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.
Untitled from amalah on Vimeo.
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.
I'm so glad that everything worked out so well. Noah is so precious and I'm really happy for your whole family.
Posted by: nonsoccermom | June 20, 2008 at 04:51 PM
yay Noah! *cue "Pomp & Circumstance"*
now keep your fingers crossed for when Gavin starts his services in the fall (our county runs on the school schedule)...he's delayed by 12 months for Expressive Language and about 5 or 6 months for Receptive Language...and got a touch of the Disfluency (stutter). On one hand, nerve-wracking because I keep kicking myself for not getting help sooner and I wonder if he will respond well to therapy; on the other hand, happy to have a diagnosis and be eligible for services.
Posted by: Colleen | June 20, 2008 at 05:03 PM
And can I just say, I WANT that kiddie pool! It's awesome!
Posted by: Stephanie | June 20, 2008 at 05:04 PM
Noah is a success b/c you and Noah worked SOOO hard. Don't ever forget that or short change your self. You deserve credit as well.
Posted by: jodifur | June 20, 2008 at 05:05 PM
So many congratulations. What a huge and wonderful thing you've overcome. Yeah for talking talking talking!
Posted by: samantha jo campen | June 20, 2008 at 05:07 PM
congratulations. be proud. duh.
Posted by: meghan | June 20, 2008 at 05:09 PM
This was beautiful. Congrats to Noah for graduating!
Posted by: Pickles & Dimes | June 20, 2008 at 05:13 PM
I think the Internet's collective heart is bursting for you and your beautiful boy. We couldn't be happier.
Posted by: She Likes Purple | June 20, 2008 at 05:19 PM
Congratulations! I'm glad to hear things are working out. I met you last fall at a DC Metro Moms Blog meet-up at the College Park Aviation Museum, when you were in the thick of worrying about Noah. (My kids wore the Wonder Pets capes.) I was also worrying about my son Jack. It went the other way for us. He's since been rightly diagnosed as on the autism spectrum. Speaking as someone whose child won't be graduating from special ed/intervention anytime soon, I think it is fabulous that Noah is joining the land of the typical. For me, and probably for the other mothers you mention, my congratulations are all sweet, no bitter included. :)
Posted by: Stimey | June 20, 2008 at 05:22 PM
I love reading your posts about Noah's progress. I have a brother with Ashberger's and I know how hard it was for him growing up. Your little guy is truly an inspiration and an amazing success story. Congrats on graduating!
Posted by: Jill | June 20, 2008 at 05:34 PM
Can I have a big round of applause for the Storch family?!
Great post, Amy. What a nice way to start the weekend--feeling proud of a boy who doesn't know me and thrilled to the back teeth for parents who don't either!
Thank you for sharing with us.
Posted by: Lori | June 20, 2008 at 05:59 PM
I'm a social worker and I worked early intervention for a while. Now I work in foster care. We love pictures. I still have some from years ago. I keep them on my wall and in my desk for when I need a pick me up. Your kids are never #5682 to most of us. What a great thing for Noah, congratulations!
Posted by: Chimera | June 20, 2008 at 06:03 PM
And I forgot to add, that IS indeed a fine backyard pool, but is Noah now working for the sewer district, a la Ed Norton? Where in the WORLD is he wading?!
Posted by: Lori | June 20, 2008 at 06:07 PM
Terrific news! You go, Noah!
Posted by: that girl | June 20, 2008 at 06:17 PM
Noah's progress over the past year was fantastic...and so was yours. Transitioning from the "new to the class and scared shitless" Mom to the "comforter" Mom who can share the fears and triumphs of the past with others earns you major props. Huzzah to both of you!
Posted by: Brooks | June 20, 2008 at 06:44 PM
Posted by: All Adither | June 20, 2008 at 06:49 PM
Oh Amy. What a delight this is to read. It's been such a joy watching Noah grow up, and this must be such a TRIUMPHANT moment -- however protracted -- for all of you.
(Also, I'm with Lori: where IS he wading? In some sort post-apocalyptic movie scene?)
Posted by: jonniker | June 20, 2008 at 07:05 PM
Congratulations to you and Noah on all your success this year, it's really heartwarming to witness.
