Mom’s Journal: The Apple and the Tree

A little known fact about me: I could not talk until about age 4.

Not that I was silent — definitely not. My parents assumed my older siblings were speaking for me. My brain knew what I wanted to say but somewhere between there and my mouth, it became garbled. I spent the next year in speech therapy at the University of Tulsa. I remember it so vividly — my therapist was a dark-haired version of Toni Tennille (tell me you know who that is!). I thought she was beautiful and she gave me treats if I did well. Yes, even back then I worked for treats. The therapists did something right because I talk now…and a lot.

Cue all the jokes:

“She hasn’t stopped talking since.”

“Who put a quarter in that kid?”

And, yes, I got the occasional reprimand in school for chatting.

Soft focus to 30-some-odd years later. I have a 5-year-old who talks a lot, has a huge vocabulary and enjoys using it against me. I also have a 2 ½ year old who doesn’t talk. I live by the creed “Love, share and never compare.” I wasn’t deliberately trying to compare the two boys, but the difference was there.
When that fact dawned on me, I consulted all the experts. Our pediatrician thought that because he was advanced for his age, motor skills-wise that maybe he was just going to be a late talker. Several people commented that maybe his brother was talking for him; maybe he simply didn’t have anything to say; or maybe he just couldn’t get a word in edgewise. It was a little bigger than that — he was having problems using his words in class and his behavior was less than stellar at times. I didn’t need a 2-year-old delinquent in my midst.

All kidding aside, it worried me. I didn’t want him to be behind and if there was a genetic issue, I wanted to check into it. I discovered that the Mary K. Chapman Center for Communicative Disorders at TU held free screenings. Off we went.

Evan breezed through his audiology test. Next up was a vocabulary test with a student therapist and a lot of questions for Greg and me. It was discovered that he had a slight delay — maybe 3 to 6 months behind his peers. It was one of those situations where we could opt for therapy or wait and see how he progressed over the next couple of months.

We opted for the therapy. Even though Evan is an all-hands-on-deck, happy kid, I felt a little sad watching him want to say the word but not getting it out. Was this going to be a longer process than I anticipated? Did he have a learning disability that maybe had not been caught? Would he be teased by his classmates? Had I ruined my child? Was I neurotic?

Well, I was a little sad until I realized that he was engaging in a Tug of War with his pathologist. For instance, Miss Emily would say “Evan’s car. My car. Evan’s car.” Silence while she waited for him to repeat. Instead, he would walk off to a new toy leaving Miss Emily there with her car. Miss Emily is working for her grade with this kid.

It seems that Evan doesn’t necessarily need to talk or want to talk as he gets his needs fulfilled in other ways. He either walks us to what he wants, he whines and throws a fit or he gets it himself. Like I was at his age, he’s a self- sufficient kid. I am witness to his foraging through the pantry looking for the perfect snack. Seriously, he’s like an animal rootin’ around for a stray piece of carrot.

While Evan has his time with Miss Emily, I get to observe him through one-way glass and talk with the clinic instructor, Kris. I love this part of it. I can see where he is still having trouble, where he has made progress, and I pick up some great tips on how to work with him at home. It’s been an awakening for me. Let’s face it, subsequent siblings get the short end of the stick sometimes. It’s hard to remember to talk everything out with them the way you do with your first, typically because you have more on your plate than you did with your first. Or, at least I do. I’m just trying to make it through the day with the kids intact, the house picked up and some kind of dinner on the table.

We’ve been visiting TU for just over a month now and, wow, what changes have occurred: Last Thursday night, Evan said two word phrases for the FIRST time….EVER! “Yum water.” “Thank you, Mama.” I literally got tears in my eyes. It was like Christmas, the 4th of July and a great shoe sale all rolled into one!

I give big credit to Miss Emily and Miss Kris for working so patiently with him and with me — lots of great ideas and, most importantly, lots of encouragement and hope that Evan would get “there.” All of the staff and students at TU are so helpful and fun to be around. It was exactly as I remembered it as a child (right down to the furniture in the waiting area!)

But, also big kudos to Evan himself. He is working hard to make himself understood. He works his puzzles, books and toys every day and it shows.

High five, Evan! Mama and Papa are proud!

Until next time,
Shelley H.

Categories: Big Kids, School-Age