Atypical (the big speech udpate)


They started with the good news. Gross motor in the 21-24 month range. Check. Receptive communication, same. They went on down the list until they got to expressive communication. I know these words now so I knew we had arrived. She said his development is atypical. She even said that if we were living in a signing community, if everyone in our world signed as their primary method of communication, we’d have no problem. But he doesn’t, so we do. And then she said it again. Atypical.

And I don’t really know what that means.

walking with son

Almost two months ago, I shared our worries about our little boy. You all responded, sharing your stories and experiences with me. We took it all in, started researching and making appointments, and walked carefully into a brand new world. And it turns out that the answer to my question of how much I’ll share here about it all is “not very much.”

One thing that parenthood has taught me, and it’s been pushing hard on this one in the past few months, is that everything is always new. Even when you’re doing something the second time around, even when you’ve walked this road holding little hands before, even when it’s just another first day at the same old school, it’s all still new. All of it. It’s still learning and growing and trying to figure out where you’re going as you hurtle down the road at top speed.

[Tweet “Parenthood: trying to figure out where you’re going as you hurtle down the road at top speed”].

Over the past two months, we’ve been drowning in new. New terms like speech pathologist, prompts, expressive communication and receptive communication. New signs for words we use every day like go and stop, more and again. New people, new processes, new forms to fill out. New games to play and songs to sing and strategies to try. A new perspective on development; the typical, the atypical, and the everything in between.

We’ve heard our boy make new sounds. We’ve seen a new side of him. We’ve seen pride surge out of his big brown eyes as he signs and communicates needs and wants that he couldn’t just six weeks ago. We’ve had new little conversations with him in complete silence. He can sign ‘stop’ if he doesn’t like something and sign ‘again’ when he does and so we’re learning new things about him.

boy and fountain

But he’s still not talking. He communicates without speech.

Adjusting to his timeline, progress that comes through in slow trickles instead of wild gushes, that is new for us too. We weren’t naive enough to believe that after just a few speech therapy sessions, he’d be talking up a storm and these struggles would be behind us. In fact, I’m not sure I had an expectations at all. But this waiting, waiting for things to click, waiting with bated breath for that first word to finally come, waiting and wondering what to do to make the waiting easier or shorter, this is all quite new.  Working so hard to help our child learn what comes so naturally to others, is new.

And I don’t deal well in new. I struggle with new. I don’t write about new. I write about things I know. And I don’t know this world. I don’t know if in six weeks of speech therapy, my boy has made progress. I don’t know what the next six months of therapy will do for him or for us. I don’t know if we’re putting so much pressure on him now that we’ve pushed back and away what would have happened naturally had we just let him be. I don’t know and so I haven’t been able to sit here and make myself write about this. It’s too new.

boy in swing

The feelings are new too. The feelings that I’m failing him. And, of course, her too. That I’m too distracted and not paying enough attention and not giving them enough and not focusing on them enough. Not sitting often enough and looking in their eyes. Not settling into just being with them. If I could just sit myself down on the floor for all of the hours I have with him each day, would we be past all of this by now? Is atypically developing because of me?. Like any mother, I doubt my abilities and actions all the time but this sort of deep doubt and confidence shedding is new for me. And this new is hard.

But two months ago I came here with my worry and a world of people, both new and old, reached out to lift us up and help us take the first steps. So, today, I’m taking a moment to write about the new. We have moved ahead with speech therapy. We’re getting some help now from our local early intervention program. We’re learning the landscape and the words and the signs and we’re setting goals and moving towards them. And we’re grateful for your support.


  1. Ugh, the new. I think I’m in so much of that in so many ways – externally and internally.
    I wish you a lot of luck and love in this new landscape.
    Tamara recently posted..Game Day Prep.My Profile

  2. New is hard. And scary. Thinking of you as you navigate this new world with your son. He couldn’t have a better guide.
    Dana recently posted..My Love List for SeptemberMy Profile

  3. New is hard, especially when you just don’t know what to expect. Thinking of you. Just know that you are enough as his mom. You always will be.
    another jennifer recently posted..Philanthropy Friday: Making Miracles for Kids During the #MiracleMarathonMy Profile

  4. New is definitely hard a scary. However, I will tell you that when I use to teach special needs preschoolers who had varying levels of speech delay (among a multitude of other delays) one of the strategies I always used was signing. Research (way back then) showed that signing leads to better language development because it helps kids make the connection in their brain between the arbitrary sounds we call words and their meanings. Personally, I think you are doing the right thing. You had concerns that have been validated and, now, you are addressing them. But, new is hard and that’s o.k. Hugs to you, mama!
    Lisa @ The Golden Spoons recently posted..Don’t Cry Over Summer’s EndMy Profile

    • Thank you! And now I feel better about the signing. He loves it and though I so badly want to hear his voice, it makes us all happy when he can communicate.

