Parenting is a role that is full of decisions. And sometimes we as parents can second guess those decisions. There were many a nights when our kids were sick, that my husband and I would lay awake trying to decide if our kids needed to go to the doctor the next day, or wait it out to see if they will get better. We would wonder, do we intentionally deal with that behavior or recognize it as a passing stage. When you have a child that has a delay or special needs there is added concern, worry and doubt in what to do. We found ourselves in this place with our youngest son Josiah’s Speech and Language Delay. Every story is different and unique. I wanted to share our speech story in case there was a mother in a similar place to find encouragement that you are not alone if you wondering about intervention.
Josiah was a super smiley baby and toddler. He was easy going and went with the flow of the day to day activities. He was all boy and was more on the quiet side. We didn’t think much of it. His regular smile communicated that he was good to go and he was enjoying his little toddler life!
At Josiah’s 18 month check up his pediatrician was concerned that he wasn’t speaking very many words. The pediatrician told me quickly as she was leaving the room that she felt like Josiah had a speech delay and that he would need further testing. I initially felt confused as my reference to speech delays was in mispronouncing sounds. I was thinking that since Josiah didn’t say many words it was hard to deduct if he was making the sounds correctly or not. Shortly after this appointment our insurance changed and we had to find a new pediatrician. I was glad to get a second opinion from our new pediatrician. At Josiah’s 2 year well check I mentioned our concern, and yet at that point he was saying a few more words. Our new pediatrician didn’t think Josiah had a delay. He assured us that some kids speak later than others and that he wanted to watch him. I agreed. Hindsight showed that Josiah did indeed have a speech delay and I wondered what that original pediatrician saw. I often wished she had explained more to me how the lower word count at that age showed a delay.
Communication with Josiah was fine around the family and especially if I was with him through out the day. I would have context to his day and knew most of the time what he was saying to us. My daughter Rachel, a few years older then Josiah had an easier time understanding him as well. And at times when Josiah would get frustrated when we were not grasping what he was saying, Rachel would tell us and we would carry on! (We did find it so interesting and cute 🙂 that Rachel could always understand him!) My husband and I would try at times to just pretend we understood. We would listen, smile and nod our heads. But we could never fool him and Josiah would know we didn’t understand and would repeat himself until we got it. We were noticing that he was getting more frustrated if we didn’t understand what he was trying to communicate.
When Josiah was 3 1/2 we had some friends come and stay with us for a week. They had a little boy who was a bit younger than Josiah. This friend spoke so clear and it was becoming all the more evident that Josiah’s speech was a struggle. Josiah was beginning to not respond much to people when they spoke to him or looking to us to answer for him. Even answering his name was a struggle. Josiah was not an easy name to say and not a familiar name to some- so that was making things doubly hard.
My mothers intuition began to confirm that something was not right. And so I began to pray that God would show us just what to do. One of Josiah’s Sunday School teachers was a speech therapist with the school district. (I didn’t know that she was a Speech Therapist until she said something.) One weekend after service she approached me and told me she was concerned that Josiah was struggling with his speech and that she could help. With a teary hug in response I listened feeling so relieved! Josiah’s Sunday School Teacher was hesitant to say something because she often found it hard for parents to hear that there might be a problem with their child. I was sooo relieved she took the risk to tell us! Our friend from church got the ball rolling and we had an appointment within the week to have Josiah tested. We learned that he indeed had a delay and that he would qualify for help at the School District Developmental Preschool. We got him enrolled and he started the next month. God’s timing is always perfect!! Josiah enjoyed going to preschool. The highlight for him- he was picked up and dropped up everyday by the school bus. (I was hesitant about putting my 4 yr old on a bus!!!) But Mr. Richard, his bus driver, and Josiah became fast friends. It came right to the driveway. He loved his first speech therapist named Miss Rose. She was sweet, patient, and would tell Josiah that his words were music to her ears!
That was just the beginning on the speech journey. Once he moved on from the Preschool and into Kindergarten the school Speech Therapist had a family emergency in September and had to quit her job a month after school started. There was not an immediate replacement so we found a private speech clinic. We went there for a while, and found it was expensive as our insurance didn’t cover much of the weekly visits. We heard about Arizona State University Speech and Hearing Clinic. At many colleges the graduate students will see clients for their last semester of practice before they graduate. We looked into it and qualified to go!
So every Monday afternoon for that school year we made the hour drive there and back. The graduate students were some of our favorite at ASU. They were so eager to be practicing and it was so evident they enjoyed working with Josiah. He enjoyed being a Kindergarten College Attender 🙂 We especially liked how the ASU clinic worked in that we would go for several weeks- on their semester schedule and then have a break to return to a new student. It allowed for some break time in between working hard each week and it was in those breaks that we often saw the most improvement in Josiah pronunciation and understanding and use of words. I also liked being able to observe Josiah and the graduate student through a one way mirror, it was how the students were evaluated by their professors, and it allowed me to learn how they would guide Josiah in using the right sounds so that I could use the same techniques at home. The regular practice helped! We were seeing slow but steady improvement in Josiah’s Speech.
Once Josiah’s elementary school got a new therapist, he was able to return to speech there at his school the following year. Because he developed some bad habits with his speech early on as a toddler, when there is so much language development, he had a language delay as well and therefore his reading was a struggle too. Many of his teachers worked hard with him and he was placed in some special reading classes for early intervention. At this point, we had to make the hard decision to have Josiah repeat Kindergarten. He was blessed to have the same teacher for both years in Kindergarten. Mrs. Westerfield, who advocated and cared for Josiah as I saw no other teacher do for him is a very special teacher in our book. Josiah continued going to speech at school until the 3rd Grade. Then one day we had a meeting and he graduated from speech! The process was steady. Sometimes seemed slow. And then just one day was better.
I am so thankful for how Josiah’s teachers recognized the areas that he needed some intervention in. I also saw the importance of staying involved and being an advocate for him. As parents, my husband and I had to take charge of Josiah’s Speech Therapy. We relied heavily on those who came alongside as experts but we had to do lots of research ourselves. We had to familiarize ourselves with the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and how they worked. We had to find out how our insurance would work. When the district wasn’t replacing the therapist, the insurance wasn’t going to pay anymore for the weekly speech that was needed and Josiah still needed regular help it felt like things came to a screeching halt! It was in those moment as a parent you become the main advocate. Thankfully God guided through every process, doubt, and change to work in Josiah’s life. We had to do some extra practice and reading at home. We had to be patient and allow for some of the improvement to come as he developed and grew.
And I am happy to report, as I write out his Speech Story today, Josiah is a month shy of turning 17 and will be a Senior in highschool next year. He is a strong student and has no lingering speech or language delay.
My heart prayer is for you, our delightful readers to be encouraged. To be moved to prayer if you need to come alongside of your child to help them over a delay. God will guide you! He cares about the smallest of concerns to the biggest struggles. Please share your stories and experiences with us so we can pray for you!