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MomLife

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Our Journey with Speech Therapy

My son just turned 4 and he has been in speech therapy for almost a year. We realized at around 2 that he wasn’t up to speed in talking, but figured he would catch up soon enough. At 3, we realized he would need extra help. This year’s journey with speech therapy has been a lot of hard work, but seeing the progress my son has made recently has made it all worth it!

The first few months of speech therapy, we mostly just worked on basic sounds and strengthening his core. Part of the reason he needed speech therapy was low muscle tone in his face and core. So we did a lot of mini obstacle courses, rolling, crawling, and playing at parks. It’s amazing how a year ago my son could not stand on one foot and now he’s rock climbing like a boss!

We would see progress here and there, we worked with him at home so much. He goes to speech therapy once a week for a half hour, so most of the work is at home. We get activities and drills that we need to work on during the week. Slowly, surely, he started to break out of his “introverted” shell. For a long while, even until very recently, large group social situations were very difficult for him. He would go off in a corner and get away from all the noise and people. Now he’s the life of the party and runs around and plays with all the other kids. It’s so day and night what he used to be.

We started to understand more of his words, and he began expanding his vocabulary. There would be weeks of limited progress, but we knew he was making improvement. It was hard to see it in the day after day, but our speech therapist said he was doing well. There were only a few weeks where she was disappointed with his progress, but a majority of the last 40 weeks have been finished with positive reviews.

It wasn’t until the past month where his talking has improved so much that his speech therapist was rendered speechless. I don’t think she typically sees a kid improve that fast in just one week. He turned 4, and all of the sudden he was using expressive language and answering “yes” to questions. He still has a ways to go before he’s fully caught up to others his age, but seeing that big improvement has been amazing. He’s a very smart kid, possibly even gifted in visual spatial ability. As a mom, it’s wonderful to see what he’s finally thinking and expressing his needs and wants.

It’s been such a long road. My son used to get so frustrated every day. He couldn’t express what he needed and when we couldn’t guess, he would just burst into tears. He was very drawn in, except in very small groups. He was known as the quiet kid. He’s changed so much. I’m not even sure he’s actually introverted! Last event we went to, there was another kid there a few years older than him. They played together, running around being loud and having so much fun. My kid might actually be extroverted, but he hasn’t been comfortable enough socially to show it! Now he can interact with kids and adults, play games, ask for what he wants, listen and follow directions.

The best thing about his speech therapy is the fact that his speech therapist has never once labeled him. She saw him as a person, not any sort of syndrome he “might” have. Because of this, he wasn’t put into any boxes of what he could or couldn’t do. He has absolutely thrived because there are no limits to what he can do. Like everyone in the entire world, he has quirks. He might grow out of them (I grew out of many of my quirks, but I still have plenty), he might not. But I’m just so happy that he hasn’t been labeled and called something he wasn’t. Early on, for those that didn’t know his abilities, they would think he was impaired. But I knew better. He was reading at age 2.5, writing the alphabet at age 3, and now at age 4, able to do basic arithmetic, spell out loud, and read big words. I am so thankful his speech therapist believed me when I said he could do all these things, because she eventually saw what he could do.

Note: Getting your kid help if they do have a syndrome or mental impairment is very important. I just knew my son didn’t have any cognitive delays, and I’m thankful he’s never been labeled as such. But for those who do have those delays, getting that help and support is very important. I just personally believe kids are labeled too much and too often, which makes it hard for the kids who actually have something to get help.

Now that he’s talking and potty trained (another blog post on that journey, but his speech and potty training have been connected), he has no limits. In a year, maybe less, he may be fully caught up and nothing will hinder him. He’ll continue to advance in his abilities, and show the world that he is a gifted, fun loving, energetic, loud boy.

Twice Exceptional: Challenges and Joys

For those that don’t keep up with the lexicon of teachers, twice exceptional means that a student is both in the gifted program and in the special needs program for a delay. I was one of these students, being both in speech therapy and highly capable (Washington States Gifted Program).  It was challenging as times, especially since my speech therapist thought I had a mental disability and talked down to me. It was very tough, and I later got out of the speech therapy program and worked on my speech at home. Now, at 28, I have a kid in speech therapy.

When first seeking it out speech therapist, I was so worried. I didn’t want my son to deal with a speech therapist that believes all kids in speech therapy have a low IQ. Because my son is incredibly gifted. He’s 3.5 years old, has known his ABCs since before 2, can already read and write, and spell out loud. But he’s also very behind in speech, namely expressive language. Thus, he’s what teachers call twice exceptional.

I believe my son has what’s called Einstein Syndrome (or Late Talking Syndrome) as coined by Thomas Sowell. However, I’m not letting any labels define my kid. We thankfully found a wonderful speech therapist, who immediately recognized there was no cognitive delays in my son. It turns out that his facial muscles and core muscles didn’t develop as quickly causing him to not use his muscles enough to formulate good speech. Feeling relieved, we started speech therapy and have been doing it for 7 months. He’s made amazing progress and we’re so happy that we found a speech therapist that looks at our son as a whole, and not just his speech.

So what are the challenges of a twice exceptional kid? What’s some advice that can calm our fears and enjoy this time?

