What My Son's Speech Delay Taught Me About Determination

I was determined to guide him as he navigated life with minimal language. He was determined to have people understand him.

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He was grunting in frustration, demanding me to understand. I gazed in his direction with tears in my eyes. He whimpered and stomped his feet, grunting with more passion. I grabbed his hands and ushered him closer to me, caressing his back and drying our tears together. The next few breaths to retire from my body were breaths of fear and sadness.
I knew what my three-year-old son wanted; he wanted a snack. He just couldn’t find the words to express his hunger. This lack of communication has been evident his whole little life. I kept telling myself, “Maybe next month he will understand language and use his words.” But with every passing month, my “maybe” was never fulfilled.
He needed help navigating the use of words. I needed help navigating this obstacle in his life.
You see, at the age of three, my son had a max of 10 words in his bank. According to kidshealth.org, a three year old should have about 200 words and be able to string together 4 word sentences. And on top of that, you should be able to understand 75 percent of what they are saying.
None of that was happening. He had 10 words that I could make out, because I’m his mom. He had 10 words that the general public could not understand. He was tracking, developmentally, as a one-year-old.
This, for a parent, is frustrating. This type of speech delay can cause developmental and emotional delays, which is what we saw first-hand. The days were riddled with extreme meltdowns and exhausted bodies, both from my son and myself. I was parenting a one-year-old in a three-year-old body.
I was determined to help him discover and utilize his words.
I was determined to guide him as he navigated life with minimal language.
He was determined to have people understand him.
With determination placing itself in the forefront of our lives, we set out to seek guidance.
First thing first, we wanted him to be around children of the same age. We visited and toured many preschools and ultimately decided on one that had a great relationship with the county issued therapists. He would go to preschool with other three-year-olds and pick up on the habits and use of language. His teachers would partner with me in the extra leadership that my son needed.
With the help of our preschool director, we began the very long and tedious process of seeking county approved help for our son. This was much harder, emotionally, than I ever thought it would be.
The very first meeting was with a child psychologist and speech therapist. They took my son into a small room where they would play. I sat behind a one-way glass and observed. Never in my life did I think I would have to sit and observe my child at play. I could see his frustration and hear his lack of words and I could watch the therapists taking notes every time they didn’t understand him.
I cried.
I cried a lot.
I wanted to jump into that room and scoop up my son, caress him and tell him that everything was ok, I wanted to rip the clipboards from their hands and shout, “STOP, STOP TAKING LIFELESS NOTES, HE’S FINE!”
To make matters even more trying, I had a parent-teacher conference the very next day.
“Your son tends to play alone a lot, he doesn’t have many companions in the class,” they said. “When he tries to talk to one of the other students, they walk away because they don’t understand him.”
This has to be in the top three statements from teachers that will crush a parent’s heart. My heart completely shattered and I started weeping. I didn’t know I had tears left to shed.
I was determined to not question my own parenting.
I was determined to follow through with any help offered.
I was determined for my son to have meaningful friendships.
Months go by and there are more tests. The evaluation process is crippling us and motivation is slipping away. How many more one-way glass sessions will I have? How long until we can get him on the same track as his peers? His younger sister was now catching up to him rapidly in progress and I can sense his rush to escape her race.
All summer we work to make life simpler. We sat down and went over words, letters and articulation. I scheduled many play-dates with his peers and children older then him. We sang songs and read books like they were going extinct. Summer was tiring and I was overwhelmed. But my memories of determination sang like robins in my heart.
He’s now entered the four-year-old preschool class and the whispers I hear from his teachers are music to my ears. “He’s made so much improvement since last year, I can understand what he’s saying!” I pick him up from school and take a quick glance in his classroom to see him playing hard with a group of buddies.
I’m crying different tears. I’m determined to make this our new normal. We had our very last evaluation (it’s been a year) and we are set to receive services in two weeks. He’s still behind, but not by drastic measures. The determination I had to work with him, the determination he had to talk, the determination of our family to pull together is evident. While we have yet to receive services, I am proud beyond measure at the progress we’ve made.
I am determined to not compare my child to others. Because where other kids may struggle, he may shine.
I am determined to be a rock for my son as life places obstacles in our path. Because without obstacles we have no real life experience.
We still have thresholds to conquer and we are far from overcoming this challenge. He may need extra help in school and extra attention from us, but what we have achieved is way better.
We are no longer hiding behind a one-way glass and crying, we are standing proud with determination seeping out of our pores to make every day, every challenge, this life, his life, our life … wonderful.