My Toddler Doesn't Communicate Verbally
At a year and a half, most children speak a dozen words (or more) clearly. Besides "Mama" and "Dada," favorite words include "bye-bye," "milk," "cookie," "car," "oh!," and "my." Many 18-month-old toddlers can also link two words together to form rudimentary sentences — sentences without linking verbs or other connecting words. She may say "All gone," "Want ball," or "Me up." -baby center
I'm all about honesty, especially when it comes to this Motherhood journey. With Jackson being our first born, we are learning as we go. What works for all of us, what doesn't, & so on..
Little background - J has really only said "Momma" & "Dada". Occasionally "Bubba" but that's it. I'm aware other kids in his age range are speaking & verbally communicating more than him, however I was not concerned. I still am not concerned.
He also just started daycare TODAY so he has had limited exposure to other kids. It's pretty much just me & the dogs & that's super evident when you see him.
Jackson is officially 18 months old & I take him to his wellness appointment with no worries or predetermined thoughts. We see a different pediatrician than we usually do because she is unavailable - no worries. Each visit, I fill out a form that 'tracks' the child's development (physical, cognitive, etc..)
After looking at J's chart, this Dr openly & very coldly voices his concern that Jackson is 'severely behind' on his verbal communication skills. "I'd recommend you see a speech therapist right away so he doesn't fall more behind." I know J hasn’t said the most words at this age - Momma & Dada are barely clear. But the delivery was so harsh, he made me feel like shit because my kid wasn't talking. "Ok well I'd like to speak with my husband before we make any decisions about Jackson. We're also moving next week so any referrals in state would be pointless." Of course, he completely ignored my request & put in the referral for Jackson to be seen at Holly Ridge, a local General Development Center in Bremerton, WA. Only I didn't know until Matt came home from work that day & told me he got a missed call & voicemail from them regarding the referral - nothing even came to ME.
So now I'm heated at this dumbass Dr. making me feel terrible & then not respecting my request to hold off. I'm crying to Matt about all that, how I feel like a failure but I know there's nothing wrong with J. We research in different ways (his is logical, cold hard facts. Mine is gut instinct & other experiences). When he reads most kids at 18 months are speaking 10-20 words, he went into panic mode. "Something must be wrong.."
Right off the bat, I take it on myself. LET ME BE CLEAR. Matt NEVER said this was because of me. Not once. I put this pressure on myself because I am with J all day, everyday. I take both his wins & shortcomings personally - all of them. Immediately 'he watches too much tv' is at the front of my mind. 'It's my fault. I'm a terrible Mom because we watch too many movies. I should have taken him outside more. I should have talked to him more. I missed my chance..' I know he does communicate to me in other ways (brings me items he wants to play with, pulls me to certain places, occasionally points, etc.) but it's not verbal & that's the kicker.
Matt & I have discussion & arguments are another about why I don't want to take him to the evaluation because I'm taking it as an admission of failure. Yes, I was letting my pride get in the way of helping my son & I feel like THE WORST. But I also knew there was nothing wrong with him like Matt was implying. I know my son better than anyone & I know he doesn't have any mental issues, which is what it felt like the Drs & Matt were trying to convince me off. So I fought back with my pride.
After some time, I suck up my pride & schedule J's eval for before Matt gets here - the complete opposite of what I wanted to do but knowing myself, it would have to be done ASAP or it wouldn't agree to it again. Without Matt or not, J has to be seen.
July 20 [PRE-APPOINTMENT]
Today is Jackson's general evaluation & I'm honestly emotional AF about it. I've cried multiple times over it. Why?
1. This appointment is right after his nap time so the chances of him not wanting to cooperate are already there.
2. Food isn't allowed in the eval room & I knew J loves his snacks.
3. Even making this appointment feels like an admission of failure. Failure of teaching, leading, guiding - you name it, I've felt it. Even though I know it's not the case, that's where I am.
Today, I was very open about this eval to the public.
How upset I am.
How I'm disappointed in myself.
How I feel like I failed Jackson.
& I'm getting SO MUCH love as a response. Other Momma's of youngings J's age are reaching out saying they're in the same boat, whether it be their babe is/has been in therapy for a little bit or their babe also isn't speaking just yet. & it is beyond relieving. Not to compare stories or hear of other people's issues but up until recently, I'd only heard of one of my friend's kid being in therapy & that was like a couple weeks ago! This is so much more common than I thought & now I feel like I'm overreacting? But no, I'm not.
I'm bringing light to this.
This struggle of kids developing when THEY develop, not book based.
This struggle of questioning your parenting, when really YOU know what's right.
I'm the biggest advocate you'll find for gut parenting (did I just make that up?) but this isn't about me. My other teammate, Matt, needed his peace of mind too. We would have stayed at each other's throats if this eval didn't happen & it would have caused so much tension between us. Let alone, if something actually does need to be worked on with J, we would have missed it. Of course, Matt is still across the country & my pregnant, emotional ass has to take J to this appointment I didn't want to go to in the first place solo but these are the cards.
So this is why we are here. Nap time is done & so the appointment begins.
