Communication disorder. Speech delay. Selective Mutism. Apraxia. These terms have been bouncing around my head for the last two years.
My son, who will be three in month, doesn’t speak.
He has said a few words, most of them he has learned in the last two months. Mama, dada, baaa, choo-choo. Words I’d expect to start hearing from our 7 month old son, but not my 3 year old.
Just last week he pointed down the stairs and said “Da-da” finally in an actual request! Of course I showered him with praise, then I went to the bathroom and let the tears loose.
It was never supposed to be this way.
I went to school for elementary and special education. I taught preschool before my son was born. I read to him for hours in utero and throughout his first few years. We practiced “dada” nearly a million times before the first Father’s Day he was earth side.
I did everything right. Everything the books said to do. And still no words.
Knowing things weren’t progressing, we called in Early Intervention to evaluate him on his first birthday. He didn’t qualify. At 18 months, he still wasn’t holding his bottle or making any attempts at speech. So I called Early Intervention again.
It was terrifying and relieving all at the same time. Every Wednesday and Thursday morning for the past two years we welcomed the most wonderful speech therapist and occupational therapist into our home.
They worked with him, worked with us, gave suggestions, troubleshooted, encouraged, and yes, even cried with us. He improved his fine motor skills and began vocalizing and putting things in his mouth around the time he turned two. It was huge!
But still: no words.
No words, though we kept reading. No words, though we tried every suggestion thrown out to us. No words, though I kept myself awake at night praying for them.
After a while, people started noticing that my son was a little different. In appearance, acts, and personality he is every bit the same as anyone else’s three year old. Just no words.
But as people start to notice things, they often give “well meaning” suggestions. Even though they know nothing about speech delay, everyone knows about “something” that could be the root-cause of the problem. Vitamins, autism, socialization, ENT, stubbornness… you name it- it has already been suggested. And tried.
We went to specialists, worked on his diet, added vitamins. Took him to more places, read more books, talked with him constantly. Still no words.
Strangers say, “Hello” to him repeatedly only to huff off when he doesn’t respond. When other’s ask, “What’s your name”, they look at me with strange glances when I respond instead.
How do I tell them he can’t speak?
To the outside world, it is so hard to explain him. No, there’s nothing wrong. Yes, he doesn’t speak. Yes, we’ve seen the doctor. Yes, he is receiving speech therapy. No he does not have autism.
But there’s more to it. How can I explain why I burst into tears each time I see an “ask your toddler” post on Facebook? Why I get tears in my eyes when I see my friends’ children wish them goodnight and say “I love you Mommy“?
I love my son so much. To me he is smart, funny, and absolutely the sweetest boy on earth. I just want others to look at him and see the same. I want him to be able to play with others and not be looked at as odd.
I don’t want him to be classified by what he can’t do but by what he can.
Honestly, I believe he will speak someday. There are moments where I doubted this. However, seeing him even be able to vocalize vehicle sounds along with a few words here and there, I have hope.
I know someday he will say, “I love you Mom” – and yes, I will probably cry.