17 May 2012

Asher's speech saga

About a year ago I had a few two year-olds over at my house and I was doing activities with them and Asher and noticed they would repeat everything I said or at least attempt it. Asher seemed to understand me but didn't attempt a thing. "He's so young," I told myself. "Calm down-- he's fine."

After the summer things were much the same. "He's just a little boy. Don't be one of those crazy moms," I scolded myself.

In the Fall I noticed huge differences between his speech and those in his nursery at church so I called Early Childhood Intervention just to see if they could test him and put my concerns to rest or help me teach Asher to speak. A few of my nieces and nephews had done the program with good results and it's free to all so I thought, "Why not?"

We had a hearing screening through Early Childhood Intervention and I didn't give it much thought because I knew Asher could hear.

They screened and evaluated him in all areas of child development as well and just as we thought- he is perfectly developed in every way and even shows above average intelligence for a child his age- he just needed help in "expressive communication."

So he had a speech therapist come out twice a month through their program and work with him. He improved a little, but we still noticed he left off the ends of almost all his words, which could be due to hearing loss. We did a more thorough hearing screening and found out he did in fact have some hearing loss. I was sad, but relieved that we now kind of knew the reason for the delay. We had an ENT appt scheduled and I was thinking (at the suggestion of the audiologist)- "oh he had so many fevers as a baby that it was probably due to ear infection so they'll do ear tubes, he'll hear better, and BAM! we'll be able to understand him quickly since he will now be able to hear."

Well, we went to the ENT yesterday and found out that his hearing has cleared significantly since the audiologists and that his hearing loss was not severe enough to have effected his speech. Darn. But, actually good. I am glad he can hear! But darn, now we don't have a clear-cut reason for the delay. We got some more things to clear up his ears and now we just have to figure out the rest. In early June he turns 3 and will no longer qualify for Early Intervention so it's off to the DOE.

Some hopefully well-meaning people have warned me about getting involved with the DOE and acted like it was the big bad wolf so naturally I turned them down the first meeting I had with them about Asher's speech several months ago. I just figured we'd do Happy School and Bright Beginnings like we did with Ambrose and things would somehow work out.

But, truth be told, I didn't have a good reason to not get help aside from the fear of the unknown, my own pride in feeling like only I could help my child, and all the well-meaning opinions of others. I felt a little lost knowing that in June I would be on my own with a toddler who still can't express what he wants to say and who has unusual speech patterns that don't follow any rhyme or reason. He is so so smart. He knows all his colors, shapes, letters and the sound they make, numbers up to 10...etc. and he aces all the child development tests with flying colors... but he can't tell you what he wants.

The speech therapist estimated that she can understand what he is saying 40% of the time in context and 20% of the time out of context.  My understanding is slightly higher since I am with him all day.

He talks all the time so we know the desire to communicate is there... it's just a mixture of flipped around words, words with sounds omitted, Asher language, jargon, and then somethings that are simply un-attempted. I want to smack everyone who asks me, "How old is he? Ohhhh don't worry he's fine." They are clearly trying to reassure me, but they are not home with me all day as my child attempts to tell me something over and over until he collapses on the ground in tears because no one can understand him. They have also not sat down with other two-year-olds right next to my son who can tell you ANYTHING and tell you clearly... while my son is in a puddle of frustration on the floor in comparison. I have tried everything. I have had the speech therapy, three different types of hearing screenings, created 2 "playgroup" opportunities for him to practice socialization and speech a week, left him with my speech therapist friend once a week to work with him while I teach, gotten him in Early Intervention and we are not at a place yet where we can understand our child and he needs help.

So, when our speech therapist strongly recommended that I look again at the DOE as an option for the Fall I listened.

I learned one major thing from this experience: Who cares what other people think and say because you know what is best for your child.

In addition to listening to all the people who were against the DOE for speech I had all the people who didn't love Laie Elementary in my head and I am so glad I didn't let the biases of a few hold me back. I have had nothing but great experiences so far. I am sure no school or program is perfect, but I am willing to get involved, work with people, and be a huge part of the process.

