Long time readers at 11D know that my youngest son, Ian, lives in a world of silence. He’s two and half and can’t talk. No, he’s not just being stubborn or testing me or willful, as my mother long suspected. He simply can’t do it. Occasionally, a word will burst through “BALL” “CAR” “GOO” (that means juice), but it’s rare.
The therapist says he has a motor planning problem. Sounds like he should go to driving school for that, I know. Ian’s brain isn’t well connected to his mouth. When he’s not trying, sometimes a whole sentence will escape. But when he tries, there’s nothing. Now that he’s older and more aware, he actually talks less than he used to.
He accompanies me through the day’s chores with a smile and a skip. He loves going places and as do I, so we go for walks to the coffee shop together and to the supermarket. Never hollering. But also none of the toddler chatter that other parents experience.
After we moved out here and unpacked the basics, I started to research speech therapy options for him. It took many phone calls to locate the right office. After I reached the right person, there were three or four hour long meetings at the house. The first with the social worker, then with the evaluators, then with the social worker, evaluator and the service provider, and then again with the social worker.
The state set me up with a speech therapist who comes to the house twice a week to provide services. She gave me a list of supplies and videos to buy. And after she leaves, I have been instructed to follow through on certain exercises: chewing stale licorice on the side of his mouth, blowing bubbles, stroking the side of his face with sponge.
And the state picks up most of the tab. I only pay $21 a month.
Now that we’re finally getting the services, Ian is doing great. He has learned about twenty new signs and is less fearful about trying to talk.
But I fear that these services only benefit well educated, middle class parents like myself. How would a single working mother manage to attend those meetings? How would someone without connections or knowledge of the internet even locate that first phone number at the state agency? How would they be able to complete all the paperwork?
When Ian turns three in April, the state will no longer be responsible for his services. The town is expected to take over. Another mountain of paperwork and meetings. The first transition meeting is on Monday.
Because he’s super-smart, the therapist feels that Ian shouldn’t be lumped into the special education pre-school that the town provides. The state mandates that every child should be entitled to an education in “the least restrictive environment.” So, we’re going to try to have the town provide free speech therapy, while I send him to a regular pre-school. This is going to be a big battle, but I’m ready for it.
I wonder if other parents would be able to fight for their children in the same way.