I just got home from grocery shopping and I cried all the way. Today my son's Early Intervention Speech Therapist gently broke it to me that it was time to phase him out of EI. She has been coming to our home for 15 months now, 4 days a week working with him on his speech. He was diagnosed with apraxia at age 2. When she started he couldn't say a word. He couldn't blow bubbles or blow out his birthday candles.
Today he told me, "Thomas biffed the Troublesome Trucks crossly around the yard. Gordon was jealous of the new engine Spencer, who is the private engine of the Duke and Dutchess. Did you know that the "ghost" down at the quarry was really Emily? Oh, and Mommy I love you very much."
There's nothing like hearing what's been in your child's head all this time. Still, the transition will be hard. We've come to love his therapist and the routine. And it's just more evidence of how fast he's growing.
Sorry to hijack your comments. It's just so strange how I came home with this very subject on my heart and mind and here you are writing this post. Again, kudos to Noah for all his hard work!
Posted by: Beret | June 20, 2008 at 07:11 PM
Unles your therapists came from Stepford, they want those thank you notes and photos. I am a SLP with birth-5 year olds and I treasure those thank you notes and photos. Kids move away, or switch foster homes, or their parents never really seem to get what I'm there for and I work my butt off for those kids and sometimes I get a thank you and sometimes I don't. Truly, hearing from a first grade teacher that so-and-so is in trouble for talking during story time is the best reward, but I have pictures of kids from 5 years ago still on my wall. Thank you for being a mom who gets it, and for reaching out to other moms. You might consider offering to be parent advocate for your location Early Intervention agency - you cleary know how to connect with people!
HOORAY NOAH - ROOOAAAAAR!
Posted by: amymvr | June 20, 2008 at 07:16 PM
i'm looking at that kiddie pool and thinking how nice that would be on this hot day.
yay for noah for the big graduation and thank you for being so honest and open.
Posted by: kat | June 20, 2008 at 07:32 PM
I am so happy for you and for Noah. It seems like only yeaterday I was reading about you enrolling him in early intervention and look at you (both) now! You are a mother I look up to.
Posted by: christina | June 20, 2008 at 07:48 PM
I love reading about Noah's success. And the roaring reminded me of the story "Wilson Sat Alone" because Wilson's quiet and shy but to make a friend he roared in their face. Then grinning ensued and monster games were played.
Congratulations on such a happy ending.
Posted by: Starbuck | June 20, 2008 at 08:12 PM
I'm really so very happy for you guys, and your success, but I also just want to commend you for opening up to the woman in the group who was exactly where you had been. So often I find myself wanting to say something to someone I see who is suffering, and yet I don't, because this area of the country is so uptight and mind-your-own-business about everything. But you did the right thing there, and I think that was an awesome thing to do. She'll remember your advice and your experience long after you've forgotten you took the time to tell her about it. I thought that was really brave of you, Amy.
Posted by: Emily | June 20, 2008 at 08:18 PM
I remember those post from your first days at the lunch bunch thing. Wow. WTG, Noah!
Posted by: HeatherK | June 20, 2008 at 09:03 PM
Three cheers for the little toddler that can talk now!!!!
Posted by: sarah hendrick | June 20, 2008 at 09:11 PM
Braeden was delayed 14 months in expressive language. He started speech therapy in January. I have seen so little progress that I am completely discouraged. He turns 3 in August and I am just keeping my fingers crossed. I am so glad that Noah was a success tory. Now please keep your fingers crossed that Braeden has a breakthrough soon!
Posted by: Tracy | June 20, 2008 at 11:03 PM
Yay! It brought tears to my eyes about what you described to the newbie mom. The first thing that came to mind was that you should begin a support group. One other poster did say you could become a parent advocate and I totally agree. I think other parents going through the same thing needs to know that they are not alone. Congrats on Noah's graduation! :) I have a niece who's on the austic spectrum and I always feel like I want to help my sister because she seems alone in dealing with her daughter plus son's severe athsma and other son's ADD. There should be a parents group. (excuse my spelling mistake, the spell check seems unable to spell!)
Go Noah! :)
Posted by: Angela | June 20, 2008 at 11:03 PM
This is my kid. This is exactly my kid, right now. He's almost two. He doesn't talk.
We got an evaluation when he was 18 months old and they suggested we wait until he was 2. And he is making strides, but he's Below Normal and I know it. And our state free services don't sound nearly as good as yours (once a month, in our home, with this lady who cackles like SHE HERSELF has Asperberger's).