So, through more testing and an annoying amount of paperwork and meetings we are signed up for DOE preschool in the Fall for Asher. It is through the special ed program even though he is clearly not a special ed student- he is getting help in expressive communication. He will go every day at the same time as Ambrose. They will even eat lunch at the same time and will see each other! Precious! He will be in the SPED room for one-on-one interaction and when he learns to articulate more sounds he has a spot reserved for him to do half-day at the regular Head Start preschool class on campus and half-day one-on-one if we want. It is really all up to us! How great is that?! I always assumed that when you were locked into "the system" you relinquished your child pretty much, but the head teacher is a close friend from my ward and she has assured me way too many times (poor girl) that they are here to work with me and my concerns too. I can also pull him out if I don't like it. They have been nothing but supportive and accommodating.

PS- They will potty train him for me! Yep, let's just go ahead and call that the silver lining of this whole experience.

PPS- They are going to let me transition him in so I don't have to leave him full-day until we are ready for that or ever if I want.

PPPS- We went and spent half-day there already and there are kids just like Asher in the classroom who also need speech help and he had such a fun time playing with them that he cried the whole way home because he wanted to stay and have nap time with them. NAP TIME?!

PPPPS- That's a miracle because he's a shy boy AND because he hasn't napped for me in at least six months.

So, yeah, that's the situation. Am I happy about dropping my three-year-old off in the Fall everyday- NO WAY! I am a crunchy, hippie, stay-at-home mom type and it makes me sad. Do I know this is the very best option for him right now? Yes.

Do I want your opinion on that matter? Hell no! (Sorry, just using my expressive communication here...) Believe me, any reason you have for thinking I shouldn't do this I have thought of times ten and then come back every time knowing that this is the very best thing to help my little boy get on track so he can be caught up with his peers. We have to bridge the huge gap in scores between his cognitive abilities (very high) and expressive communication (very low) or there will be a whole host of problems when he starts regular school.

So come July 30th I will have two little boys starting school at Laie Elementary and I am sad about that but sure that that's the best place for them both. My not-so-secret-close-to-my-heart goal: Have Asher speaking clearly a year from now and enrolled in Bright Beginnings where Ambrose went to preschool last year.

If it doesn't work out that is fine too, but that's what I am hoping for. We can work hard and we can reach for that and in the meantime I am so so grateful for the team of people at Laie Elementary who have been nothing but completely supportive, loving, and nurturing, and for a reassuring family, and the power of prayer to feel peaceful confirmations that what we are doing is right.
 That's more than anyone wanted to know, but that's the story and we'll see where it goes next.


JLPierce Ohana said...

I know you don't want my opinion (it's not negative btw), but just letting you know that I do know of kids at BBLC having speech therapy (your neighbor) so sounds like a good plan!

Might be a good thing with a new baby at home too!

sisinpacific said...

Our neighbour had a grandson whose mother was deaf and though he had no physical reason for not being able to speak clearly, he did not when he was 4. So they enrolled him in the SPED at Laie El. He played with all the kids on the street fine, and got along as well as anyother 4 year old. In Aug I understood maybe 10% of what he said when he would come by the house. Mostly his older brother would "translate" for everyone. But by the end of the year I understood him almost all of the time.
Good luck Asher! We are all waiting to hear what you have to say;-)

Ali said...

Dear Steph,

Don't worry, this isn't an opinion. I consider it an endorsement from an old friend who thinks you are awesome!

I think you are a world class, top notch Mother!! No doubt, Asher is in the best of hands. As an outsider looking in, I was touched as you highlighted the blessings that have emerged during the challenging moments. I think it's sweet that your boys will see each other during lunch, that he was SO positive after his first visit and that the head teacher is a close friend (etc). Keep counting the miracles. Your boy is so special!

Christina said...

You're a mother who knows what is best for her child and is willing to do it no matter what others say. Your children are so lucky to have you!!

And BTW I think it's awesome that there are programs there for children so young to attend. I wish we had something like that here.

