“Have you received the packet in the mail yet?” C’s speech therapist asked me. When kids in Early Intervention turn three they are re-evaluated not only to assess if they still qualify for services, but because care shifts from the state to the school district.
“Nope.” I replied, “The case worker said she wasn’t submitting it till the end of the month.”
“Ok. So when the time comes I suggest you ask that a teacher be part of the team performing the actual evaluation. You are allowed to do that.”
“A teacher will be able to figure out if there are behavioral issues that qualify for services.”
I froze. And then I blinked back tears. And then I plastered a stupid grin on my face.
“Oh….Um…Do you think his behavioral issues aren’t typical?” This conversation happened after I unloaded on her about how incredibly difficult he has been in the last week.
“I’m not sure, that really isn’t my area. Why don’t you talk to the special ed teacher in his classroom at school?”
It was hard to make the call to Early Intervention late last summer. Hard to admit I couldn’t teach my kid to talk. Hard to admit he was behind his peers. Hard to get over my own prejudices about what it means to have a kid in Early Intervention. But C’s struggles with speech were not about me. The best option for him was to get him help.
It has been amazing. I am in love with Early Intervention. His speech therapist is absolutely amazing. We adore her and she has helped C so much. Dude is rocking the three word sentences. He initiates conversation. His Star Wars related vocabulary is bizarrely gigantic. Hell, he barely squeaked by to qualify for six more months of therapy when he was re-evaluated last month.
His issues tested as strictly communication based. All the professionals think he is late to talk due to his health problems and the ear infections that took place the winter he was about 18 months old. I was secretly relieved. He isn’t unintelligent. In all other areas he tests as a typical child including emotional life and relationships. We identified a problem and we got our kid help. Was it hard to take that step? Fuck yeah. But the reasons behind his delay were reassuring and made the whole situation easier to accept. And he is responding so well to the speech therapy–the proof was right there when he crawled into our bed a few mornings ago and said to me, “Mommy! Wake up!”
Well, I’m an asshole.
The reasons behind his delay were reassuring and made the whole situation easier to accept?
Seriously? Who the fuck do I think I am?
Turns out I’m ok with early intervention when he only needs it for communication. The mere suggestion that there might be behavior issues freaked me out, horrified me, embarrassed me.
Not my kid. My kid is normal.
The next morning I asked the special ed teacher about C’s behavior. Turns out she and the lead teacher had been talking about it that very day. C is hitting. C is scratching (that morning T went to class with two wicked welts slashed across his neck care of his little brother).
The special ed teacher feels it is linked to the frustration that has accompanied his communication issues. He can’t ask for his turn fast enough when he is with his peers. He can’t speak up for himself before the conversation has moved forward.
The thoughts running through my head make me even more ashamed. I can’t bear to have my kid be a hitter. I can’t wrap my mind around having a kid with behavioral problems. Didn’t I always swear my kids would be respectful and well behaved? Me! Me! Me!
This is not about me. Duh. Obviously. DO YOU HEAR THAT KAREN?
This is not about me. This is about C and what he needs. This is about following through with our beliefs. Since C has been in early intervention I have self righteously said many times that if parents know their kid is behind developmentally or behaviorally they are making a costly mistake by not getting them help. Service are free for god’s sake. Who cares about labels, just get your kid help.
Who cares about labels? Evidently I do.
C deserves better.
Perhaps I should climb off my high horse.
Yes, we will make sure C is tested for behavioral issues. It is the right thing to do for him. But I will have that fake and rather alarming smile plastered to my face the whole time.
The team surrounding C both in school and in services is extraordinary. He is so lucky to be in a situation in which so many qualified and compassionate professionals have his best interests at heart. I am grateful to each one of them. And I could learn so much from them.
This early intervention thing is still surrounded with stigma. There is the worry that if you were a better parent your kid wouldn’t need them. Entering services is an admission that your family is not perfect. We look at the other families that do appear to be perfect, but we have no idea what goes on in their homes. That they might be looking at other families just as enviously as we look at them. And we can’t remember that perfection does not exist. The pressure our generation puts on itself to be perfect at this parenting gig is toxic.
Once again I find myself lacking as a Mom. Once again I vow to try and do better, to be the mother that my boy deserves. Jesus fucking christ this is hard. But those two boys of mine, they are worth every single moment.
He has so much love in him. We are going to keep working with him to get him on track with communication, and if he gets help from the school system for behavioral issues we will embrace it. His needs are what matters.
The other one. When T was sick with strep last week he and I were hard core cuddling on the sofa. He looked at me and said, “I think our family is perfect.” He was right. We might not be perfect in the textbook sense. But we are perfect for us. I wouldn’t trade my boys for anyone. And I still feel lucky to be married to Z. Perfect for us. The new definition of perfect.