Bracken and I have been going to speech therapy once a week and I’ve been meaning to write about it here for awhile. I wrote here before about Bracken’s words when he was two. At that time we knew his speech was a bit behind most of his friends. We decided to let things unfold in their own time. He was still so young and that’s what felt right to us at the time. Plus his friend had been very similar with his speech and then suddenly his words got clearer practically overnight. So we waited. As time went on though, things changed. Many toddler tantrums were centered around his frustration with his speech and communication. Once we felt it was affecting the quality of his life, that’s when we decided to try something different. We got a doctor’s referral and went for an evaluation at the Eugene Hearing and Speech Center. They diagnosed him with speech articulation disorder. They also said there was a possibility that he had something called apraxia of speech. It would have taken much more testing to determine if that was the case and they said it wasn’t necessary at that point because the treatment would be the same either way: speech therapy once a week. We were told that if he did have apraxia of speech that progress would be much slower and that it could be a lifelong challenge for him.
Bracken played with toys while the adults talked. I kept it together through the consultation and on the ride home. When Bracken fell asleep that night, though, I finally let myself cry. I didn’t want to cry in front of him, for him to worry or be upset about anything. When we started speech therapy, I wanted it to feel like a fun and lighthearted thing for him. But when I was alone, I let it out. I was overwhelmed by the news. Since apraxia of speech was something I had never heard of before, it felt big and scary and unknown to me. I hadn’t thought his speech challenges were that severe so I was really surprised by the news. I worried: Should we have brought him there sooner? (We were told we brought him in at a great time and if we had brought him in too young there wouldn’t have been as much they could do to help anyway.) What could have caused it? We didn’t know for sure he had apraxia of speech, it was a possibility, but I wanted to know more. With many questions in my mind, I immediately started researching. Once I learned more it wasn’t quite so scary. (Though I still have so much more to learn, so I won’t begin to try explaining it here yet.) Jeff wasn’t too worried about anything, he said that nothing had changed, only that we would be trying something new to help Bracken communicate.
So Bracken and I started going to speech therapy once a week. We started in September and I think we’ve had about seven sessions so far. Bracken gets to play with toys and games and listen to stories. I’m sitting right by him, participating and sometimes knitting a bit too. Most times Bracken doesn’t want to leave, he wants to keep playing with everything, but I tell him we’ll save more fun things for next time. Each week we have sounds and words we work on. I bring lists of words home with me to practice for the next week. Family asks Bracken “what words are you working on this week?” Sometimes Bracken was reluctant to focus on his speech or to try difficult words and he still is at times, but we keep gently working on it and I can feel him getting more comfortable about it. In the past we were mindful not to bring too much attention to his speech because we didn’t want to make him feel insecure and he seemed to get that way pretty easily. But things weren’t changing much. Now we’re gently working on it, making it feel like a family thing we all do together, and wanting it to feel fun and light. I remember how wonderful it felt when we were driving home one day and I could hear Bracken practicing, of his own accord, in the backseat because the sound we had been working on had been presented like a fun game and the approach was really effective with him.
There have been a few comments from friends and family saying that they’ve noticed improvements and can understand his speech a bit better since we started speech therapy. I was so happy to hear that and I have also noticed improvement. When I think about it, I realize we just started going last month and it already feels like we’ve made progress in that time. What I really appreciate about speech therapy is that now I feel like we have a direction, a focus. Before Jeff and I would watch Bracken’s frustration and not know how to help him. We didn’t want him to feel insecure, so we didn’t want to say too much, but we also wanted to know how to help. Now we work together on sounds and words. Now we have a better idea of what to do and how to help him. It feels good to have a direction now.
I am so proud to be Bracken’s mom. He is so bright and loving. So creative. So clever and intelligent. He brings joy to so many people. When I’ve seen his struggle to communicate something and how upset it’s made him, it breaks my heart every time. …And when someone understands just what he was trying to say, his whole face lights up and it makes me so happy. He understands what others are saying to him. He just has a hard time forming the words back. I understand the large majority of what he says, but sometimes I don’t. (Our speech therapist said I must be a mind reader and so many people have said to me “how did you understand that?”, to which all I can say is that we’re together so much that it’s just second nature and we do have a strong bond between us that I’m immensely grateful for.) When that happens, he gets more disappointed than with anyone else, because he expects me to understand more than anyone, and I feel so bad when I don’t. I feel like I’m letting him down at those times. I’ve been his constant translator, he asks me to tell others what he is saying all the time. I have to admit that it can be an exhausting job at times. But whenever I think that it’s hard for me sometimes, I think about how much harder it is for him. I can’t imagine how frustrating it can be for him. So I do my best to slow down, to look at him, to watch his mouth as he speaks, to take note of any signs or body language, and take the time to listen. I don’t always want to slow down, sometimes I’m in the middle of something or it’s the end of the day and I’m tired and I just don’t want to think anymore. But he needs me to do that and I want to understand what he has to say. He has so many beautiful things to communicate and share with the world and it’s my job to help him do just that.