Everyone who comments on my blog keeps telling me to read yours. But, Amy, I've been reading your blog since before you were pregnant, when you talked about your shoes and Max and they were Your Babies. And so even though you don't know me, I feel like I know you.
I wish there was an online community of women who have children who struggle with speech. I know there are others out there. I wish there was a place we could all chat and compare and encourage each other. I could use some encouragement like this these days.
Hooray for Noah! He is awesome!
Posted by: moo | June 20, 2008 at 11:10 PM
Posted by: Victoria | June 21, 2008 at 12:31 AM
Congratulations! Sorry you didn't get your in-class celebration. ((hugs and prayers)) for the other parents.
Posted by: MMM | June 21, 2008 at 06:52 AM
Hey, I just recently found your blog and I have to say I love it. :) And big congrats to Noah on graduating!
I have some questions for you--in that video you posted, was Noah talking at all? Did he have any words? How was he on the listening?
I'm asking because my 22 month old doesn't talk much. He had a bunch of words when he was younger and then stopped using them. He will talk to his grandparents (in single words, not sentences or anything) but not to my husband or I. In the last couple of weeks he's integrated probably 10 new words into his daily rotation, and uses them appropriately, but that little video of Noah looks awfully familiar. :-/
His pediatrician wasn't terribly worried at his 18 month check, but I watch a little girl who's the same age as mine and she's talking in full sentences right now. It can get a little unnerving sometimes. Alexander is very communicative, just not with many words and I've wondered if he's had a speech delay but everything I read didn't seem to match up--but that video is hitting home.
(Sorry to write you a novel, but I've never come across anyone who's been there with a kid before and can offer me some guidance. Thanks. :))
Posted by: Emily | June 21, 2008 at 08:11 AM
My daughter's kindergarten teacher had to send a note home a few months back -- Katie was talking too much and not listening. I didn't know where to discuss the issue with Katie or be thrilled that this was an issue. Katie didn't really speak until she was 2.5!
Posted by: Beth | June 21, 2008 at 09:49 AM
Emily - Noah had about four or five words at the time. Very basic ones: mama, dada, aball, etc. And I was counting words that his pede wouldn't because they weren't complete (nana for banana). He had very few sounds and he would not use his words for anything other than labeling. (He would say "aball" when he SAW a ball, but if he wanted to play with a ball he would just cry if I couldn't read his mind.)
He also had some fairly pronounced sensory issues his doctor was concerned with -- probably more than the lack of speech, actually. He walked on his toes, crawled excessively for his age, had issues with food and texture and drooling.
10 words for a 22-month-old boy doesn't sound too terrible to me, especially since he does use them appropriately -- these little ones ALWAYS expect Mama and Dada to read their minds too. Have you tried playing dumb with him to force him to use his words? (ie he points and babbles at the fridge, you know he wants milk but refuse to get it until he SAYS milk. It sucks and you feel so mean but you've gotta do it sometimes.)
What we started with (on our own, but with our doctor's instructions) was baby sign language. We got DVDs from signingtime.com and they changed. our. life. They connected the dots for Noah (OMG I sign "milk" and I GET MILK! Eureka!) and gave him a vocabulary beyond what his gross motor skills could (he also got OT for oral aversion and sensory crap). Fewer tantrums, more expressive language, words followed signs at an unbelievable rate.
If you can't secure services for your son but think there's something wrong, try the sign language DVDs and the book "It Takes Two To Talk." I used it in a parents' Hanen course through our county but really, it's soooo not rocket science. The books gives you tons of EASY strategies for assessing your kid's communication level and EXACTLY how you can encourage them to talk more. Hanen also offers books for kids on the spectrum and a bunch of other speech disorders, but for the generalized moderate delay kids like Noah, I think this is a great program for parents.
Whew. You were saying something about a novel?
Posted by: Amalah | June 21, 2008 at 10:12 AM
Thank you SO MUCH for all that information. It does help ease my mind a little--I think it hits me harder than I want to admit because I watch a couple of little girls (one is Alexander's age and one is 6 months younger) and the one his age just talks a blue streak all the time. The younger one has started talking a LOT more lately, and the fact that she's 16 months and talking almost as much as my nearly-two-year old is making me go, "OMG WHAT'S WRONG WITH MY BABY!?!?!"
