Can we talk? I’d like to share with you what it is like to be the mom of a four year old boy who doesn’t talk yet. It’s hard. I want to know all the amazing things that he thinks. I want to hear him say that he loves me. I want to be able to ask what he would like to eat without going to the kitchen and parading out all of the things in the refrigerator while he rejects them until we find the thing he wants. I want to ask Owen about how school was or learn about his friends in class. I know there are so many things he would tell me. I am pretty sure he is really, really funny, I’d love to hear his jokes.
Sometimes people think Owen isn’t smart because he doesn’t talk yet. They say things in front of him because they believe that he doesn’t understand, he usually does. Not being able to talk doesn’t make someone stupid. Owen can’t talk because he has something called Apraxia of Speech. Lots of kids with his diagnosis have it and many of them are late talkers. Apraxia of Speech means that Owen’s brain has trouble telling his mouth and muscles what to do when he wants to form sounds or words. One of the hardest things in speech therapy is to watch Owen trying so hard to make a sound when he is asked. Sometimes you can see him move his lips and tongue but no sound comes out. He really wants to do it.
Last year for preschool graduation all the kids made a page for the class book. Each student got to get up and show their page and tell us what was on it. It was a story about finding animals on the doorstep and having to hide them in the house. As each one shared their picture I felt more and more sad. When it was Owen’s turn he went up and used his speech device to say, “There’s a bird, let’s put him in bed!” I was so proud. It was so wonderful for Owen to have a voice, but it wasn’t his voice saying the words. I remember thinking to myself that day, next year it will be different. Next year at preschool graduation he will be able to talk, I just know it.
Yesterday these thoughts came rushing back to me. I don’t know why. I was in the car alone and suddenly I remembered preschool graduation and how different I thought things would be this year. Well we are about 2 months away and unless something miraculous happens in the next 2 months, things will not be as different as I hoped. I cried all alone in the car. I cried because I am proud of Owen, I cried because he didn’t start talking this year, I cried because I felt guilty about crying.
Owen gets speech therapy two times a week at school and we get him additional therapy once a week out of school. He works so hard on learning to talk. I can’t go to his preschool for therapy but I do get to sit in on his other therapy sessions outside of school. I look so forward to seeing his progress in these sessions. Currently his therapist is working with Owen on saying Mom. He is getting so good at saying, “ma-ma-ma” and even “Mom-Mom”. He even recognizes these things written down and all she has to do is point to the words and ask what it says. I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear him saying, “ma-ma-ma” for the first time. In fact he spends a lot of time saying it over and over again, practicing, just like his other sounds that he is mastering. I am never really sure however that he understands “mama” is me or if he is just making sounds to practice. Is he calling me? Does he need help? Is he just practicing his sounds? I love hearing it either way but I long to hear him calling me “Mama” or “Mommy”.
Today when I went to pick Owen up from preschool I waited patiently in the hallway. They call each student when it is their turn to come to the door for pick up. Often Owen is one of the last ones called because they help him with putting his coat on and packing up his bag. So I wait, and I see all the other little ones coming out, running into their parents arms, yelling, “Mommy!” or “Daddy!” or “I missed you!”. It’s hard. Sometimes I even feel lonely watching all this happen. So Owen was called and as he came running out the door smiling, I could see him making the sign for “Mom” and his teacher followed him out to tell me that when he was called he said, “Mom” and came looking for me. I was so happy! Knowing that he said “Mom” and signed it too when he saw me lets me know that he knows that is my name! It could still be a while before he says it regularly but today, just this once I know he called me by the name I long to hear!
On the way home in the car I cried, but for very different reasons than yesterday. Today I cried because I am so happy!