  5. I don’t do well with the new and unfamiliar. I like routine and things that I’m familiar with. Thanks for sharing this Tricia and thinking of you and your family. And like Jennifer said, you will always be enough as his mom.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Back to the BeachMy Profile

  6. The waiting is such a difficult part. And adjusting. That was my biggest struggle. On the other side, it’s easier. It gets easier. xo
    Shell recently posted..The Harry Potter Fan’s Guide to Universal Studios OrlandoMy Profile

  7. I wish you would share more! I am in this new world myself and am just starting to navigate this rocky road and drowning in appointment after appointment right now!

    • Oh I feel for you! We are not much further down the road but I’ll keep sharing and you ask questions whenever you need to. We’ll figure this out.

  8. I don’t write about new either, so I commend you for “going there.” I think it is normal for you to question every step you’re taking on this path, but from an outside perspective, I can assure you that you are doing all the right things for your family, and I admire you for it!
    Katie @ Pick Any Two recently posted..How Meaningful Relationships Can Help Us THRIVEMy Profile

  9. New is hard. And I know you will be hear to help others when they enter that new stage. I have seen the kids of some very close friends have such incredible success with early intervention with speech, OT, PT, etc. What an amazing resource in so many districts. You are so generous to share whatever you are comfortable with here.
    Nina recently posted..Leaving and Losing FriendsMy Profile

  10. I’ve been where you are. And him being my firstborn, everything was new and I was scared, and blaming myself. I had no benchmarks. Which I suppose in a way, was good.

    Tricia, you’re on the right path. My boy has been in speech therapy for 18 months, and only in the past 6-8 months or so, have we seen progress in leaps and bounds. The beginning is always slow. Everyone’s taking time to adjust. It will all be well. Keep doing what you’re doing. And as always, I’m happy to listen if you need an ear.
    Alison recently posted..Dear BabiesMy Profile

    • Thank you, Alison. I so appreciate your honesty here. It’s so hard to be doing something and see no immediate result but now that you say it, it does make sense that the beginning will be slow.

  11. Tricia I spent so much time beating myself up for not watching and engaging and being with the kids that I missed more moments with them while I was lost in my head telling myself off. It is so true we do the best we can with what we have at any one time. There are times when I lack the patience, the emotion, the sleep for the patience and the energy to give what I would like. Then there are times when I find I am organically there and I make the most of this. I wish you all the best as you navigate these unknown waters and hope you are kind to yourself along the way.
    Karen Main recently posted..When you feel ready to complain, try this insteadMy Profile

    • Such a great reminder that the time I spend in my head is also time I’m not engaging. For whatever reason, I get so caught up in criticizing myself I forget about the time doing so takes away. Thank you, friend.

  12. Oh Tricia… new is SO hard. Especially when it’s a new that is scary and not ‘typical’… hence atypical.

    I am praying for you, mama. I am praying that you feel a sense of peace about your place in this precious child’s life and that he was and will always be made for YOU and YOU for him.

    You were perfectly picked to bring him into this world, and carry him through all the challenges and gifts he will encounter. Keep trusting in that truth. You are enough for him… and he for you.

    Baby steps. Small courageous and faithful steps through your new. I’ve learned there is rarely an end to that… motherhood is one big long process.
    Chris Carter recently posted..Why I Write What I WriteMy Profile

    • Thank you, so much, friend. It takes work to trust and remember that I was picked for him but kind words from always, always help 🙂

  13. So hard…but just know that you are doing everything you can and he is getting great support. It sounds like he really wants to communicate, which seems to me like a very promising sign. Hang in there 🙂

  14. I understand your roller coaster of emotions and your fear of the new. You also seem to be worrying that you’re not being a good parent. I can tell you in this respect, you do not need to be a perfect parent to be good enough. Your child’s development is also influenced by a lot more than what you do or don’t do with him, but this also means it is partly out of your control. Your son will learn at his own pace. You are doing what you can to help him, but he’ll need to make the first steps.
    Astrid recently posted..Apple Pie: Celebrating One Year in the Psychiatric HospitalMy Profile

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