I woke up this morning with a weird sickish vibe -- similar to the feeling I get right before flying cross-country. By myself, with four connections.
I had at least three anxiety dreams last night, all of which were about me oversleeping and having to let the evaluation people in while only wearing my underwear. So I woke up at 6 and was dressed and ready and staring at the door by 7.
They came at nine. Two ladies -- one speech pathologist and one special education teacher. They were warm and friendly and lovely. They took one look at Noah and gasped. "He's GORGEOUS!" they gushed. I liked them instantly.
Jason stayed home and we sat on the couch, while I positioned myself best for subtle kicks to his ankle if he got too braggy about Noah's abilities because THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR THAT. STICK TO THE SCRIPT. ALL IS DIRE AND LOST AND WOE.
They gave Noah a series of puzzles and toys and simple instructions. His Royal Hamness excelled at almost all of them. He looked for praise and smiles and deftly manipulated pennies into a coin slot. He didn't understand when they asked him to find a matching car, because lady, you've got a car right there in your hand, so why would I waste my time finding another one? My time is precious, you know. Gimme that acar.
He scored at 20 months for cognition and receptive language. 21 months for fine motor skills. 26 months for social-emotional.
17 months for expressive language and gross motor.
Five months behind.
But not a 25% delay.
I started to quietly freak out. Do I take their word for it? Them, with their checklist and filled-in-bubble-circle worksheet and some random mathematical formula? Do I take him to a private practice? Do I keep pushing?
Do I really need to keep pushing? Fuck. I'm all lost again.
But then they told me they're qualifying Noah for services anyway.
Turns out there's a bit of back door into our early intervention program. A catch-all diagnosis of "atypical development."
Which for Noah means that he excelled at verbal skills before 12 months (babbling early, expressive jargon, etc.) and then slowed down right at 12 months (slow to point, gesture or wave). And then he's been at a near-standstill for about five months now. That's enough to get him in the door and enough to get him all the free help he needs.
"He could just be a late talker," the speech therapist said. "But I'm certainly not going to take that risk. There's no point, when I know we can help him."
"He just needs a little help," the teacher said. "I can't wait to work with him. I'll bring toys, and we'll play and talk and he'll have tons of fun."
(I was practically weeping with gratitude and relief at this point.)
So in a few weeks Noah will begin weekly sessions with the special ed teacher (the speech pathologists are generally reserved for older, more critical-case kids). She'll come to our house once a week, every week, for at least six months. He'll get a free hearing screen in a week or so, and at least three sessions with an occupational therapist to assess the sensory issues and give us techniques for dealing with them. In the fall we can attend a mock-preschool (run by the early intervention program) together, where he can interact with kids who are facing the same issues, where he won't stand out like a sore, silent little thumb.
I'm so overwhelmed at this point I don't even know what else to say. It's a good kind of overwhelmed, because I honestly can't think of a better outcome. Noah is fine. It is not a major delay. And yet he is still going to get amazing and individualized care and he is going to TALK UP A STORM.
Oh, here come the tears again.
I'm so grateful we live here. I'm so grateful our pediatrician didn't hesitate and didn't drag his feet and I'm so grateful that our friends and family supported us in our decision to make a Big Fucking Deal about this. And I'm so grateful for all of you, dear little internet people, for giving me hope and help and head pats -- and for loving and cheering Noah on as much and as loud and as often as you do.
(The evaluators were extremely impressed by the depth of our knowledge about speech delays, particularly when I told them I'd chucked all of our non-straw sippy cups, and I apologize for taking credit instead of admitting that yeah, the Internet People told me to do that.)
So I guess, now that we're officially through the dark time of questioning and worry, it's my turn to pass on advice and words of wisdom. The first bit of advice is to mix your self-tanner with body lotion, especially around your elbows. And then I would say, for anybody who is worried about their own kid, to just go ahead and make a Big Fucking Deal about it if you have to. Be it a speech delay or SPD or just a creeping worry because your child is not doing X, Y or Z.
It sucks admitting that there's something wrong with your child, but you aren't doing them any favors by denying that there's something wrong. I would rather be told I am overreacting than find out later that I underreacted. You aren't wasting anyone's time by getting things checked, by calling your state's early intervention program and jumping through the hoops and in the end, even if everything is fine, you will sleep better knowing that you got it checked out. You are not being neurotic.
You are just being a parent, and that's a wonderful, terrifying, amazing thing to be.