June 20, 2008
Noah's official graduation from Early Intervention came in the form of a phone call one morning to inform me that the building had no electricity, therefore his mock preschool group session was canceled. After the results of the assessment testing, we had already agreed this was to be his final class -- I was going to provide the store-bought, peanut-free snack and I was planning to write a thank-you note for all of the therapists, perhaps with a little photo of Noah tucked inside, if that wouldn't be too presumptuous to assume that anybody cared enough to remember Case File Blond Dimpled Boy #2980542618.
After I expressed my understanding of the power situation and the last-minute cancellation, I was then told that Noah's spot in the class had been filled for the next week. There would be no make-up class, no snack, no three cheers for the Little Toddler Who Could Talk Now. We were done.
The week before, another mother was reeling from her daughter's recent diagnosis of apraxia from Children's Hospital. She'd known for awhile it was apraxia, she told us, but figured she was being neurotic and spending too much time on the Internet. So when they had their appointment at Children's she was determined to keep her mouth shut and never mentioned her suspicions. Sure enough, she was right all along.
Another was worried that her former micropreemie's assessment scores were indicating that he was on the autism spectrum, something she'd also been secretly fretting about for months now. I sat with them, feeling like a total shit, since I'd so brightly burst into the room that day with the news that Noah was no longer eligible for services, isn't that great? They of course clapped their hands and hugged me, because it WAS great -- only a nanny eyed me with suspicion, declaring that her charge talked waaaay more than Noah, and spoke more clearly at that, so why wasn't anyone talking about ending HER services? But still.
We always join the class at the very end for a final circle time and goodbye song -- we usually arrive right when the children are cleaning up after snack, and I'm always charmed by the sight of Noah slowly and seriously carrying his plate and juice cup over to the plastic bin, and then his giant smile when he turns and sees me standing there. There was a new little girl in the class, and her mother had spent the session observing. I recognized her drained, tired face. Her daughter had screamed the entire time. She'd refused to join in, she'd thrashed and sobbed. Her mother couldn't comfort her and there was a telltale red patch on her cheek, likely the result of a toddler head butt.
They sat next to us on the mat, the mother engaged in full-contact wrestling to keep her terrified toddler on her lap, trying to offer soothing reassurances through her clenched teeth. She noticed me watching her and apologized. For what, I have no idea.
"It's okay, I know." I told her. "I was YOU."
I hastily tried to tell her about it all. About the time I broke down in tears at Lunch Bunch. About feeling like a freak at the one place you weren't supposed to be a freak. About the time that little girl screamed at Noah, demanding an apology for something or other, while he sat there silently, frantically signing SORRY over and over, wondering why she didn't understand him. And about the time I broke down in tears after getting Noah's first glowing behavior report from a teacher.
"So it gets better?" she asked. I noticed her mascara was slightly smudged.
"SO MUCH better." I promised.
I was looking forward to talking to her again. I hope it gets better for her. For everybody.
We were going through a fat stack of memory sticks this week -- all our precious family memories, still housed as zeros and ones on a bunch of incredibly tiny bits of plastic -- and I came across this one from late last summer. Noah is not quite two.
There it all is. The gibberish, the lack of sounds, the singsongy attempts to mimic the sounds of speech with just a single syllable. Everything I wrote on our Early Intervention application. Everything I didn't really want to acknowledge or talk about -- if you look through the archives of this site you'll find I was much more eager to post videos when I'd managed to coax a word or two out of him. It was easy to brush aside -- LOOK at him, he's still a BABY -- but at the same time I could never quite brush it all the way aside. His playmate could talk; Noah could hum.
Whenever I write posts like this, everyone rushes in to reassure me that I did the right thing. Which, dude, you don't need to tell me twice or 78 times. But I know. I did the same thing last week, when my friend mentioned the apraxia diagnosis, which usually isn't discovered until the child is three years old. Her daughter is two. Right there, I said, is the reason she's going to be fine. You got her answers and now you'll get her help and you're ahead of the game.
Noah is, hands down, a complete Early Intervention success story. We're still working on his articulation, but really, he's progressing and catching up at an admirable rate on his own. So it's time to send him off into the world of "typical" kids, since he tends to be the odd little duck on the playground who clams up when kids ask him his name or age and prefers to invite them to play by leaning in close to their faces...and roaring at the top of his lungs. "Chase me!" is the translation. "Let's play monsters! I like you!" I used to rush in to interpret his signing for other kids, and now I hang back, nervously letting playground law sort it out, although I'm always sort-of delighted to see how many kids-- after a moment or two of shock --look at Noah's beaming face and laugh, and roar back.
They speak his language now.