Moving forward one word at a time

Every week it is the same routine with my son and my wife. I pack my backpack with my laptop and he hands me his water bottle to hold on one of the side pockets designed to hold water bottles. We get in the car and make the 15-20 minute drive to the children pediatric center for his appointment. We walk into the office and check in at the front desk and take a seat until it is his turn.

As we sit there, he goes and grabs the same Melissa and Doug toy that he plays with every time. It’s a board that has a variety of doors and locks on it and he goes through each one and puts it back when he is done unlocking and locking all the doors. It’s become his routine before his appointment. Maybe it’s a way to get him mentally prepared for what he is about to do or maybe he just likes playing with it. If we walk into the waiting room and another child is using it, he grabs one of the books on the tables and sits next to us to read it for him.

Usually after a few minutes, his speech therapist walks into the room and asks him if he is ready to play. He says yes and hops off the couch and follows her to another room. When my wife is with me we sit there for the hour and talk about things that need to be done for the day or the week. On the days I am alone I sit in the waiting room and either take out my lap top and try to do some writing or I just take out a book and try to catch up on a chapter or two before his lesson is done, but the entire time I am there I think about my son and his speech development.

You see, for the age my son is my wife and I would think he would speak more clearly. We noticed that he was not saying certain words properly and started to question his development. At first we thought it was just a phase that all kids go through, slowly learning their words and talking clearly, but after a while, my wife brought our concern up to his pediatrician, and he referred him to a speech therapist. We called the center and made an appointment for him to get evaluated.

Before his evaluation we were emailed a stack of paperwork to fill out and to have prepared for our first visit. The first visit was a little nerve-wracking for me because I did not know what to expect. You never read a section in a parenting book telling you how to prepare for a situation like this. There is no “So your child is going to be evaluated for his speech development, here are the ten things you must know. ” There is nothing like that and if you look online you become overwhelmed by all the information that is out there.

I had to drop off my wife and son at the front door the day of the visit while I had to find a place to park. Due to downtown traffic we were running a little late and later I found out there was a parking lot for the center down the block. When I walked into the room, my son was sitting at a small desk with his therapist repeating words that she was saying to him. My wife sat to the side of the room and I took the open seat next to her. The therapist had a book with pictures and words and would ask my son questions: “Can you point out which one is the rabbit?” “Can you say rabbit?” “How many rabbits are in the garden?” “Can you point out the red rabbit?” This went on for about an hour with her asking questions and writing a note after every answer.

After the evaluation was over, it was recommended that our son needed to have therapy for his speech. As a parent you don’t want to hear things like this. It is kind of disappointing in a way, but you are glad to hear that he will be getting the help he needs.  I remember when we took our daughter for her eye examination for school and she was prescribed glasses. I started to cry a little because you want your children to be perfect. You don’t want them to go through some of the hardships you did when you were little. I wore glasses when I was little and hardly ever wore them because I was afraid I was going to get picked on for wearing them.

I eventually started wearing them as I got older and used my story of not wearing them when I was teaching middle school. I had a student who did not want to wear her glasses because she felt weird with them on. I told her that I felt the same way too when I was in school and made a deal with her. I told her that if she would wear her glasses in class I would wear my glasses too. This went on for the remainder of the school year and I was glad I was able to help her get over her fear of wearing glasses.

I remember the first time I went alone with my son to his appointment and I went into the room with him and his therapist. I sat there and watched as she showed him flashcards and asked him to name the characters, animals, or numbers on the cards. They next stepped out of the room and came back with a game to play. The game was a plastic tree that held little toy bees in it. The game was similar to Ker plunk in where you pull “leaves” and collect the bees that fall down the tree. The player with the most bees wins the game. How the therapist played the game with my son was she game him a turn after he answered a few questions and this went on until all of the bees have dropped.

So here I sit wondering what the next step will be. It has been suggested that he have a hearing test done. I fear that he might have to have some sort of hearing apparatus attached to him, but that is just my worries getting the best of me. I called the audiology department at the local children’s hospital and set our appointment for next month. I am praying that nothing new will be found there, but I will have to wait and see.

When the session is over my son walks towards me smiling and his therapist goes over with me what they did for the day. Some days I get a worksheet of words to work with him at home and others days we talk about his improvements and what needs to be worked on for his next session. As we talk my son goes back to the locks board and opens a few more before I am done talking to the therapist. While we walk to the car I ask my son about his session and what games they played today. He tells me how many games they played and repeats a few of the words that they worked on that day.

To me it seems that playing with the locks is a metaphor for his language development. Every time he opens a new lock, he opens and expands his speech and vocabulary. The more doors he unlocks, the better his speech will get. I guess time will tell if we can unlock all of these doors that are blocking his speech development and keep them open.

If you would like to know more about language development visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association to get more information.

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