Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The best parenting advice in the history of parenting advice

Yes, you knew it: Trust your gut is the best parenting advice out there.

Even if you didn't know this before you had kids, you fully realize it once you become a parent. Perhaps it was that gut feeling that lead you to your child's diagnosis because you thought something wasn't quite right. That wasn't us; we knew something was up with Max the day after he was born. But through the years, my parent gut has come in handy for him and all the kids: For knowing when they aren't feeling well, knowing when they're upset, knowing when they may are hiding something. The times my gut does not come in handy are for predicting puke and Max's seizures, both of which I have never seen coming.

Recently, I did something I've never done before: I tried to deny a gut feeling.

Ben's words have been coming in slowly. Boys are typically behind girls in speech development, about a month or two, from what I've read. At 18 months old, though, having several dozen words is typical. Ben has less than 10. Also: He calls me Daddy. That, I mostly find amusing. Mostly.

Dave, typically the more neurotic parent of the two of us, wasn't extremely concerned. He thought we should wait till the baby's 18-month-old checkup at the pediatrician. A couple of weeks passed. Ben didn't seem to be gaining any new words.

I struggled.

Because I've been through so much anxiety during Max's early years, I wondered if I was overreacting.

Because "Kids develop on their own timeline" are words I have said again and again.

Because didn't I know better than to Google obsessively?

Because part of me was not ready to face my little guy having a developmental delay.

I knew all that. I was aware of that.

But my gut would not shut up.

I finally spoke with Max's speech therapist. She agreed that Ben should have more words, and pointed out that he'd also been a bit slow to finger feed so maybe he had some motor planning issues. She recommended that, for one, we immediately cut out his bottles, as that sucking motion isn't beneficial for speech development, and switch solely to a cup. I did.

One of the hardest calls I've had to make in a while was dialing Early Intervention. I left a message. Surprisingly, I got a call back in two days. Even more surprisingly, the evaluators were able to to see Ben the following week.

I did not tell Dave I was calling EI, or about the evaluation. I decided to wait and see what happened.

They showed up on time on a rainy afternoon, one lovely occupational therapist and one lovely speech pathologist. The OT kept putting toys in front of Ben—a ring stacker, a shape puzzle—as the SP asked questions about his development. Ben performed admirably. That took about 40 minutes or so. Then they sat there for a while, typing notes into their computers and talking amongst themselves.

And then, they showed me the spectrum of typical on paper. Ben was overall in the average range. Although he displayed a great range of babbling sounds, and was communicative, he was in the below-average range for speech. He was, indeed, speech delayed—but because of his general score, he did not qualify for Early Intervention. I could call again in three months, on the dot, and request another evaluation if he hadn't progressed much. His hearing has seemingly been fine, but we might need to get it tested.

In the end, I felt kind of calm about the results. Yes, he was delayed. But now I knew for sure, and we could do something about it.

I told Dave. He didn't seem overly concerned. We're going to see what the pediatrician has to say at Ben's visit next week. This is a very wise, non-alarmist doctor who has seen a whole lot of children in his decades of practicing, and we value his opinion. But in all probability, I'll soon be asking if Max's longtime speech therapist can start seeing Ben.

So like I was saying: Trust. Your. Gut.

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