My fourth child celebrated his fourth birthday last weekend. It’s the perfect year for this light saber wielding, Darth Vader fearing, Yoda loving child to be turning four. We’ve already watched all six episodes that comprise the current Star Wars series, and we’re counting down the days until The Force Awakens hits theaters. The theme for his party: “May B’s fourth be with you” was an obvious choice for this kid who loves everything that hails from a galaxy far, far away. Sometimes I wonder if Mr. B actually thinks “the force” is real. We’ll be at breakfast, he’ll be bantering with his older siblings, and all of a sudden he’ll hold his hand up as if to halt them in their tracks. It’s a sight to behold, watching this preschooler try to stop a second grader with just his hand. I hate to dispel Mr. B’s notion that “the force” is real, especially since my own little dude possesses a force of his own.
“Mommy is it my turn?” Mr. B asks. He’s up on the exam table at the doctor’s office. We’re doing his and Mr. C’s annual check-ups simultaneously this year. The pediatrician and I are talking with C about how things are going with him. I’m doing my best to focus, but in the background Mr. B chatters away. “Mommy, why are there all these hoses?” He points to the various otoscopes hanging on the wall. “Mommy, should I stay here? Can I come down?” Eventually, I gently ask him for quiet, so I can give his brother’s exam my undivided attention. Having to shush a child for the sake of a sibling is not remarkable in its own right. But with Mr. B it is noteworthy. Just a couple years prior, he barely spoke.
At his two-year-check-up, our pediatrician told me he should have about 50 words. Mr. B’s vocabulary totaled less than 15 at the time. So began our journey in the world of early intervention services. Mr. B may be my fourth child, but as we started down this path, I felt like a first time mom all over again. Concepts like dyspraxia, motor planning, and sensory integration went from being foreign to familiar. I’ve always been one who tries to muddle through with laughter, and so I would joke with people: For my fourth child, I wanted a poodle in a Prada. You know, a little lap dog I could take with me everywhere and show off to the world. Instead, I got a Doberman in a duffle. He’s a lot of baggage, and he doesn’t travel easily. The chuckles I received helped deflect my own loneliness and pain with what I faced.
At one point, Mr. B received services four times a week. He went to individual sessions for speech and occupational therapy. Those therapists then visited him at school on different days. As his mother, I made my jokes to cope, but all the while I advocated for him. I regularly spoke with his teachers to make sure we were all on the same page with what he needed. At one point, I considered switching him to a school for children with special needs. I agonized over that decision, but in the end I was lucky that he could stay in his mainstream preschool. He ended up showing me that was the right choice for him.
Mr. B started off the year with a special blue cushion to sit on during circle time so that he would not lie down and lose focus. One day, his teacher told me at pick up: “Mr. B doesn’t want to use his blue seat anymore. And he promised us he would sit up on his own without it.” He’s kept that promise ever since, and eventually his progress eliminated the need for his occupational therapist to visit him at school.
Then I received this voicemail from his speech therapist: “I went to see B at school today. I took one look at him, and I had to leave. He was so involved and so in the mix with his friends, I couldn’t justify charging you for my time by staying there.” I saved that message. I admit, I like to replay it every now and again. After all, it’s been a long intense road on this path of early intervention. Kind of like the path to becoming a Jedi knight.
This summer, Mr. B gets to take a break from his occupational therapy. He’s still a Padawan to be sure and will return to meeting with his therapist once a week in the fall. But this green light to go and enjoy the summer free of appointments is a hard earned milestone for my spunky four-year-old. He was also set to take a break from speech for the summer. He’s still working on certain sounds and word retrieval, but his speech therapist felt that a short hiatus could do him good. It seems counterintuitive, but I’ve learned that sometimes a brief interlude can actually help propel things forward.
Make plans, though, and Mr. B laughs. Guess what he went and did? Somehow, somewhere, he found the “Ca” sound. Up until now, whenever he says something like “Millennium Fal-Con,” it comes out like “Millennium Fal-Ton.” But lo and behold, he turns four, and he starts uttering that hard consonant. So we’ll keep the speech therapy going this summer. In the past, it stemmed from his lack of development. Now we’re forging ahead because of what he can do.
He’s using his force. May it always be with him.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post, where writers and bloggers gather to complete the same sentence and share our variations on it with one another. This week’s sentence is “This summer…”
Your hosts: Kristi Campbell, at (http://www.findingninee.com)
Lisa Listwa (http://www.themeaningofme.com/)
Reta Jayne Pearson (http://calculatedchaos.net/)
and Allison McGrath Smith (http://thelatchkeymom.com/)