(At the Blue and Gold Banquet in March)Late last summer, Gage started talking. He was two. He said probably four words or so. I thought, "Well, he's been slow to start talking, but that happens to a lot of people." And lots of people have told me stories to the effect of, "My brother didn't say one word until he was three. And then he started speaking in full sentences!" (You need to say the previous quote with a southern accent. It's just funnier that way. Try it. See? Some things are funnier said with a southern accent. I'm just sayin'.)
So I chalked up his slow start to that. I had also heard that, if your child is really into his gross motor skills, he's not as likely to work as hard on his speech. And Gage is the Gross Motor Skills King. The GMSK. The kid throws, climbs, runs, jumps, etc. all day long.
(Easter Morning)Then his speech disappeared. He didn't say anything. Not even the four words he was saying. I wouldn't hear a peep from him for weeks at a time.
I think I was in denial. I didn't want to see that there was a problem. Plus, at the time we were going through all this testing and form-filling-out for Micah to see if he could qualify for school district help with his mood disorder/anxiety. (Which he didn't, by the way. They don't have funding to get help for preschoolers with mental disorders. Only physical.) So my plate was full. Ben had just gotten home, and quite honestly, that was a big adjustment for all of us. Life was crazy. So I put off this stuff with Gage. Duh.
(With Micah's preschool class at the fire station, spraying the hose.)Soon after Ben came home, he said, "Karlenn, I don't think Gage can hear."
"What are you talking about? He follows directions."
"Yeah, I guess, but do you notice that sometimes he doesn't turn to you when you say his name?"
"Hmmm. Well, I don't know. I just figured he was ignoring me."
We were at the dinner table, and Gage was next to Ben and looking away from Ben, out the window. To test his theory, Ben yelled, "Gage!"
Gage didn't turn toward him.
Ben tried again. "Gage!"
Still no response.
Gage finally turned toward Ben, started crying, and threw a french fry at him.
I was like, "See? He can hear. He was just ignoring you."
More denial on my part.
(Does this picture need explaining? Nope.)
But that really bothered me, that Gage wasn't responding to his name and that he wasn't talking. The A-word started worming its way into my brain. No, not that A-word. A different A-word. Autism. A gal who works with Gage in the nursery asked another gal in the nursery, who is my good friend, "Do you think Gage is autistic??" My tender-hearted sister, Beads, when she came out for a visit in February, started crying when she first interacted with Gage. "He doesn't speak, Kar. What if he has autism??"
That's when I started to get worried.
(This is probably my favorite picture of all time.)
So I called the Good Ole' Infant/Toddler Program. They're my besties. We go a LONG way back. Sadie for speech. Micah for developmental delay. And now Gage. Three out of four kids. Yessssss.
I'm starting to wonder if there's something wrong with the combo of Ben's and my genes that we make kids with problems...
(He looks like a greaser, with his sleeves all rolled up like that. Now he just needs to tuck a cigarette pack into his sleeve, and he's good to go. If you've never read The Outsiders, that joke might be lost on you...)
But seriously, I love the Infant/Toddler Program. They're government funded. And they have helped our family so much. Sadie can speak because of them. The therapists that worked with Micah figured out why he was failing to thrive, and the therapy he was provided helped him to no longer be developmentally delayed. The program has meant the world to me.
So the program came and did all this testing and it was decided that Gage needed help with his speech. So a speech therapist started coming. And Gage LOVES her. I love her. She is a total doll. We see her once per week. I usually have to come up with an engaging, fun activity for Micah to do while the therapist is here, because he wants to play with them and doesn't want to get left out. Yesterday while she was here, Mike and I made cookies.
(I love when he squinches his eyes up like that. Yes, I just made up that word. Squinches.)
We got Gage's hearing tested with a speech pathologist, and he failed. So the therapist and I were both like, "He may need tubes." Then I took him to a pediatrician, who examined Gage and said, "There's tons of fluids in there, but no infection."
That's what's been so hard about this whole process - until two days ago, Gage has never, ever had an ear infection.
(At a local dairy for another field trip with Micah's preschool)So the pediatrician referred us to an ENT. The ENT was like, "I don't trust the speech pathologist's test. It's not advanced enough. I want Gage to go to an audiologist to take a more in-depth test."
So we went to the audiologist. (Can you hear the money being shuffled out of our wallets at this point? Imagine that sound. Because that's what happens when you have crappy insurance. $100 for every doctor visit. Until you reach your $3000-per-person deductible. Which you don't ever reach.)
And Gage passed the audiologist's test with flying colors.
(Running through the sprinklers. He refused to do so without a shirt on.)
What I've learned from all of these therapists and case workers is that sometimes, fluid fluctuates. It comes and goes. Every hour. Or every day. Or every week. Some days, Gage is responding to his name and using his words. Some days, nothing. So the one day we took him to the audiologist, there was no fluid. He heard fine.
So the ENT said he wouldn't put tubes in Gage's ears.
So for the past two months, the speech therapist has been teaching me sign language to help my child communicate with me. A lady from the school for the deaf comes once a month and tests his hearing. He failed his most recent test.
(Gage loves to dip things in veggie dip and then just lick the dip off. He does that over and over again. There is no ingesting of actual vegetables going on there.)
And my Incredible Hulk Anger started bubbling inside of me. I was just frustrated that the doctor wouldn't trust my opinion about what we're dealing with. Or the speech therapist's opinion. Or the pediatrician's opinion. Or the lady from the school from the deaf (who is herself hard of hearing) - her opinion. I know that getting tubes in a kid's ears is surgery, but it's very minor. And lots of kids have it done. My sister sometimes does pediatric anesthesiology, and she says that they'll put 30 sets of tubes in kids per day. It takes 15 minutes. The kids are running around playing that night. It's very, very minor.
So I decided to assemble a mass of evidence for the ENT. I had the therapist write him a letter. I had the lady from the school from the deaf give him her most recent test, which Gage had failed. And then when Gage got his ear infection Monday, I was like, Yessss! (Isn't that sad?) More evidence! And I had that doctor send her notes to the ENT. Then I set my appointment.
It was this morning. Before I left, I did this thing that a psychiatrist I worked for always told his patients who are a little too timid to do: Picture yourself as a woman you know of who is powerful. You are Hillary Clinton. You are Oprah. You are Martha Stewart. You are Joan of Arc. You are Queen Elizabeth. You are whoever you see as a powerful woman. You are in her body. You are going to this doctor's appointment with your head held high and your agenda on your brain. You will make him see reason. So I did that, flexed my biceps a few times, did an Incredible Hulk yell, and went.
And after much discussion, the ENT finally said yes to tubes. Gage gets them on June 12th. Another piece of good news - he got accepted into a special preschool that will help him with his communication skills. It's free for two entire years. They pick him up from my front door and drop him off at my front door. It's going to be so good for him. Especially if he can hear by that time.
So we're on the road to getting my little man caught up. And I'm sooooo thrilled.