Saturday, June 14, 2008

We interrupt this blog for a special update...

... on Tucker's speech and language development.

First of all, I am happy to report that he had his major evaluation last week (a followup from the one several weeks ago where he vomited from the top of the sliding board, which was the start of ten days of full-on grossness at my house). This experience was much more positive and a much more accurate assessment of his abilities - and inabilities.

We spent two intense hours with seven adults, each questioning Tucker and me, watching him closely, and evaluating us both, our identities, and our worth from top to bottom. (At least it feels that way.) They are a great team, effective in what they do, and highly sensitive to his needs and my emotions.

But the truth is that nothing they can say in that room is good news for me.

For a while, they seemed unsure if he needed another year of speech therapy. If they had said, "Congratulations! Tucker has made enough progress that he no longer needs or qualifies for speech services," then my Momma Bear claws and instincts would have come out in full force, since I know my child has made great strides but is still a year or more behind in his language abilities. I would not have left there without the necessary help he needs, which is more than his mom - teacher or not - can provide on her own.

But moments later, when they made their decision and said he did indeed qualify for speech therapy in a small group setting, my heart sank. I didn't want to hear that either. Really, I could not be pleased. This is my little boy - and thereby my heart - we are talking about. (Every once in a while, I am reminded that this was not my plan, that I was going to have children who talked early and often, readers by the age of three. And then I realize that self-pity doesn't help anybody here.) It took me a while to be thankful for their assessment, to embrace their expertise, and to be thankful for the moms who have gone before me, advocating for their children's special needs and creating for the services available today.

It is on their shoulders I stand as I get Tuck the help he needs.

We have progressed from an IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan) to an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), since he will turn three when these services go into effect. His plan is effective for three years (dear heavens... that takes us to kindergarten), and subject to change as he grows and accomplishes skills. So I go back on Monday to sit with the team, collaborate, and set goals for my son... I have sat in those meetings many times before, but not from this side of the table.

It's all very different.

He will have speech therapy twice a week, for one hour each session, with a teacher and two or three other children who are working on the same skills. There will be homework, parent-teacher conferences, and goals to meet. But I imagine there will also be holiday parties, birthday treats, and new little friends who will understand Tucker and his persistent desire to get his message across, since they struggle to do the same thing. (So far, he has none of those.)

And there will be moms. Other moms who know this journey of walking the line of sign language, interpreting babble from a child who looks old enough to communicate better, defending the questions of strangers, fighting the comparisons with peers, and rejoicing in the smallest victories that we worked twice as hard for.

Someday, Tucker will talk and everyone will understand him. (Not just me.) We will tenderly look back on this journey, and Tuck and I will say, "We did it."

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