Today was our very last Speech Therapy session. As I teared up thinking about how much we have been through in the last 18 months I was reminded about some of the naivety of friends and family in connection to William's speech delay. I thought this might be a good opportunity to clear it up.
The most common comment I get from people is "my cousin's child (or some other distantly known child) didn't speak until she was 4 and she is fine". While I am very happy for this unknown child, therapists and doctors are learning more every day about speech delays. Did you know that 25% of all children have a speech delay with no known cause/reason? But early intervention is imperative, which is probably why there is an entire state run department called "Early Intervention". If caught early children can make a full recovery before school starts. If left undiagnosed it can affect other areas including social development and academic success.
I have also heard, "Einstein didn't speak until he was 5 and he just started in sentences". This is completely unconfirmed. Just for kicks let's assume that its true. Then that's really fabulous for Einstein. But Einstein was a genius. While I like to believe my children are brilliant I do not believe they are genuises. Even so, why would I sit by knowing he isn't developing on target and just hope and wish he will catch up. There are services available for all children who need help. It hurts nothing to have a simple evaluation done.
Other people look at me like I am crazy and that I somehow made his speech issues seem worse than they were. Let me assure you that I didn't make anything up to take advantage of the program. There is a rigorous evaluation process that took several hours over several days, they requested his medical records, they interviewed me and William, they also had him do a series of tasks. The results were added up and he qualified for speech services and preschool until he turned 3. At 3 years of age he got re-evaluated to see if he had a disability that would qualify him to receive continued services. He did not qualify. I am happy to report that he is currently at age level in all areas and exceeds in some areas. If he still needed services at 3 years old we could start the evaluation process all over again at the school district.
Just because he needed speech therapy does not mean that my child is inept or unintelligent. I have had some family members act as though William were stupid or cognitively delayed. For some unknown reason William did not speak or imitate sounds at 18 months of age. It created quite a few problems for our family. Since William could not communicate his needs or wants he would (and still does) hit, bite or throw temper tantrums. He also does for himself rather than asking for help. Now that his speech is caught up we are working with him more to ensure his behavior is appropriate, but be assured that William is just as intelligent as most 3 year old's.
The first word William learned was 'want'. It didn't even sound like that, he would say "wa". I was aghast when Tiffany, our speech therapist, told William he could have a high fructose corn syrup laden cookie if he would only say 'wa'. But we threw our 'no-sugar' rule out the window to help William learn to speak. On May 1st, 2008, at 21 months old I heard him say 'Mama' for the very first time. (For comparisons sake Alexander has been saying 'mama' since he was 9 months old.) It was the best sound in the entire world. It was definitely worth HFCS.