More Talking About Talking

July 31, 2008

This morning PJ had his six-month review for ECI.  After six months, you are required to start paying your cost-share for the service (the first six months are free), so they always do an evaluation at that point to determine if your child has made enough progress to be dismissed from ECI before you have to start forking over money for it.  It’s not a lot, but for some lower income families, that extra $15 or $20 a month is really tough on their budgets.

The last time his teacher was here, she mentioned that she wasn’t sure whether she thought PJ would need to continue.  It was up to us–if we wanted to keep the services, we were welcome to pay for them whether or not she recommended he stay in the program–so they wouldn’t dismiss him either way.  But she thought the progress he had made was significant.  He’s still not caught up, she told us, but because of the fast progress that would likely continue even without the services, he would probably catch up pretty well on his own.

I disagreed with her at the time, at least to myself.  He was only barely talking in short sentences every so often.  Yes, that was much better than six months ago when he started the program, but she can’t fool me into thinking that’s anywhere close to being caught up.

Then over the last month, his language really has taken off.  PJ is repeating a lot of what we say and reusing many of those words later in different contexts.  He uses short sentences much more often and even surprises us with four- and five-word sentences frequently.  M and I decided that his ECI teacher may have been right.  We fully expected that today would be the last day we would see her; when she recommended they end services today, we were going to agree.

As you may have already figured out, that’s not what happened.  His progress with his language certainly is impressive, but it’s not enough.  He still doesn’t hold conversations.  His language development has been very one-sided.  He can’t–or won’t–answer questions often, and never with yes or no.  He only communicates in response to us when he benefits from it in some way–as his teacher puts it, according to his own agenda.

It’s likely some of these problems will resolve themselves when he starts MDO.  She thinks the environment will force him to bend to someone else’s agenda as well as communicate in responsive conversations.  But since there’s no guarantee that will resolve the problem, we are continuing with ECI for now, even increasing our visits with her.

I’m actually a little disappointed.  It’s never fun to hear your kid isn’t doing as well as you thought he was.  The number she gave me really hurt, though: he’s a 33-month-old communicating at the level of a 20-month-old (although he is probably capable of more and just hasn’t shown us because of his inability to do anything not part of his own agenda).  He is clearly still significantly more behind than I had thought.

I guess it’s not such a big deal right now for him to stay in the program.  Like I said, the cost of it is nothing to us.  It’s a miniscule price to pay to help him catch up.  My main worry is that in three more months, he is dismissed from the program whether or not he has made any progress.  In three more months, he is passed on to the school district’s special ed program.  In three months, I get to learn just what it’s like to be the mother of one of those children, the ones with the special secret folder passed from teacher to teacher that catalogues the child’s special needs and specific issues.

If there was one thing about being a mother I was least certain about being capable of handling, it was being one of those mothers, having to deal with one of those children.  I am NOT good around people with special needs, and it terrifies me to think my son is one of them.  Sure, it’s a simple language delay…but what if it’s not?  Am I really strong enough to handle it if they diagnose him with something more?

I admire those other mothers who have children with special needs, who have such an inner strength to love and embrace their children, despite and because of their differences.  I admire these women, but I don’t think I could ever be one of them.

But if this is what God has in store for me, I can only pray that he gives me that same inner strength he has given those women.  And instead of worrying about it, I can pray that in the next three months, miracles happen for my little boy.