As a teacher who spent seven years in an elementary classroom, and four years in a preschool classroom, I was no stranger to working with kids with developmental delays. I sat in my fair share of parent/teacher conferences and IEP meetings. I sat in the teacher chair, helping parents write goals for their children. We spoke about all of the strengths and weaknesses of the child. I always tried to put myself in the parent’s shoes. How would I feel if this were my child? What would I want for my child? Little did I know, that fast forward two years and I would get a small glimpse into this world.
At 14 months, my little guy was saying about 4 words. I was so proud of him and absolutely loved hearing him say, “mama”, “dada”, “yeah”, and “nana”. At 15 months, his little sister was born and his speech development halted. A few months had passed and he hadn’t added any new words to his vocabulary. While a piece of me tried to ignore this, the teacher and mommy in me KNEW something wasn’t right. I spoke with his pediatrician about it around 16 months and she assured me he was okay and we would just keep monitoring the development. However, my mommy gut told me otherwise. While up at all hours with my newborn, I would be thinking about my son and his speech. I knew there was a problem. I knew ignoring the problem didn’t mean there wasn’t a problem, and as a teacher, I knew the importance of early intervention.
I called and made the appointment with Early Steps for an evaluation. A piece of my heart broke that day. Did I want to know the results? My mind swirled – Autism? Language delay? Apraxia? Selective Mutism? Developmentally delayed? It was almost as if my teaching experience was a curse. I knew too much. I knew the long term effects of certain diagnoses and the struggles he would face. Then (of course) cue the mommy guilt! Is this my fault? Did I let him watch too much TV? Did I not speak to him enough? Is he regressing due to his baby sister being born? What more could/should I have done?
Evaluation day came and I was a nervous wreck. But, as moms do, I slapped a big smile on my face and stuffed those nerves to keep my little man calm. We talked about how smart he was and how he was going to get to show everybody how much he could do. He was (and is!) VERY smart, and he understood everything. We left there with a diagnosis of “Speech and Language Delay.” I was actually relieved. With this diagnosis, we were able to receive free services. We were able to get my little guy the help he so needed and so deserved. I was also able to educate myself on strategies to elicit language and improve articulation. A diagnosis allowed me to research how to help him.
Fast forward two years, and I now have a four-year-old who loves to talk. He will talk to anybody and everybody. At times he blows me away with how chatty he can be with total strangers. He is my storyteller and is always making people laugh. His teachers tell me that they love listening to his stories. He still receives weekly speech therapy, and we still have daily practice sessions to improve articulation, but the progress is immense. This whole process taught me to listen to my gut. If you are even thinking something is developmentally off with your child, an evaluation will never hurt. In most areas, free early intervention is available. The evaluation will give you the answers and information you need to help your child. I am so happy I listened to my mommy gut and really helped get my little guy get back on track!