He doesn't have any oral aversions or sensory issues (other than not liking crowds, but I can't blame him for that) and is my little monkey--totally ahead of the curve on physical milestones. Always has been. And the fact that he can't/doesn't/won't talk doesn't seem to bother him. We don't really have communication issues just because he doesn't talk.
We tried the signs on and off but honestly, I'm lazy and except for insisting on the sign for "nurse", I didn't have the motivation to stick to it (bad mommy!). But I will definitely check out that book and may revisit the signing DVDs. :)
Thanks again, you did help ease my mind and I'll check out some of those suggestions!
Posted by: Emily | June 21, 2008 at 10:36 AM
I'm so thrilled for you guys. Those old videos are always kind of jaw dropping for me. I mean, I remember, but to see it again in contrast to the progress she has made is mind boggling.
Posted by: Kyla | June 21, 2008 at 11:04 AM
This made me cry, Amy. I get worried about my boyfriend's little boy. Especially the playground part. I get so motherly at the playground, when he's around other babies, and I want to jump in and protect him from the bigger kids and help translate for the littler kids. But I just need to realize that he'll be fine. I just need to sit back, and let him play and learn the playground law by himself.
Posted by: Becca | June 21, 2008 at 12:23 PM
This post made me teary. Noah's story is so inspiring, and it is so great that you get to be the one to encourage others who are in the place you were not too long ago.
Posted by: Angella | June 21, 2008 at 03:24 PM
Congratulations, Noah! And a big "Roar!" from my toddler to you!
Posted by: Jen | June 21, 2008 at 11:41 PM
Congrats! Thanks for letting us watch Noah grow up.
Posted by: Genie | June 22, 2008 at 12:37 AM
Yay, Noah, for going from Small Turtle Humming Child to Long Tall Talking Child! Woo-hoo, little dude. Way to rock the EI.
Posted by: Missie | June 22, 2008 at 11:52 AM
err. could you give us a little context for the last photo? because it looks like noah is playing in a flood zone near the Mississippi.
Great news, btw!
Posted by: julie | June 22, 2008 at 12:31 PM
My (almost) 22mos. old is speech delayed. We have been in Speech therapy since January. He has made some major improvement, but we still have a ways to go. We have an OT eval. coming up, b/c all of the sudden any food that doesn't resemble a crunchy white square that goes by the name "all-TEEEEEN!" is loudly rebuffed at any and all meals. I know it will get better. I am just looking forward to the day he says "Mama." He will spell it.... yes, my 22mos. old will SPELL Mama, but damn if he won't say it.
You did say it gets better, right? :)
Hats off to you and Noah! I look forward to the day when we are EI free!
Posted by: Tam. | June 22, 2008 at 02:00 PM
OMG~~I'm having the senior moments today! My son is 26mos not 22!...... Oh, and a sidenote Amy.... It's been a great help reading about Noah's experience. Even my husband asks how he's doing. We had no idea what we were in for, but are so glad now we were able to get help early on....
Thanks for sharing!!
Posted by: Tam. | June 22, 2008 at 02:42 PM
Gosh he is such a big boy now!
Posted by: Mollie | June 22, 2008 at 04:10 PM
this made me lose my shit.
a year ago, i thought our boys were just so much alike.
this year, i am the mother who knows now that it is apraxia.
just waiting for the right time to get the Dx. which would be...ummm...oh i don't know. is there a right time to hear that your son has a neurological disorder?
Posted by: gwendomama | June 22, 2008 at 06:06 PM
No reassurances. Just happy.
Posted by: Mom101 | June 22, 2008 at 11:49 PM
that little pool is badass. i want it and i don't even have any kids.
Posted by: rachel | June 23, 2008 at 12:48 AM
What an amazing post. Congratulations to you and Noah!
Posted by: Rachael | June 23, 2008 at 12:58 AM
This is great news! I am going through a similar journey with my son's diagnosis of Tourettes. I have had to fight a lot of docs and open my mouth and, like Noah now, my child fits the norm. Most days you just can't tell he tics. But I also know it can come back - the symptoms. It's all about accepting our kids for who they are, but doing the best we can to have them shine as successfully as possible. Some days are easier than others! Well, it's 4 am. This is not good. I'm thinking tomorrow I won't see the shiny side if I don't get some sleep. Congrats again!
Posted by: andrea frazer | June 23, 2008 at 07:04 AM
Posted by: Kim | June 23, 2008 at 11:33 AM