The other night we had the TV on and a promo spot for Law & Order: SVU came on -- the one with Robin Williams playing some sort of unhinged psycho,which is only vaguely more terrifying to me than Patch Adams -- and at one point he bellows, "You don't know what I've suffered!"
Noah rounded the corner at this precise moment, and without missing a beat, pointed a chubby finger at us and shouted, "YOU DON KNOW WHA I SUFFER!"
Needless to say, we aren't really dealing with much of a "speech delay" anymore.
He still goes to his little mock special-ed preschool class, and he gets speech therapy twice a month at home, but next month those services will drop back even further when he starts a very mainstream summer camp program at the very mainstream preschool he will be attending in the fall. I've been told that all county-run preschool programs are off the table for him at this point, and while they will test to see if he'll qualify for itinerant speech therapy, it's been strongly hinted to me that I shouldn't hold my breath on that one either.
The only "concern" at this point is his articulation, which (as you heard on the video yesterday) gets pretty unintelligible whenever he's excited or stringing more than two or three words together. Still, however, this falls solidly into the realm of "normal" speech, especially for a child who just started using two-word phrases for the first time a couple months ago. His brain is moving faster than his mouth, which has always been the problem. The difference is that he no longer lets that stop him from TRYING to get his thoughts out, whereas before he seemed to clam up mostly out of frustration that we couldn't understand him, or that the list of sounds he couldn't reproduce was so long and daunting so you know what? Let's just talk more about aballs today.
He's even figured out how to use our non-stop translating against us -- we pretty much run on auto-pilot now when it comes to repeating the stuff he says, you know, to demonstrate the proper pronunciation or to give him two words when he supplies one -- so we have a LOT of conversations that go something like this:
NOAH: (very quietly) eye keem cone?
MAMA: Uh...ice cream cone?
NOAH: OKAY! GOOD IDEA, MAMA! ICE CREAM CONE! YAY!
He outsmarts me with this same trick at least 14 times a day, people.
Early Intervention has also completely dropped the SPD diagnosis -- there's no doubt he HAD some rather profound difficulties, but as his speech improves and we doggedly continue giving him repeated (yet low-pressure) exposure to the wig-out triggers, it's all become much less of a "problem" and more of a "quirk."
That's pretty much how all his therapists and teachers refer to him now.
"He marches to his own drummer."
Independent, but not overly willful. Spirited, but unbelievably sensitive and gentle and kind. Shares well. Extremely aware of other's moods and feelings. Dislikes fingerpaints and transitions, but is the only kid in his class who will eat oatmeal with gusto.
"He's a special one, that's for sure." his teacher says, laughingly shaking her head after class.
He still uses sign language, along with the words, although sometimes he will revert to signs-only when he's shy or scared. He remembers every single one he ever learned, sometimes sending me back to the DVDs for a refresher course.
He can sing all the words to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Old MacDonald. He will tell you that "you can do anything that you want to do" and then tell you what Blue's dream was about ("A leotard dream! Blue rolllled!"). He will not say his name, preferring to call himself Baby. We've talked about the baby in Mama's belly a couple times but it's not really making much sense, although one time he did lift up my shirt and shouted "ALLLLO BABY! WHA YOU DOIN IN DER? DON WORRY, BABY! I COMING!"
It's funny. When we first started using Early Intervention and speech therapy and sign language, a few people did not hide their opinion that we were overreacting. He was too young, he was just a late talker, God, what is WITH parents and doctors today with their "labels" and their "therapy" and in our day kids didn't talk until the second grade because they were too busy shoveling all the snow off that hill. Okay, maybe that isn't very funny.
First, the sign language flipped a switch for Noah -- the first of many. He understood WHY communication was good. Expressing your needs! Getting those needs met! You could almost see the exact moment the light bulb went on and the signs poured out.
Then came the speech therapy -- which was as much for me as it was for Noah. It was humbling, honestly, to have someone come to your house and tell you how to talk your kid. I've met parents who resist it, for whatever reasons -- they smile and nod during our Hanen sessions and then roll their eyes afterwards and admit that no, they don't really go for a lot of "that stuff" at home. But we did. We slowed down, we made stupid noises and faces and gestures out in public, we signed and talked and listened and pauuuuuused and repeated and then we did it all over again. And it worked. It just worked.
Then came the social therapy -- the tears at Lunch Bunch from us both, picking up the red-faced tear-stained toddler after Kids at Play, feeling like my heart was going to break because THIS was too much, too hard. And now I get glowing reports every week. He stays in the class because they like a few well-behaved "example" kids to help the newer additions...and because he just loves it so much that I asked his service coordinator that as long as we aren't taking a spot away from a kid who really needs it, could he please just keep going until summer camp starts?
Now when I tick down this list of victories for some people -- victories that came much sooner than we expected, but were hard-fought all the same -- I still sometimes get that dismissive wave of a hand. "And you were sooooo worried," they say with a bemused smile. Silly neurotic first-time mother.
Yeah. You know what? I was worried. And so I did something about it. And I would do it all again.