My son, we’ll call him A, is sixteen months old, yet he doesn’t speak any words. He babbles, and sometimes says things that are almost words, but they’re not quite real English-language words. Otherwise, he’s a big, happy, and healthy baby.
I’ve been worried for a few months now about A’s lack of words. My mother kept saying, “at least he’s trying to talk; you didn’t do that when you were his age.” Sure, but I also didn’t talk until age four. I wanted A evaluated, just to make sure. I’m living proof of the benefits of early treatment (I don’t say Early Intervention, because interventions for kids under age 3 didn’t exist in my day). I decided, however, to wait until A’s next well-baby checkup.
That was on September 10. The doctor confirmed my thoughts: A’s height’s in the 92nd percentile, his weight in the upper 80’s. He’s very healthy, and on-target with physical milestones. However, the doctor also agreed with me that he should be saying more words at this point. She referred him for a hearing evaluation, to make sure he has no hearing problems, and for Early Intervention.
I was a bit conflicted. Part of me was glad that my instincts were correct. However, part was also sad that my beautiful, happy, adorable son has a delay. What will this mean for A’s future? Will he have as much trouble as I did in terms of communicating, making friends, managing emotions? Worst of all, will the service providers think it’s all my fault?
I scheduled the hearing evaluation; it’s taking place next month. However, we’re all pretty sure that A can hear okay. He responds to his name (when he feels like it), and goes crazy when he hears me shake his can of puffs.
The Early Intervention place was slightly more complex. The lady who answered the phone was nice enough, and started collecting information. All was well until I told her what town we live in. “Oh, we don’t service [Our Town]; you have to call [Town 25 minutes away].” She then gave me their number. By that time, it was 3:58, and their recording stated that they close at 4:00pm. I left a voicemail.
8:59am the next morning, the Early Intervention office for my town returned my call. They took down the basic demographic information, such as: Name, child’s DOB, pediatrician’s contact info, insurance info, address, ethnicity, father’s highest level of education (but not mine, for some reason), who lives in the home, who will be present at the evaluation. The evaluation was scheduled for the following Thursday (i.e., the day I’m writing this blog).
On Monday, I received a call from Early Intervention. Apparently, I needed to sign the consent form before the day of the evaluation, so we scheduled a meeting for the following afternoon. I believe her title was Developmental Specialist. The first thing she mentioned is that we live so close to the first Early Intervention office I’d called (it’s within walking distance, but is technically in another county). She said that if A qualified for services, it might be worth looking into whether he could go to groups at the closer office, though it’s usually not done. She explained the Early Intervention process a bit, gathered more detailed information (e.g., where my son was born, birth weight, length of pregnancy, reiterating why I suspected he’d need services). She left me with a folder full of papers describing most of what she’d just explained.
On the day of the eval, I cleaned like a madwoman. Well, “dash and stash” is probably more like it. I cleaned up most of the clutter in the playroom to make room for all three evaluators (the fourth couldn’t make it). They administered the Batelle Developmental Inventory, a standardized test which consists of seeing what tasks A could do, such as grabbing objects, standing up from a supine position, waving bye-bye. For some of it, they were able to go by our reports (e.g., his favorite activities). After about an hour, A started getting tired and cranky, so we took him to bed for his nap. The evaluators then started tallying up his scores.
As suspected, A has delays in communication; everything else was within normal ranges. He therefore qualifies for Early Intervention services. I was actually a bit relieved, because I was partially worried that he might be delayed, but not delayed enough for services. Then what would we do? We’d have to pay for any services out-of-pocket. However, since he qualifies for Early Intervention, whatever our insurance doesn’t pay will be paid by the state Department of Health.
They asked if we had any goals for the initial Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP). I said I wanted A to say more words to better communicate his needs. I think the evaluators were a bit surprised by the response. They don’t know that I used to be a service coordinator (for a different population) in my past life.
In a few weeks, we’ll be assigned a Service Coordinator, who will work with us to come up with more goals and details for the IFSP, and to match us with service providers.
It’s going to be an interesting journey, but it will be well worth it once A can start saying stuff!