Thursday, September 15, 2022

Jack's Speech Therapy Journey

One thing I never thought about before having kids is that my children could potentially have speech issues.  It honestly never crossed my mind.  I babysat for children for years and none of them ever had any speech problems.  I was never around a child who did.

When Scarlett was born, I just assumed she'd talk within a given amount of time.  When the time came for her to be on track to speaking, it didn't happen.  We started speech therapy for her and in time words came out.  Her speech issues were very mild and easily corrected.  

Fast forward to when Jack was born, I didn't really think about him having issues with speaking because I thought maybe it was a one off thing with Scarlett.  They say that second-born children often speak quicker than first-born children because they want to keep up with their siblings.  Around 18 months or so, we brought up our speech concerns to Jack's pediatrician.  They weren't too concerned but referred us to our local evaluation program called Birth to 3.  Birth to 3 is the same program Scarlett was in for speech.  They work with children who have a variety of needs that need to be addressed, essentially from birth to age 3 free of charge. 

Jack was evaluated for services and qualified for play-based speech help.  He started in August 2021 at age 2 and would end in August 2022 when he turned 3.  We were offered one day a week for an hour.  Before we began, the therapist and I made goals for Jack to hit at various points.  If they were made, we made more goals we wanted to reach.  I followed the advice, tips, and treatment plan given by the speech therapist.  

His speech therapist left for maternity leave in March 2022 and was replaced by someone virtually.  This was difficult.  It's not easy to have speech therapy on a computer screen.  Jack would sometimes run off because he wasn't interested.  I finally realized I could just bring the computer in his room and lock he door so he couldn't walk off.  Some sessions were harder than others.  He would cooperate to an extent and then just want to do his own thing.  Sometimes he would be able to focus more than the previous session.  Each week really was a gamble and it was difficult.

I knew that Jack was going to be okay because cognitively he is perfect.  He understands everything he just can't get his words out for whatever reason.  Jack can point to a picture of a bird in a book if you ask, and if you tell him to go get his shoes from the front door he will.  I can't get a straight answer out of anyone when I ask why he isn't speaking more at his age.  He also tested negative for autism back in February.

As the months rolled on by, we didn't see much progress.  Jack remained the happy little boy he was, just without many words.  It was depressing.  When Birth to 3 was nearing the end of his year of speech help, he was evaluated yet again by a local center to see if he qualified to receive a slot at a special needs preschool.  He did not qualify for a spot, but qualified for free state speech help which he would receive in September.  Jack was offered two 30 minute sessions a week at his preschool, which he started about 2 weeks ago.  This was less than I wanted, but I needed anything at that point.  He is also working with a private speech therapist, so he has 3 total days of speech therapy a week now. 

Birth to 3 ended on August 31st, right after his third birthday.  They were nice enough to let us continue through the month of August, even after his third birthday on August 8th.  

In the last few weeks of Birth to 3, Jack started making slow but steady progress and continues to do so.  He is able to say Lynnie, car, go, and a few other words.  On a good day he may have about 10-15 total words. He finally started being able to label Scarlett too.  He doesn't say Scarlett, but says goo goo.  It's something at least because he never had a name for her before.  She is not a fan of it, but it's progress in my eyes.  We are pushing Jack to work harder and be able to speak more confidently and more clearly. 

It's very difficult to be a mother of a child who has an extreme speech delay.  I have a lot of worries for Jack as I don't know when this journey will end, or where it will take us.  He is going to have difficulties making friends because he lacks communication.  You can only play silently next to a child for so long.  Are kids going to make fun of him? Will he miraculously start speaking on his own? Will it take another year to speak in sentences? We have no idea what the future holds for him and it is scary.  It's hard to have children want to play with him at the playground and they say hello and he cannot answer.  I tell the parents he's speech delayed so they don't think Jack is just a rude or unfriendly child.  It can be sad and depressing.  I just try to push on and do everything we can for him.

Jack is happy and full of life and energy.  He loves cars, snacks, being outside, Elmo, and so many other things.  I just hope he can catch up to where he needs to be at some point.  

In the mean time, we are there to help Jack every step of the way to be the best he can be.  

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