At least that’s what we’re hoping now that J is 3. It’s not that turning 3 has any particular special qualities our middle child was supposed to wake up with, but since he qualifies for special education services, by law in the commonwealth of Massachusetts J is now attending our town’s integrated preschool.
It’s a double-edge sword being told your child needs special services. I admit I fought for this. I’ve been asking for at least 2 years to get him help and was largely ignored by our previous pediatrician. So to have the process occur and have him accepted into the program has made me feel validated. The process was swift due to the timing of his birthday, so it’s been kind of difficult to wrap my head around. However, I have to share I feel so much better knowing that I’m not completely crazy after dragging him to doctor after doctor after doctor trying to figure out what is going on. This has also made me sad because I wanted more than anything to be told “there is nothing wrong with your son.”
The old pedi kept saying B was doing too much talking and that J would “catch up.” But we knew we had a bigger problem on our hands than the older sibling who does all the talking when we learned he wasn’t hearing anything. I mean, if you can’t hear then you won’t talk. And if you basically couldn’t hear anything the first 15 months of your life, then you’re at least a year behind.
And that’s what the assessments – yes, more than one assessment – confirmed. While J is able to do some things above his actual age, more often than not his level of development is below average. Specifically, he’s more like a 23 month old instead of his actual age of 35 months.
Reading that made me feel sick, but I admit it wasn’t a complete surprise. If J had not continued to miss certain milestones or demonstrate some speech shortcoming – none of which were perceived by his old pediatrician as particularly problematic – we might never have looked into private, specialized services. Our experience is a testimonial to be your child’s advocate and go with your gut. Even if that means getting bad news it’s really good news, because no news is even worse, in my opinion.
Now that we had a diagnosis and a plan and J is formally in the system, I want to focus on the long-term. Unfortunately, that’s not really the way it works. Our short-term goal is to make sure he’s prepared for Kindergarten. We do not want to hold him back a year because he’d be in the same class as his younger brother. And while that’s not the end of the world, it is not ideal. So we’re working hard to make him better. J will continue with speech therapy from Gift of Gab 2x a week, but he’ll also receive speech therapy at his new preschool 3x a week. We will also work with him at home on his speech and vocabulary.
Today was his first day and it was a long one starting at 8:30 at his current playschool before heading over to the new preschool. But when I picked him up this afternoon he was all smiles. His wonderful, patient, kind new teacher included a progress note and said he did great. Seeing him looking like this makes me feel better about all that has happened and the bumpy road it took to get here.
Yes, it’s a whole new world for us. It’s a special one, too.