I was so excited for my son's third birthday party this past February. We rented out the local kid's gym and had planned a fun construction worker theme. I made cupcakes and decorated them with M&M's--my son's treat of choice! The day of the party I picked out a fun outfit for him to wear, and that's where the nervousness set it. As we got closer to the party time my mind raced with thoughts that I had been pushing away. How would he react? Would he behave? Please, God, do NOT let him have a tantrum. What am I going to do if he has a meltdown?
We arrived at the designated time and got all set up. My boy was all smiles as he played while waiting for guests. The party started and everybody seemed to be having a great time. All the kids were following directions and really seemed to engage with our party hostess. All the kids except my son. He was in a world of his own. He was like a 3'2" tornado racing through the play area, oblivious to all those around him. He would go full force and crash right through people and things, almost like he didn't notice. He was eager to jump around as the hostess blew bubbles, and he was a big fan of the "bumper mats", but otherwise he was just doing his own thing. It was at this moment that I realized, my kid is different from his peers.
At his 3-year check-up I was able to address some of our concerns with our pediatrician. I explained his behavior at the party, his seemingly endless temper tantrums, his obsessive behavior with doors and cars, and the lack or progression with his speech. Our pediatrician saw some of the behaviors himself and said he definitely felt his observations warranted further investigation. We were given referrals for an ENT, speech therapy, and the developmental pediatrician. I left the appointment feeling hopeful, but was quickly discouraged when I learned of the wait for the developmental specialist. Our referrals were written on March 1, 2013, and as it stands we are currently on a waiting list for an appointment in 2014. Yes, you read that correctly--there is a 9 month wait just to get an appointment.
I have a few friends with boys that have developmental delays and I started asking questions. The best advice came from Jessica, a Diaper Junction customer I had become friends with. She suggested I go through our local school system. What?!?!? Could they really help? I did a quick Google search and the very first link provided a phone number to our school system's Preschool Assessment Center. I called the next day on my lunch break and was immediately greeted with a cheerful voice. I explained what was going on and she scheduled an evaluation appointment for a couple weeks ahead. That was it. No run-arounds. No ridiculous wait. Just, "when would you like to come in?" I was thrilled to say the least.
My son was nervous and did not do well with his initial evaluation; however they were able to put him in a Diagnostic Classroom for three weeks in the late spring. During this time he was to be evaluated by a school social worker, a psychologist, hearing specialist, speech therapist, as well as the preschool teachers. My son was excited to go to "gool" and I was really excited we could take part in this process. At the request of the school specialists I filled out lots of questionnaires about his health and behavior. Seriously, so many questionnaires. Artwork and newsletters came home. One day I looked in his backpack and found a letter from the auditory team stating my son's right ear did not pass the hearing test. I actually found this to be good news. It was not surprising considering his history of ear and sinus infections, but hearing loss could explain some of his behavior. I simply could not wait to hear the rest of their findings.
In early July we had an eligibility meeting where my husband and I met with the team of professionals that worked with our son. We went over all their findings. Sensory aversions. Hyposensitivity to movement. Cognitive delays. Fine motor skill delays. Speech delays. One might find it a little depressing to hear all this about their child, but throughout all their summaries were kind words noting his pre-academic strengths, his broad smile, and his sweet nature. They were saying nice things! Based on their observations my son was eligible for the public school preschool program. He would even get speech therapy. The best part--all of this is FREE through our school system. I could have cried. I did cry. Heck, I'm even crying now as I write this.
So here we are, the last week of August. Earlier this month my son had tubes put in his ear and had his adenoids removed. He is already speaking clearer! Next week he starts preschool, and I am so excited for him. We are extremely optimistic for what the next year will hold for us. We are still on the waitlist for the developmental pediatrician, but I feel like we are on the right track. During the last few months I have come to realize a few things. The first, and we've all heard this a million times, is to trust your mama-instinct. Nobody knows your child better than you. I knew something was off with my son and I was right. Secondly, do not be afraid to talk about it. Let me repeat. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO TALK ABOUT IT. The more I opened up about my son, the more support I received. I can't even tell you the number of messages I received on Facebook with tips and support. You might be surprised at just who is dealing with the same thing at home. This struggle has drawn me closer to some of my friends as they have shared their stories. It feels nice to have support. Some of the best advice came from a high school friend, Kassie Verschelde. Kassie is a Developmental Specialist in the Virginia Beach Infant Program and has been a big cheerleader for our family. I knew some local families that could benefit from her assistance so I asked her how they could learn more.
The Virginia Beach Infant Program serves children birth to three. We are there for parents who feel something is not quite right developmentally with their kiddo. All services are conducted in the home or "natural environment" where your child feels most secure. If your child demonstrates a 25% delay, has some atypical development such as feeding or sensory concerns or low or high muscle tone we can help!! Call today for your free developmental assessment. 757-385-4400
I shared my experience hoping that it would encourage other families going through similar situations. Please do not be afraid to speak out if your family needs help. You certainly have my support wherever you may be.