Katie was quick to roll, to sit up, to stand. She walked at 10 months, ran at 11.
Physically, she has been a dynamo. Climbing, tumbling, maneuvering.
But, she was quiet. So quiet, in fact, that concern began creeping into the corners of my brain very early on. Babble she did not. She would make noises occasionally, in the car seat or in her bed. She was bursting with smiles and belly laughs, but, as the months passed, it became clear that her speech wasn’t coming as it does in a typically developing child.
We raised our concerns to our families, who assured us that speech delay wasn’t uncommon in each of our families. My father didn’t speak until he was three, Craig’s brother until he was nearly that.
So, I would try to put it out of my mind, but there was a nagging there, a relentless voice nudging me to ask more questions, to seek help for our sweet baby girl.
We taught Katie baby signs and she got to a point where she was learning a new sign every day. She absorbed them and talked a mile a minute with her hands. It was a beautiful thing to witness. But still, I longed for her to use her voice.
We asked our pediatrician, who reassured us, telling us that she was still well within the range of typical development. He pushed us to go home and give her time. We pushed back.
We were referred to a speech therapist for evaluation. Katie was fifteen months old by then. At our insistence, this therapist, although partially agreeing with our pediatrician, put us in touch with an agency that would match us with a long-term speech therapist. It took months to get everything in place so that Katie could begin getting help. Through this process we learned just how important it would be to serve as Katie’s advocates.
Lyndsey, Katie’s amazing speech therapist, entered our lives when Katie was just 21 months old.
There was something magical about her. She recognized the same things in Katie that we had been concerned about. She offered us real validation and her energy brought us optimism.
When she first began with our baby girl, Katie said two words: Da Da and Ma Ma. That’s it. She wouldn’t imitate any sounds for us or for Lyndsey.
For a few weeks, Katie wouldn’t really engage with Lyndsey. When offered a toy, she would happily accept it and then sit down to play with it, with her back to Lyndsey. She liked her, but didn’t want to do the work that was being asked of her.
The weeks passed and I grew concerned that there was something even more frighteningly wrong than I had previously thought. I became obsessed with diagnosing her and Googled everything. I bought books and read everything that I could get my hands on. I eventually settled on a diagnosis of apraxia of speech. I shared my concerns with Lyndsey, who encouraged me to resist diagnosing Katie, as even if she did indeed have apraxia, she couldn’t be tested for it until she was three. Each time I brought it up, Lyndsey heard me out, calmed me down, and made me focus on the progress that Katie was making. She empowered me by offering me ideas for how I could help Katie, teaching me techniques and helping me to focus on the ways in which Craig and I could have an impact on Katie’s development.
In one of the most helpless times of our lives, she gave us power. We will never forget that.
Lyndsey provided us with notes with an action plan after every session. I have the therapy notes from their very first session in front of me now. Lyndsey’s advice to us then was to “[m]ake it fun and relax!” She could see early on that she would have to work her magic on not just Katie, but on us too. Craig and I cherished these session notes and will never part with them. Each Thursday evening, after we put Katie to bed, we would read the notes and talk about how we could work together to implement Lyndsey’s suggestions. Those words were like gold to us.
Very slowly at first, and then with increasing speed, Katie began trying. She would imitate sounds with Lyndsey’s encouragement. I have never seen someone so intent on getting to know our daughter…to learn what motivated her, what discouraged her. She knew when to push Katie and when to let her just be. Lyndsey never gave up. Even when a few weeks would pass and Katie would be stalled, Lyndsey focused on the progress that had already been made rather than discussing the plateau. She came to our home every week, ready to work and to challenge our baby girl to push herself.
They have worked together, as an amazing team, every week. We look forward to Thursdays, at first to see the baby steps and now to see the sparkle in Katie’s eye when she hears Lyndsey’s knock at the door. They have a closeness that I wish I could capture and hold in my heart for always. It comforts me in a way that I can’t define.
Over the past 18 months, Lyndsey has become a part of our family. She is the person who knows Katie best aside from us. She is the one that I turn to who I know will understand the way I feel about this child. She feels it too.
She has become our friend. It is so incredibly difficult for me to relinquish control and in those early days, Lyndsey asked me to do exactly that. She asked that I focus on what I could control and leave the rest to her. She took part of our burden and let us focus on playing with Katie and released us to celebrate the progress that Katie was making across the board. She gave us back our daughter. She gave us the permission we needed to just enjoy being Katie’s parents.
Tomorrow is Katie’s last session with Lyndsey and I’m just not ready for that relationship to end. Yes, we’ll be friends. For always. But she motivates and energizes Katie in a way that I cannot. Her positive attitude is infectious and she has been such a strong presence in our lives.
I will never find the words to thank Lyndsey. I could tell her a million times over, but I have come to realize that now I am the one without words. I suspect that one conversation with Katie gives Lyndsey something that our words cannot. Katie’s development is a true testament to Lyndsey’s amazing work and diligence.
And Lyndsey’s huge gift to us is the sound of our baby girl’s voice, full of joy, saying “I love Mommy, Daddy, and Matthew,” with beautiful clarity.
Thank you, Lyndsey. We love you, we admire you, and we cherish you. You’ll be a part of our lives forever.
If you suspect that your child has a delay, please trust your gut and push for an evaluation. Early intervention plays a huge roll in helping children to overcome developmental delays. (Should Katie’s progress continue as it has, she should no longer need speech therapy once she begins school; this would likely not be the case if we hadn’t sought help as early as we did.) The process of getting services in place can be lengthy, so don’t delay. (In our case, it took six months from our pediatrician’s first referral until the time when Katie began services.) Should you no longer need the services when they become available, you can simply decline them.