A few weeks ago, I took George to the bookstore before speech. The bookstore isn't far from the SLP's office and we had enough time for a quick trip to play with trains.
When we were there, George looked at books for a few minutes and then wandered over to play with the train table. I poked around for a bit, surfed on my phone and then said, "Hey, buddy, you have ten minutes and then we need to leave for speech."
"No, nine minutes!" he corrected me, as "nine minutes" is the time for everything.
"Sure, nine minutes," I said with a chuckle, thinking someone needs to teach this kid how to bargain. I went back to looking at the fall books and a few minutes later I heard a woman softly say, "Excuse me."
I looked up. "I didn't mean to eavesdrop but I heard you say that you were taking your son to speech. My son was just evaluated and we are trying to decide if he needs private speech therapy or if we can just go through the district. Can I ask who you see?"
"Sure!" I chirped, digging in my bag for my business card. "My son has a fairly severe case of Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Basically, his brain knows what he wants to say but he cannot coordinate the mouth movements to say it. Because he's so severe, he goes to the peer model special needs preschool in the our school district and private speech therapy. Here is the name of the place we attend. She's wonderful!"
"He really severe?" she asked, taking my card. "He sounds very clear. My son is two and I can't understand him."
I nod. "George was like that when he was your son's age. He had one all purpose phrase and a few words but was mostly silent. He didn't even make noises when he played with toys and had a lot of anxiety around other people and new situations." The other mother nodded knowingly. "He's said his first three word sentence at 3 years and 3 months. He's worked so hard and has come so far. It's hard work but so, so worth it."
We chatted a little bit and I encouraged her to call me or e-mail me if she just needed to talk. George and I were late for speech that day, but when I explained what happened to our SLP, she didn't mind. Aside from the fact that it is more business for them, she is very passionate about helping kids and was glad we were able to connect with a mom who is at the beginning of her speech therapy journey.
When George was younger, not as verbal and we were in the thick of things, wondering if he would ever talk, parents and children who were farther in their journey really helped me. They gave me a shoulder to cry on, the names of people who could help me and promised me that my son would have a voice. When the world was trying to tell me I was overreacting, doing this, this and this wrong and thus stopping my toddler from talking, they were there to tell me that I wasn't over reacting and here's how to get help.
Their children, their children who had very limited verbal skills and were now talking up a storm, gave me hope.
That's what Adam said I gave the mom in the bookstore: hope. I told her speech disorders are real and some children really do need to be taught how to talk. I gave her resources for help, for both her and her son. And, most of all, George showed her that even children with severe speech disorders learn to talk - and talk well.
My little baby boy gave someone hope.
This journey hasn't been easy. This journey won't continue to be easy. But suddenly, in that flicker of hope that I saw in the mother's eyes, it was worth it.