An adorable little girl I know who's almost 3 years old has a very limited vocabulary—just a few words, and no sentences. She loves singing the ABC song, though she doesn't clearly articulate letters. Her comprehension is good, and she can communicate with nods and gestures.
This has weighed on my mind. Should I say something? What could I even say? I'm not that close with the parents. Of course, this kid may already be getting therapy; a pediatrician would be well aware of the issues. But as a parent who 18 years' worth of experience with speech delays, I have ached to speak up.
The stigma surrounding developmental delays has eased up in recent years. Still, some parents are hesitant to get their kid therapy. Sometimes they're in denial. Perhaps they figure their child will grow out of it. It's possible they don't want labels imposed on their child. All of this can make the topic so difficult to broach and talk about.
It shouldn't be that way—delays and disabilities are nothing to be ashamed of. But here we are in 2021, and that's still a thing. If this parent had hesitations, I wanted to gently encourage her to get her child help and connect her with a therapist I trusted for an evaluation. I wanted to share my wisdom. At the heart of it all, I wanted to help her child.
If you see something, say something?
But who am I to say something?
But if I don't say something, am I doing a child an injustice?
Years ago, I held an 11-month-old in my arms and my Spidey senses kicked in. The tot had low muscle tone and didn't make eye contact. I mentioned to a mutual friend that these could be signs of autism, even as I doubted myself: What if that baby was just very mellow? My friend hadn't noticed, and I never said anything. Months later, the child was diagnosed with autism and started getting services, and I felt guilty for not having said anything.
And here I was, again.
Then one day, as the mom and I were chatting, the little girl walked over to us, said "all" for "ball" and her mom handed one to her.
"When Max was her age, he couldn't say that," I mentioned.
"Speech therapy really helped him come along!" I said. "Max has had the same therapist since he was a little guy."
She nodded again.
She didn't want to go there, and that was fine.
Speaking from personal experience had been a way to start the conversation. It opened the door, should she choose to enter. Maybe she still will.