Meg said...

I'm sorry for what you are going through with your little guy. It's no fun to run into road blocks like this and not be sure how exactly to help them out. I think your plan sounds terrific. Isn't it nice when you feel good about what decision you've made, regardless about what the rest of the world thinks about it? In my experience, the majority of people are pretty negative, which is sad. It just reminds me to one of the positive ones though! Good luck with everything! I have a nephew who did the same thing and the school preschool helped him so much!

Roeckers said...

Good on ya girl!!
We are in the same boat in a lot of ways! Mikey is the exact same way. I have had to fight my Dr to get anything. The state won't talk to me because she scored high on everything BUT verbal communication. The school program won't talk to me until the fall when she turns 3. I have done speech with Liza and don't like any of the three private speech therapists in the area. The one we do like and have had so much success with at the school is leaving this year :-( Mikey can say most of the sounds but putting the sounds together to form words is not happening.

I hope you have success this fall. You find any tricks that work with Asher I'd love advice. You are being a good mommy!! The other silver lining is with the new baby it will give you a little more time to rest up during the day and focus more on the boys when they are home. Win win for everyone!! Chin up girl!

amynicole said...

Did you know you are a hero of mine? Because you are. I could probably give you a big ole list of all the reasons, but I have to take care of my sweet babe. You are pretty rad. Good luck eith everything, I have good feelings about this :)

Natalie said...

I love Asher!

liko said...

You are his mama, so you know what's best for your child. Let people have their opinions, but it ain't none of their business. Whatever works! And yes, that plan sounds awesome because you're going to get to have a wee cute little babe at home at the same time! Here's to Asher being able to communicate and be understood by and with the world! and no longer be frustrated!!

Erin said...

You're a brave mama. Good luck to Asher!

Mariko said...

I love you, and I feel like I could say many of these things myself about me, and Amaya, especially the part where well-meaning people say things like, "She's fine!" even though they don't know her as well as I do.
So thank you for saying that.

Anna K. said...

Oh Asher is such a cutie. I want to hang out with him. You are such a good mom. I have faith in you and your choices, you are such an inspiration. It sounds like the school is working with you and that is awesome!

Susan said...

You go girl. Way to stand up for your son. You are a great mom :)

melissa said...

i like this post because

1. it's just interesting to hear how the situation developed, how you realized something wasn't right, and how you went about addressing it.

2. your lesson: you know what's best because you're his mom. that is a lesson i haven't learned yet. i believe it for all the OTHER moms, but i really don't feel confident in that area. i make all the wrong decisions sometimes. maaaaaybe if i try really hard i'll believe it for me too?

Megan said...

You are such a lovely momma and those boys are so blessed to have you.

Emily said...


Emily said...

P.S. I am gonna love Laie Elementary all up, yes I am, love them all up.

Emily said...

P.P.S. to all the haters: just like the Dieter himself said: stop it.

Okay...your post got me all riled up, I'm settling down now. It's easy to get me riled up these days. :)

Carrie said...

I'm so proud of you. It can be so so hard to make a decision that goes against the popular opinion of those with whom you associate... someday I'll tell you the very big decision that we made 6 months ago and still haven't had the guts to blog about.

Asher will be fine... because you are his loving mama! There is nothing that kid needs besides YOU and THOMAS at the helm of his ship. You are doing a great job!

Melissa said...

you know whats best for your kids! of course!! good that you have such a great resource available! sounds like he will love it and learn alot!!

Melissa said...

People get really uptight about other people's decisions regarding their kids- I've learned to completely ignore it (or maybe secretly revel in their discomfort when I make a decision so contrary to their opinion they've given me). Bring out the inner rebel!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate this post! My 3 year old is having a hard time speaking and I need to get with it so thanks for your post and encouraging me!

laurel said...

I'm so glad about this! It is a special kind of freedom to let other people's opinions be, without them posing a threat to what we believe is right deep within ourselves. Proud of you for this. Peace sista! Ya'll are in my heart.