind of speech concern, let me assure you everyone who knows it will have a story to tell you about their cousin’s brother in law’s daughter, who totally outgrew hers. Most of the time, it won’t be treated like a legitimate concern, especially if they are still pretty young. I’m a positive person, I can look into the future and see Liam speaking clearly when he announces his candidacy for presidency. I can also look into the past, and see the progress he’s made towards his goals from the time he started speech therapy at 19 months old. In between those times though, I’ve also seen and felt a lot.
I’ve seen my young son try to share his excitement with me about something, I absolutely cannot understand. “Jesus Pizza?” I asked. “No!!” He screams back. “You want to go to church?” “Jesus” “Cheese Pizza?” frustrated, he just retreated. It’s been over two years, and I still cannot savor his joy for what sounded like “Jesus Pizza” to me.
I’ve seen Liam share a story with a friend, only to be ignored because the kid had no clue what he was saying. I’ve watched his face rise and fall when he realized no one around him could understand him clearly enough to carry on the conversation. I’ve observed other children tell him he doesn’t know how to say words right. I’ve seen him raise his voice in an effort to make the words more pronounced.
I’ve sat in meetings where I’ve been informed how a child with a speech delay with likely struggle academically. I’ve privately wept, because I’m not enough to just fix it. I’ve criticized myself, regretful I hadn’t read him more books in infancy. I’ve wondered if I let him watch too much television, or if my thick Southern accents make it harder for him to understand me and learn how to say the words. I even let myself recall a time when I was in first grade and encountered my first classmate with a speech impediment. Was I unkind to him? I don’t think so, but maybe I was and the universe is seeking its revenge. I’ve doubted myself, bashed myself, and neglected myself in the hope he might learn three words one week. I’ve envied my friends, I’ve studied their parenting for any flaws in my own. I’ve read parenting books, blogs, and forums about children with speech delays. I’ve Googled famous people with speech concerns. I’ve devoted hours upon hours to educating myself about how to best support my child and give him the best early intervention possible.
I’ve been supported by speech pathologists, people more patient than I. I think it’s nice they have therapist in their job description, because they’ve been a source of therapy to my family in ways they probably hadn’t signed up for. I’m so thankful for their support. Sometimes I don’t know who they help more: Liam or me. I’ve never met a SLP who wasn’t blissfully positive and helpful. I think everyone should have their own SLP, they’re smart, kind, and a source of constant encouragement. I’m thankful for them everyday.
I’ve imagined worst case scenarios for his future. I’ve felt the warmness and redness build on his cheeks when he tries to read a word and does it incorrectly, leaving his classmates in stitches. I’ve heard him called cruel names, and I’ve wanted to have a firm conversation with the parents of the accused. I watched my younger brother get ridiculed, and while I interjected as often as I could, I know the words had lasting meaning in his life. They defined him by sad accident, and they withered away at his self esteem.
I often feel guilty for being sad for my son. I know we are blessed beyond belief with his overall good health. I try to see the positives: the wonderful support staff we are able to provide, being able to stay home so I can make each and every necessary appointment with minimal life disruptions, being able to afford a nice school that caters specifically to his needs. It’s just some days, I want more. I want an easier ride for him. I want everyone to know how funny he is. I want him to know he’s heard, understand, and meaningful. I want the world to delight in his knowledge of animals, weaponry, and dragons. I want my incredibly social boy to be able to interact as I know he’s so desperately trying to. I want him to feel confident, smart, and as great as he is in my eyes. I don’t want things to be harder for him. I’m selfish, I know. Adversity builds character, I know. I know, I know all the things you’re thinking.
The reality is with each thing I see him overcome; each milestone he defeats. When his SLP comments on his expansive vocabulary. My heart swells, and I’m comforted knowing he’s better than he was yesterday. He doesn’t need me to make his life easier, he will prosper on his own. He’s strong, smart, and resourceful. He knows I love him beyond measure. I can free myself of the guilt that I haven’t done enough, and just let us be.
On a fun note! Liam got glasses today!