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Speech Therapy and All That Comes With It

When I asked for ideas for blog posts in January, I was all ears. A friend asked to share about Bodie's progress with speech therapy, and while I've talked a lot about that on Instagram, I haven't touched on it at all here. Bodie first started speech therapy shortly after he turned two years old. I felt he wasn't talking as much as maybe he should have been at that point, he was getting frustrated and into dangerous positions in the house trying to get what he wanted, and turns out, I was right. In hindsight, I wish I would have intervened sooner. It's so easy to talk to your pediatrician and get a referral to early intervention services, at least in the state of Pennsylvania.

Once you're referred, they send a therapist out who does a complete work-up: developmental, occupational, and speech. Bodie was granted therapies in both developmental and speech. He qualified for developmental by one point, but if he's qualifying, I'm not turning it away. In developmental, we spent a lot of time on completing tasks, staying in one spot, and basically learning to take turns and play nicely. With speech - his greatest need, we worked through just getting him to request what he wanted using WORDS. When he was 2, he'd rather move a barstool, climb on top of the island, find a cup, and fill it with water when he's thirsty, as opposed to just grabbing me and saying "Water?" We were very, very lucky with our therapists assigned to us through Early Intervention. They were wonderful. He made truly enormous strides thanks to the therapists we had and of course, hard work from Jeff and I at home. Constant puzzles, reading, working on his areas of concern. When you turn 3 in the state of Pennsylvania your services switch over to DART.

DART services take place in a classroom - either at daycare or at a preschool of your choice, or they're willing to come to your home if you don't attend either of those options. I had opted to sign Bodie up at a local, well-received preschool 2-year-old program, different from where I had sent Georgia - looking for a new approach, and it unfortunately ended up being a huge mistake. Bodie had an ear infection the first two weeks (surprise mom), was throwing temper tantrums, and before they even made it to the first two hour class (less than 5 days of preschool), they asked him to leave. I'm not making excuses for him, but kids throw temper tantrums when they're sick and this ear infection ended up requiring two rounds of antibiotics. I'm not sharing the name of the preschool because I'm sure they do great things there, but MAN, this was total and complete BS. He actually had therapists with him for over 50% of the 4 hours he would even be present at preschool. It was a huge disappointment and hit to me as a parent and the choices I was trying to make on behalf of our family.

Feeling left out to dry with nowhere to go, we were lucky to learn there is a local DART preschool option for children that are developmentally delayed or otherwise. Bodie attends school 3 times per week and sees a speech therapist at school once per week. It is staffed with 3 teachers plus additional visiting therapists and obviously has a smaller class size. I also send him to a local Children's Day In one day a week that he absolutely loves (and has never had any issues in.... despite going there frequently, before the other school decided he wasn't their material).

When Bodie was asked to leave the preschool, we obviously felt it was time to have him fully evaluated. Bodie has never had any trouble with real signs of autism other than the speech delay, he was perfect with his eye contact, never any sleep issues, no eating issues, etc. We didn't truly feel he was autistic, but when you're asked to leave a preschool so abruptly, obviously you feel like you should do your due diligence as a parent and get him the intervention services he may need. He visited a speech therapist first, who diagnosed him with an expressive speech delay - we then qualified for 2x a week speech services through our insurance. We are grateful for this additional intervention - they do important work, and it's paid off in spades for him. She also referred us to have  him evaluated for behavioral issues and it came back that he is "typical" for his age - while we would have of course loved him either way, this was a tremendous, tremendous relief to Jeff and I. We walked out of that appointment and honestly, I was so exhausted from being so worried about our child, I didn't even have it in me to cry until much later in the day. This isn't to say that couldn't change in the future- who knows. But right now, there's really no reason for him to need to be at a specific therapy preschool, if the preschool I had chosen for him had any empathy whatsoever. We are grateful he has a place to go and thrive. I should note we also sent him to an ear, nose and throat specialist - thinking perhaps his chronic ear infections were having something to do with his speech delay - this came back as false.

We've put in so much work for our boy, and thankfully, it really looks like everything will come together sooner or later. It's funny - I've had so many friends tell me, "Oh, I didn't talk until I was 5, my parents were so worried!" And other stories - "My husband didn't talk at all until he was 4 and he just published a book!" Of course, these make me feel better, and I know we've done everything in our power to ensure he's being taken care of the way he should to prepare him for success in the future. Do I wish there were days we were at the grocery store and I bump into someone and I say "Say Hi, Bodie!" and he'd actually respond to them? Yes. But at home, he talks non-stop. He gets his point across using his words, and we know if something is bothering him or if he wants something specific (trust me). He goes to the mudroom and grabs his shoes if I ask him to. Bodie fights with his sister and he behaves normally for a 3-year-old boy. He goes to swim lessons and listens to his instructor and absolutely hates floating. He goes and sees the turtles swimming there and says "Mommy that turtle is climbing!" Bodie goes out to dinner nicely and loves being my sidekick on meetings and shopping trips. He has good days and bad days (like all small children) and typically we know what type of events will trigger him - typically it involves other children he doesn't know not sharing, or a place that has nothing for him to do or a place we cannot get him comfortable and set up with a toy or book. With additional work, I know Bodie will go on to achieve all that's expected of a typical child.

I didn't know whether or not I wanted to share the complete story of how we got here with him. I don't want ANYONE to think less of him, pity my child, and I worry constantly that my sharing on the Internet is something that will harm him in the future, I really try to keep things light, bright, and happy on here, but if one parent decides to have their child evaluated for a speech delay and get the necessary, extra intervention necessary to allow their child to possibly express their needs in a more sound way, then it's worth it. In the grand scheme of things, he's a healthy, typical, awesome child, and we are so lucky to have him.

Photos by Rachel Rowland Photography who is really my partner in motherhood.
Molly Knorr
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