Thursday, July 7, 2016
Da Squish and the Speech Pathologist- A Squish Sees an Expert Update
In May I wrote a post about how my youngest son was being evaluated for a language disorder or delay and what that taught me about being on the other side of the IEP table. That post got some good traction and a lot of people have reached out to me in various ways to let me know how it helped them think about their own teaching practice, or to express how happy they were that I was being open about something that might embarrass some people. Even more have been asking how he's been doing since I wrote the post.
He's doing great. The initial diagnosis was that he had a delay in both expressive and receptive language and they would begin treatment as soon as possible for it. Because we started the process fairly late his first session was right at the end of the school year. Then, because the speech path doing our home visits is a school district employee, there was a break. Everyone gets summer break. Unlike me, she only got three weeks. That's because by law there can't be an interruption of more than three weeks in special education services. So he had one home visit while I was working, then three weeks off, and now they are becoming more regular.
I didn't get to see the first visit, I had to be teaching. But I was getting regular updates from my wife during it. Not that I'd check texts during class time. I looked at lunch. I swear. I mean, would you be checking texts from your wife about your son's special education home visit while your students were independently working on projects around the room? Exactly. She let me know that the speech path, who we'd met during the eval, was just as nice as we remembered, and that both boys were friendly and helpful. Weirdling One, the older one, perhaps a little too helpful. He's basically a Labrador and wants to be everyone's friend and let's play and look at me and oh I'll help brother with this puzzle and and and and. My wife had to give him a Very Important Job in his room to keep him busy so Squish and the lady could focus on one another.
Having someone come into your home is a strange thing. I've never done a home visit, not in ten years of teaching. I would if I had to, but it feels like a strange invasion of privacy, a mixing of two worlds. I'm opening to hearing reasons why home visits are great, I'm not against them. This has to be done as home visits. I'm fine with that. She wants Squish to be comfortable and it makes things as easy as possible on us. Easy aside from the massive clean that happens the morning before a visit. I joked on twitter today that the only reason we have people over is so we have motivation to clean. We live with two tiny hurricanes, but all the cars and Lego were put away (read: mostly, some were shoved into the kids' room) when she arrived. It was nice to have the house clean for that hour.
I got to be home for a lesson today and it was fun to watch someone else work. The speech path (I keep calling her that and I'm pretty sure that's what she is, she might be a speech therapist) is incredibly friendly and conversational, and naturally she's great with the kids. She brought a bag of toys, some puzzles, and a few books, sat on the floor, and got right to work. Da Squish, while not as over-the-top demonstrative as his brother, is a friendly kid who loves most people. He greeted her at the door, he might have licked the window, I'm not sure, and happily bounced to the living room with her.
We've been working on signing with him because communication is important, and signing is a bridge and eases his frustration. He can sign "more" and "milk" (two very important signs his mom is tired of seeing), and also "eat", "all done", and "please". When asked he can point at his toes, eyes, nose, hair, ears, and mouth. He's starting to verbalize things but no words are really sticking. He repeats "mama" and "dada" but doesn't seem to associate them with us yet. My wife talks about remembering how she felt the first time Weirdling One said, "Love you" on his own and how she knows she'll get that exact same feeling as soon as Squish looks at her and says, "Mama". He loves dogs and shouts, "Da!" at them, but he also says the same thing when he wants a naked dance party. Yes, these happen in our house. Diaper changes are often interrupted by him scooting away, running to our Amazon Echo, and shouting "Da! Da!" (Dance! Dance!) at her until "Shake It Off" blasts through the house. I'm never going to be able to post a good video of him dancing because there's always fat, tiny, naked butt in it. But trust me, he's got moves. He will also grab a finger and pull us where he wants us to go, which counts as communication and is a huge improvement over where he was a few months ago- crying as we played 20 Questions until we figured out what he wanted.
Expert Lady thinks, and we agree, that he's only a few months delayed right now. Delay is a hopeful word. It means he can make progress and catch up if we work hard with him, which we've been doing. I don't know if he'll enter kindergarten with an IEP, that's still years away. And I don't care either way. If he does I'll know that he'll be entering a system I trust because I work in it and because I've been watching it work with him and us. If he doesn't then I'll know the system my own students are in works hard for them. I've worked in a four schools across three states in my career, I've seen good and bad special education teachers, and I know where we are now is on the high side. Which makes me happy for my students and makes it easier to talk to parents.
I understand that in the grand scheme of possibilities a language delay like this is a small thing. But to a parent any small thing is a big thing. And again, being on this end of the special education lessons, watching someone else teach my kid, hearing words like "diagnosis" and "delay" be said about my child gives me more empathy and understanding when I work with my students and their parents. We don't need to personally experience something in order to empathize with someone. We also can't deny that the personal experience impacts us in ways sympathetic empathy cannot.
Squish has another lesson next week, then a week off, then weekly lessons. I can't wait to keep watching him grow and learn.