No one knows your child better than you. Not your friend with kids similar ages to yours. Not relatives who see your child a handful of times per year (and usually in giant-sized group settings). Certainly not all those medical experts with fancy degrees and titles that spend anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour and think they ‘know’ your child. Oh, and let’s not forget those fancy checklists of symptoms where at one point you could say “yes” to almost everything (because all toddlers do them at some point).
You are the expert on your child.
No one, but you.
You see her in the morning when she throws opens your bedroom door, worn and loved stuffed-bunny in hand, to drag you downstairs for the start of another day. You see the smile and the greeting. You see her figuring out a puzzle she’d never seen before, one piece-at-a-time. You see her gentle touch as she strokes her baby brother’s head, and again, smiles at you as if to say, “This is my brother.”
There’s love there. And understanding.
Without saying a single word.
As a parent, you know your child. You know it in your gut when they’re acting a bit ‘off’ and then the next morning they wake up with a runny nose. You know when they’re uncomfortable and unsure because they tell you in a hundred different ways – ways that you can’t write out on a checklist to give to the babysitter.
You just know. You’ve been around them for so long, are so attuned to them, listening and helping them….
And because you know your child so well, as much as a person can without actually being that other person, you know when something’s “wrong.”
You get that sense, that little niggly warning bell in your tummy that tells you something isn’t right. That something’s wrong.
You get that sense because you’re a parent, and a damned good and loving one.
So when you don’t get that sense, when the warning light doesn’t go off but everyone else might say differently?
Trust yourself as a parent and what you feel.
Trust in your child.
My warning bells and intuition never went off with Kate, especially with her not talking. Sure there’s a speech delay, but in our quieter, mellow home housed so far by three introverts, we’re okay with that. We prefer it. And it was always Kate’s nature to be quieter than most kids. We’re okay with letting her speech come at her own time and pace.
We trusted her then. We trust her now.
We also trusted our intuition as parents that said, “Don’t push.”
And our intuition is still saying the same thing, probably even louder now since we started the at-home speech therapy. I can literally see Kate putting the pieces of language together, bit-by-bit. Working and trusting the words. And it’s a slow process, but it’s there. If you look for it.
And when you do see it, when you see all these little successes, all the inching forward she’s doing, you know that this is happening, but at her pace.
It can’t be pushed or rushed or forced.
Trust in the process and in your child.
Which makes it all the more challenging when those other people burst in on your lives, on your happiness, on your sense of peace and trust in your child, with their own opinions. I want to tell them all, from friends to our pediatrician with her checklist and stack of referrals, to mind their own damn business.
I know my kid. Mine.
If it was your kid or heck, even if it was Eric, then we’d be doing things differently and be on a different path because Each. Child. Is. Different. They require a different touch and a different approach and a different understanding.
Some people will say, or hint, that we’re blind because we’re parents.
I say bullshit.
As parents, we know. We know because we are so attuned to them. We know because we love them.
It’s taken me a good two weeks to process my emotions and thoughts after seeing Kate’s pediatrician for her three-year check up. The visit wasn’t terrible, and not as bad as it could have gone, but I left with a sense of frustration. How the doctor kept pushing for a follow-up appointment with the neurologist. How the doctor repeatedly commented on how social Kate was acting, the eye contact, the ‘showing’ me the tuning fork the doctor let her play with (all of which are good signs). And then the doctor saying, “Well, she’s severely speech delayed.”
No shit, Doc.
It was later I realized her response was because she didn’t know what was going on. She didn’t know what was ‘wrong’ with Kate because Kate didn’t (and does NOT) fit the checklist for autism.
Except for not talking.
(We won’t even mention the fact how there are a whole bunch of kids like Kate, kids who are late-talkers, that can have different language disorders that are in no way linked with autism, but the doctor wasn’t too impressed when I told her this.)
The doctor repeatedly ignored what I had to say about Kate, the progress she was making with speech therapy, and how we wanted to go at her pace. She ignored me, the mother and expert on this child. Instead she wanted me to see some other medical expert that, as a family, we had already decided wasn’t right for Kate.
This isn’t to say that seeing a neurologist is bad or not a good choice for you or your family, but it’s not right for us at this time.
For one, Kate is making progress, but it’s slow. At her pace. We trust in that. Also, we are not going to do any testing… which is about all the neurologist could do at this point. So, no… no MRI for my 3-year-old who wouldn’t understand what was going on, or why, and how she shouldn’t be scared when they stick her in the metal tube and asked to sit there, nice and calm….
No, thank you.
There’s also no rush to get Kate “school ready” since we choose a different path for that as well.
As parents, we looked at our family, our values, and made decisions.
Of course, this made it even more upsetting to hear the opinions of a close friend in regards to Kate and our choices… and fighting me on those choices. And while my friend’s opinions were mostly supportive and encouraging, didn’t make that other 10% hurt any less. Like how she was arguing with me about how helpful a diagnosis could be, even though we’re not going through our health insurance or the school system where special education services could be helpful… not to mention how a mental illness, misdiagnosis or not, can stay with the child for the rest of their life. (Meaning, you look with both feet before you leap.) My friend kept pushing and telling me how a neurologist could see if/where in the brain the motor issues might be occurring… even though I told her, repeatedly, no testing (she finally shut up when I mentioned the MRI).
My point with all this is we didn’t come to any of our decisions lightly. We evaluated, researched, talked it over, and most importantly, decided to trust in our parent-sense and in Kate.
These are our decisions, for our Kate.
Yours can, and will, be different. And they should be.
We’ve chosen to not see a neurologist, who may or may not be supportive of what what we want as parents. Instead, we’ve found her a phenomenal speech therapist, are paying quite a few pennies out-of-pocket, because she means that much to us. And, we’re reaching out to known experts in late-talking children (I highly recommend Stephen Camarata’s, “Late-Talking Children: A Stage or Symptom?” or even speaking with his wife, Mary Camarata who has her own private practice, latetalkersconsulting.com). These are people we’ve found we can trust and help guide as further.
People who are on our side, as parents.
As parents, we’re not powerless. I can choose to find another pediatrician (which is definitely on the table). I can choose to see this ‘friend’ less or not at all. Right now, I need people who are 100% on my team. People who trust me, as a parent, to know my child best.
Frankly, I’ve worked too hard to get to this place. I’m happy. I have a sense of peace and hope for the future. I’m not living in worry and missing Kate growing up or even Eric. Because that’s what happens if you let the worry and fear control you. You miss it. And these are times that you will never get back.
Those first couple of months, when I was fighting through the system of early intervention and insurance, trying to come to grips with what the ‘experts’ were telling me versus what I knew of my child… those months are gone. The memories wiped clean, like I have this big gaping hole. And it wasn’t just of Kate, but of Eric too.
I’ll never get that time back.
So now, I’m choosing to live in trust. In myself. In Kate.
She will talk.
I have no doubt of this. I know this, with my entire being. Because I’m a parent. Because I’m her mother.
And I’m going to trust in that. Always.