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.