I spent the last 18 or so months hiding. It was not a conscience choice, though. It began simply through necessity and as the result of our routine. When Cole was born, he had a Type Four Tongue Tie and was, quite frankly, a pain in the butt to feed. At home, I would strip us down if needed and was close to the pump, a freezer stash of milk and formula if I needed it. When we left, I had to take a bottle of milk with me because I could not wrangle three children and try to breastfeed. If I didn't want to take expressed milk (which could go bad, leak all over the place or not get eaten and need to be tossed) I had to pack formula and water. Oh, and if I was gone too long, I personally would leak all over the place or die from the pain of milk needing OUT but having no place to GO. Yeah, I was (literally, in some ways) strapped to the pump.
When we got all that figured out, Georgie began having Total Nuclear Meltdowns in public. Places Joseph, Camille and I had enjoyed, like the mall play areas, library and pools, were too much for him. He would cling to me and whine and cry. I had no clue what was going on, so we started to stay home more and stuck to safe places- the houses of certain friends.
Over time, what we know understand is apraxia and SPD, got worse and we stayed home more. It helped (or didn't) that we couldn't really go anywhere because we were hemmed in by the school routine and nap times. We stayed home- alot- and didn't see many other kids.
At the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, I knew we had to get out more. Once Georgie began preschool, Cole and I started to do all the things we love- shopping trips where we just wander around, bookstores to play with trains, grocery store trips, walks, short play dates. We still have to be back in time to get Georgie and Camille from school but I have a touch more time to get out and do things. (Of course, we spend alot of time on the couch watching Little Einsteins and cooking. Bear is my sous chef!) But as the year progressed, Georgie's confidence bloomed and we learned how to help his SPD, I began saying yes to more play dates and time out with friends, even friends who are not on Georgie's "safe people" list.
In Dec., I went to an open house an old friend hosted. I know Joseph and her older son would get along; they are very much alike and they were in a our first playgroup. I was right- Joseph played happily, Camille found a friend, Cole fought over the baby dolls with their daughter and even Georgie was happy. He didn't cling to Adam but went straight for the trains and toys in the playroom.
I think Georgie was pestering the older boys (he's a really good younger brother! lol) and was jabbering away when one of the older kids asked me, "What's wrong with him?
I didn't get it at first. "Huh? He's three and just wants to play with you. If he's bothering you, I can take him to find something else to do."
"No." The other kid shook his head. "What's wrong with him?"
It hit me. His younger sibling is around Georgie's age and speaks clearly. George doesn't.
"He has a condition that makes it hard for him to talk. He can understand everything you say but he can't talk. I'll get him out of your hair." I scooped him up and carried him off to find something else to do.
I wasn't mad. That feeling surprised me. I expect to be unreasonably mad at the kid but I wasn't. He knew something was amiss with Georgie and asked about it. I didn't remove George because to save him from the other children; I moved him because the older boys wanted to play by themselves.
Not a few weeks later, Camille had a friend over. The girls played really well with Georgie and Cole and included them in everything. It was really sweet but when we were painting, the question came up again- "Why doesn't he talk?"
I knew this time was coming. I knew at some point, friends and strangers would ask hard questions. When Georgie was younger, people seemed to understand that he wouldn't talk to them because he was "a baby." Now that he's clearly older, they expect him to answer back when they speak to him- to say "thank you" for a sticker, to answer when they ask how old he is or his name. They notice the medical ID bracelet he wears, a large silver beacon that keeps him safe, yes, but also indicates something is medically wrong with my child. And, naturally, they ask why.
So far, everyone has been accepting and kind. I don't bother to label his speech delay as apraxia since few people know what it is. I simply respond that he has a neurological condition that makes it difficult to talk. Most people learn to talk by being exposed to language but we have to teach him how to talk. And, yes, one day he will speak but it will be much later than with other children. To date, no one has said anything negative and all the responses have been polite.
I'm not mad when children ask questions. In fact, I want them to learn how to ask (kindly) about Georgie's differences. I want them to know that he may not talk like they do, but he can run, jump, and play with them all the same. I want them to know and love my son.
I've known since we first began to suspect CAS that this day was coming, the day that other children would realize something is different about my son. And now it is here. And you know? It's not as bad as I thought.