JULY 20 [APPOINTMENT]
Off the bat, it’s a very different environment than I thought. I imagined a large, separate room filled with colorful toys & a separate room with a 2 way mirror where I’d be on the other side watching them interact (I really had no idea what was gonna happen). Turns out, it was a standard office of desk cubicles & larger conference rooms. We followed our person, Denise, into her larger (closed) office. There, she went over the in’s & outs of what the company did & the terms of which we would be held accountable if J was found eligible for therapy. Standard. A lot but standard. Also there’s literally like 2 toys in the entire room.
She then tells me she’s going to be asking me some questions then requesting Jackson to perform an action. She also asks me not to repeat anything she says for emphasis or motion otherwise. Basically don’t exist because they are only allowed to ask so many times. If they don’t react or follow through, that’s that. The kicker here is she warned not to be alarmed or frustrated if & when he doesn’t perform something he usually does at home or with me because it is a new environment. & sure enough, that’s what happened. Whether he was listening or not, he only did 2 of the number of things she requested him to do, 1 thing he didn't do being respond to his own name.
Let me tell you how humiliating, disappointing & how much of a failure I felt when she asked me if he responded to his name or nickname. I wanted to say “yes, of course! It’s his name!” But honestly, I know he doesn’t. Then she called out to him & there was nothing. Same with pointing something out with 1 finger, kicking a ball, stacking toys & mimicking actions - nothing. Some of those things he does on the regular at home. But of course here, that doesn’t matter. The 2 things he did do was run for ore than 10 ft without falling & correctly match a physical shape with its counter (thank you iPad games).
The hardest part for me was getting over my pride. I knew going into this that it was my biggest issue. We all know I’m an extremely stubborn person & I will fight tooth & nail until otherwise. That “otherwise” was knowing I had a huge decision to make right now. Understanding that this evaluation would be primarily through me & my answers, I could “cheat” & tell Denise J does this & that all the time when he doesn’t. Do more of the wishful thinking than anything. But then who would that be helping?? I realized it right before the eval started while I was just staring at him play..
”Is it normal to get nervous for them?” I asked? I could feel the tears starting & my chest tightening..
”Absolutely. Just relax & think of the bigger picture..”
Then the tears started rolling because in that moment - I knew he wasn’t going to do most of the things she planned on requesting & I was about to say “No he doesn’t” to a lot more things than I planned on. But then she said “remember why you brought him here. You’re taking this great step forward for your child & your family to better everyone. If he needs therapy, we see it now & get him started. Even if it’s nothing, you’re taking the steps required to follow through & rule out. There is no need to worry about the results whatever they are.. I understand people bring their kids to us to try to better them but also expecting someone to tell you what's 'wrong' with your kid & that's not what we want to do.” Definitely needed to hear that again at that exact moment. I'd been telling myself & others had been telling me but hearing it right then helped me feel so much better about it all.
BLESS HER, RIGHT!?
She asked more questions for the next hour similar to the "does he do this? & what percentage of the time?" questions to which I tried to answer honestly. It felt like I was tattling on him but some of my answers did surprise me when I could answer "YES! He definitely does that more than 90% of the time." There was also a standard Autism test eval that they regularly administer for ages 16-30 months. It was more black & white questions with no percentage answers - yes or no.
We left not knowing the results of either eval because Denise said the group would meet to go over the results then let me know if Jackson is eligible or not. Not gonna lie, I wanted to know then. With the emotional rollercoaster I'd been on just to get into the building, I wanted to know everything ASAP. She said she'd let me know as early as Wednesday next week (starting tomorrow).
If he's eligible, we will start working with therapy immediately & the company we will be going through will come directly to the house. I won't have to worry about scheduling & moving around TWO kids (because Miles will be here by then). If he's not eligible, it's up to us if we want to move forward with any private therapy.
I'm realizing I haven't presented Jackson with the opportunity to learn. Harsh reality. Rather, we just do the same limited things everyday & that's that. It dawned on me when he matched the physical shapes in their correct holes. Like why am I shocked?? I knew he could but I questioned him. Why? Because I'd never let him try that before - MIND BLOWN. Then it just trickled. I'd never let him try to color, to stack blocks, to drink water from a normal cup, etc. I thought I'd been presenting him with loads of opportunities, which I am, but there are plenty of standard ones I was missing.
Leaving not knowing did fuck with my mind. Seeing him react/not react to certain things almost made it obvious to me that he would be found eligible for therapy. But at the same time, others things were made obvious like he CAN do this off the charts - he's just a little behind on this.. It almost makes me come to terms with accepting he will need therapy & that's totally fine. Also knowing he has started daycare helps.
Speech therapy for kids is actually super common but the 18 month Dr made me feel like J was a super minority. He isn't though & it took this past month for me to realize that. To any parent questioning anything - do your research, whatever it is. Maybe I overreacted learning J may need therapy but can you blame me?? I was 6 months pregnant at the time & prepping for a move across the country. I did my research & I'm always learning.
I'm being as vocal as possible about J's therapy because I hadn't heard much about it beforehand & honestly, that's where my nervousness stemmed from. I'll continue to update as we learn anything but here's where we are..