Thomas would tell me that Wesley needed some help with his speech. I, for much too long, told him that Wesley was “just three” and would play down the speech concerns. One day, when Thomas noted Wesley’s need for some additional speech help, I began with my typical reply, “Thomas, he’s just thre…” and I stopped. Cause “just three” was two months shy of being four. That excuse was not going to be a valid one for much longer. There were obviously some genuine concerns to note.
Then, while playing with my cousin Leitte’s kids, Wesley came into the room and said they were doing something that bothered him and he wanted us to “hock them.” Shock? How did he even know about shocking someone? Why would he want something that extreme? “Shock them Wesley?” I asked. “No, hock them” he replied. A few exchanges later I realized it was a simple “stop” he was looking for from me. Leitte, experienced with some early intervention practices, called Wesley over and had him work on the “st” sound. While she did it, I cried a little. After Wesley went back to playing, she apologized to me, a little unsure of why I cried. I just told her that it was past time to help my little guy, and I felt bad ignoring Thomas’s valid concerns for so long.
Soon, we took Wesley to a free evaluation clinic. They did a quick flip book assessment, showing him pictures of a school, flag, frog, etc, asking him to say what each was. “Can you tell me what this one is?” she asks. “A hool” says Wesley. “You mean a school?” the assessor responds. “That’s what I said. hool” The quick assessment ended with lots a little red marks on her tally sheet, which meant nothing to my then 3 year old. Momma knew though that meant incorrect responses.
After the quick initial assessment we were asked to bring him for a follow up appointment for a longer, 40-45 minute assessment at the very start of June. Daniel and I waited for Wesley to finish and then the speech therapist, Dr. Gail, came out to speak with me about those results. Lots of technical jargon being avoided, Wesley “double qualified” for some speech services, mainly for his failure to be able to produce some sounds that should be clear for children ages 2-3, the inability to correctly produce sounds associated with any blends (hence the “hool” rather than the “SCHool” he should say), and finally, in the words of the professional, “At times you just don’t have a darn clue on what in the world he is saying.”
A few days after the follow-up assessment and his qualifying for services, the poor fella had a few breakdowns. Generally, any of his speech flaws can be reconciled due to knowing the context. However, when he asked, “Momma, where is my hiddler hask?” I was completely clueless. Attempts 1-7 of asking leading to no clarity, he ended up in tears. I felt so relieved to know we were already on the path to get him some help. Turns out, he just wanted his “riddler mask.”
We would try to correct him on his phrasing to no avail. “Daddy, can I turn on the han?” from Wesley would be countered with “It’s F-F-F-Fan Wesley. Say it right and you can turn it on, okay?” Wesley’s response? Saying “I not want it on” and walking out of the room.
A bit before school started, while getting Wesley’s haircut and the lady asks him if he is going to school. He says, “No just to beach.” “The beach?” she asks. “No beach” says Wesley. “Kindergarten?” says the lady. “Yes” Wesley finally says. Poor kid isn’t going to kindergarten or the beach. He will be going to SPEECH. Point made that the little guy needs it.
So, he’s now in speech therapy one day a week. The day of our meeting with the speech therapist was the day I left the school and had my car wreck, so Wesley’s very first day of speech was two days later, while I was still in the hospital with my wired jaw. My mom took him to the first day, and in good Momma fashion, she documented with pictures.
As part of a PSA to go along with this post, I hope you all can become aware of the phonological and language development of children. For a long time, it is normal to say words incorrectly. Eventually, however, the sounds should manifest. If they don’t, there may be a physical reason why the child can not make the sounds, and that should be assessed (no complications in this area for our Wesley). There may also just be a dropping of sounds or a compensation of sounds due to a struggle to say words correctly (this is more aligned with our boy). Regardless, early intervention is a good key for success, and if paying out of pocket for speech services is not something you can manage, check your personal insurance coverage, which could very well pay for sessions. In our case, we opted to access free public services provided to residents/tax payers if the child qualifies for such, should your state provide this opportunity. Even if your child does not attend public schools yet (like Wesley) or is an older child that is homeschooled, these services are still available to you. In our case, the Speech and Language Pathologist, Mrs. Krista, is amazing, and we have full confidence in her ability to help him, so we are keeping with this plan until we see a need to do something different. If services are still needed or advised, we will continue on with such when Wesley enrolls for kindergarten next school year (yeah I know—-how is that even almost possible!?!?)