When my daughter was a little over 2 years old, I *knew* she was different. I had no actual frame of reference as a new mom but I just knew that maybe, just maybe she should be talking a little bit more. I asked her pediatrician and he asked me some random questions about how many different words she speaks. Like I count them. I guessed a number. That was enough for the pediatrician as he told me she was alright.
When she was approaching her 3rd birthday, my husband and I decided to enroll her in a local Montessori school which came highly recommended by a friend. What attracted us to that school was the diversity of the student population and individualized manner of alternate teaching. We had our enrollment interview and I asked, "Is it okay if she doesn't speak fluently?". "Of course", replied the Directress, "we have had students from all over the world who does not speak English, including Russia and China, and they learn just as well." I was relieved. So, we enrolled her and she started preschool in September.
By our parent-teacher conference in December, the Directress was now concerned about how much my daughter didn't speak. My heart sunk to an unimaginable depth. Not my child. I did not really hear much else of what the Directress said except her recommendation that we proceed to testing her through a early intervention program called ChildFind, which by the way is free. For more information, refer to their website: www.childfindidea.org/
January rolled around and we received the results of the ChildFind testing. Although my daughter had a high IQ (which normally would have made me incredibly proud), she also was diagnosed with Speech and Language Delay. I went home, locked myself in my bathroom and cried my eyes out. I felt so helpless that this disability had befallen my child because this was way out of my league and my doctorate degree was useless in this field. I did not know how to fix it. I felt responsible for any cross-wiring of the speech part of her brain because I failed to carry her full-term during pregnancy and she was born way too early at 3 lbs, 12 oz.
I could not console myself so I reached for my phone and dialed my heartical sistren. I was always able to honestly explain how I *really* felt without holding back. So, I told her how it was all my fault because I must have done something wrong during pregnancy to cause my daughter's premature birth and this was a direct consequence. Wisely, she redirected me towards being proactive. She reassured me that early intervention is a good thing and that I'd one day wish my daughter would talk a little less. I hoped she was right.
The Montessori school was kind enough to alter their enrollment requirements and allow my daughter to go to their school two days a week while my daughter enrolled in her Speech Therapy class full-time the remaining three days of the week at a local public school. My daughter now had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) because she had a legitimate disability. The speech class had only 7 children ranging from ages 3-6. I cannot sing the praises of my daughter's Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) enough !!! She was also a mother of an only child and was very supportive. She also provided much needed advice regarding parenting a child with a disability and support services available.
The SLP encouraged me to apply through our medical insurance for speech services because since my daughter was diagnosed with a disability, she could get extra, independent speech therapy. We went through the medical evaluations and after five sessions, the insurance discharged my daughter. I requested a second opinion from the insurance but unless I paid for it myself, the decision of the insurance company's SLP would stand.
I was not deterred. I did as much research as I could on my own and conferenced endlessly with my daughter's SLP from school. She told me programs I could buy to help my child at home (e.g. Earobics) and other exercises I could do that would be more beneficial than the 30-minute weekly session the insurance had offered me. I was already a stay-at-home mom for 3 years so far so what was a few more when it would benefit my child for a lifetime. I decided to stay home longer to help my daughter as much as humanly possible.
She continued to attend two schools the next school year until the middle of the second semester when the speech therapy class received enough funding to be offered 5 days a week. At that point, we withdrew our daughter from the Montessori preschool to concentrate on her speech therapy. The end of the school year came and we participated in her year-end IEP. The result: she had not accomplished all the goals in her IEP. It was a tough decision, but after much discussion and anguishing over possible life-long ramifications, we decided to keep our child back one extra year in preschool in the speech therapy program.
After much-needed early intervention of intense speech therapy, my daughter was discharged from the program during the second semester the next school year. Her speech was no longer at a disability level. She remained in the speech therapy class for the remainder of the school year and was the "model" student for the classroom. During that time, the SLP spent some quality time during lunch time reading one-on-one with our daughter.
By the end of her kindergarten year in the Montessori school the following year, my daughter was the top reader and writer in her class. And yes, I can only pray that she talk a little less these days ;-) But I've learned too well to never take her words for granted.
One Love, Se'Lah