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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.