1. People expect your kid to be good or bad at everything

When people hear “gifted”, they often think that the child or person is gifted at everything. There are very few people that are good in all areas. Most specialize in an area, such as math or music. So when I tell people my son is gifted, and he cannot yet hold a conversation with someone, they give me this incredulous look. Until I show them a video of him spelling words that most kindergarteners don’t know how to spell.

Conversely, when I tell people my son is in speech therapy, many immediately think he has a cognitive delay. Many kids in speech therapy aren’t there because of any mental disability, sometimes they just need an extra boost for whatever reason. Just like my speech therapist from school, some think that if a kid is delayed in one way, they are delayed in many ways.

2. You’ll feel extremely proud and worried at the same time

Some days I wonder if my kid will ever catch up in his speech, especially when kids a year younger then him are having a very complex conversation with me. But then, I see my son doing a 100 piece puzzle on his own, and I just smile. Like any parent, you’ll have victories and defeats every single day.   I know once he’s caught up in speech, this year will feel like a faint memory. But in the throes of it, it’s hard. Especially when people ask my son questions, he doesn’t answer, they look at me and think “what a rude kid!” Of course, I have to calm answer their silent glare “he’s just shy.” I don’t want to go into the whole “he’s in speech therapy, but actually really smart, etc”. For the most part, my son is shy around new people, but it’s especially hard when kids his age try to engage him in conversation. I have to breathe and just tell myself “he’ll get there, one day he’ll be able to talk with other kids”

3. Don’t let labels define your kid.

There are a million labels for a million different syndromes, delays, everything. We can assign labels to our kid, in order that we can find support groups or the proper help, but sometimes we as parents can go too far. If you stick your kid in a label, then you define their limits by what the average kids with that label can or can’t do. I said I believe my kid has Einstein Syndrome. However, I’m not letting that define who he is. What I love about his speech therapist and she is very careful not putting any syndromes or labels on my kid. She may say things like “he’s very sophisticated in visual ability” or “hypnosensitive in taste” but never anything like “oh he has this syndrome or this” because we fully believe he’s going to grow out of this speech delay. Sure, because he’s so visual he has some sensitivities we are working on. But we aren’t assigning a label to it, just working on it and seeing his progress. I was a bit of a crazy kid when I was young, and back then there weren’t so many labels to throw out there. But, I grew out of them (with the help of my parents and prayer!). Sure, I still have some quirks, who doesn’t? But those weird oddities I had were just a thing of my childhood. My kid will be quirky, but I fully believe once he’s caught up on speech, he’ll not even remember he had such a delay.

My kid is only 3.5 years, so I know things will change as he grows older and gets more vocal. I know that not much will hold him back once he gets there. While there are challenges to a twice exceptional kid, there are also numerous joys. I think whether or not your kid is gifted or has any delays, parents have worry, fears, but also incredible victories whenever their kid reaches a milestone. Parenting is hard, and sometimes we need to just make some coffee, sit back, pray, and trust that our hard work will pay off.

 

How to make Halloween fun (but not scary)

As a Christian, there is much debate about whether we should celebrate/endorse Halloween.  As many call it the “Devil’s Day”, there are some legitimate concerns with the scares of this Hallowed Day.  The zombies, spiders, witches, ghosts shown on television and in stores can terrify young children and can have parents shy away from the holiday entirely.

In high school, I used to love scary movies and to the local haunted house.  My parents got more lax as I got older about Halloween, and I was able to hang with friends and be scared.  Now as an adult and a parent, I really dislike all the “scary” parts of Halloween.  I swore off scary movies after seeing one too many in college.  I really don’t like zombies (other than the goofy Plants vs Zombies game).  I really, really hate spiders.

And as a Christian, I definitely don’t like the constant references to witchcraft or dark spirits, because I do believe those exist and can really mess up people.  However, even with these cautions toward Halloween, I still choose to dress up, trick or treat and enjoy the day.  Here are some quick tips how to avoid the scary and still have a good time on Halloween.

1. Don’t watch scary movies.  You might be tempted to introduce your children to some scary movies on Halloween night, but do you really want to spend the rest of the night calming your children’s fears?   There are some great “Halloween” themed movies and shows that aren’t scary, such as Charlie Brown’s the Great Pumpkin or your favorite tv show special.  We personally love the Jake and the Neverland Pirates Halloween special, which is not scary in the slightest.

2. Choose your costumes wisely.  You never know what might scare your kid, so if you know they have a fear of monsters, dressing up as Sully from Monsters Inc may be a bad idea.  Figure out what works for your family.  This year, my son and I will be spending the day rocking our Ninja Turtles costume hoodies.

3. Make it a fun night. Even if you aren’t planning on trick or treating for a variety of reasons, you can still have tons of fun with family and friends.  Invite some friends or neighbors over to play board games (themed if you like), dress up, and put on some Star Wars or LOTR.  I LOVE Halloween for this reason: an excuse to dress up and hang out with friends/family/neighbors.

I don’t believe Halloween should scare us out of our wits especially if we have children.  It can be a fun day if we avoid the scary things and explain to our kids the difference between make believe and reality.  Sure, evil things do happen on Halloween, but it’s not like evil stops every other day.  By having a fun night and dressing up, we aren’t endorsing or celebrating evil.  Just like an atheist isn’t endorsing Christ if they have a Christmas tree.  Let’s have fun, be neighborly, and celebrate fellowship.