Late Talker

Nearly six months ago, our speech therapist gave Elliot a hard-to-read evaluation. She tells me now that they felt fairly sure he was autistic, but wouldn’t have said that to us then. This whole time she refused to offer us any diagnosis, saying it is too early and he’s too young. Oh how I wanted a diagnosis. I wanted specificity so that I could customize our response, work up a battle plan, research resources. I asked her if she thought it might be apraxia. “Maybe,” was all she would say. In the meantime, we treated the symptoms without knowing the source. She was right, of course. Even at the time I acknowledged it, and I definitely didn’t want to get the “wrong” label and wind up going down an unhelpful road. It wouldn’t have been good for us or for Elliot had we heard, “There’s a good chance he’s autistic” at the outset.

Now after another battery of tests we have our official answer. Late talker.

Elliot’s speech appeared. And then it surged. Now, at just past two, he tells (terrible) knock knock jokes.

He tore through the tests (when he felt like it), and wound up at a much higher age level. I’m not going to invest in this idea that he’s now advanced, any more than I believed that he was in the first percentile half a year ago. He was behind, now he’s ahead. He’s always been fine.

I’m so grateful. Even it it’s the case that he never needed such intensive (or any) intervention. We’ll never know and that’s fine. A small group of talented, compassionate adults stepped right into our lives and got to work for no other reason than a baby needed some help. I feel like every person involved likes and cares about Elliot and our family. We don’t pay a penny for any of it. I know our tax dollars do, but since when does being the recipient of social services guarantee you any kind of respect or compassion?

He says a lot with his eyes.

There’s an interesting little something with Elliot and the way he communicates with and perceives the world. He still has a little sensory strangeness. Just a few weeks ago he refused to walk on a floor of highly-polished marble. He still doesn’t like sand on his feet, but he’s graduated from screaming to complaining. He lines up his toys by type and color. He loves toy stores because there he can line up the exact same toy, snaking them through the aisle until the supply runs out. He’s a quirky boy.

In our intake interview last March the woman asked us how Elliot’s delays were affecting his life. I told her honestly they were not. Her question, though, gave me clarity on exactly what I was looking for. It was help for Elliot before he was affected. I didn’t want him to get to preschool — a year and a half away — and struggle to communicate. He’s so cheerful and sweet, and I will go to some pretty great lengths to protect those qualities in him. Some day I’ll expect him to be resilient enough to maintain in the face of adversity, but maybe we could let him get out of diapers first.

I’ll keep watching, but soon I expect this period will fade from the front of our minds. We’ve agreed that Elliot’s therapy will stop at the end of this semester, in three weeks. We’ll let his in-home teacher go at the same time. I love them, but it isn’t right for us to insist on holding onto scarce services when someone else could be using them.

I’m so glad we did it. I’m so glad we’re finished.


6 responses to this post.

  1. “I told you so” is not my default.

    I’m happy to be able to say I knew it all along.


  2. I think the brain is so plastic at these early stages of development. Early intervention makes a HUGE difference for so many different issues. I’m so happy you had wonderful support for Elliot. I’m not so sure I would be so quick to give up services…


    • I totally understand the note of caution, and appreciate it. It’s been a month or so of thinking to decide not to fight it. He may have a need in the future, but this agency/organization only deals with children two and under, so I would be starting with just their referral in the near future anyway. They’ve said I can always come back to them if I need that referral. I’m sure there are a million ways it could go off the rails, but at the moment he doesn’t have any identifiable deficits.


  3. Posted by Jeannie on November 8, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    You’ve totally done the right thing. Whether or not he “really” needed the intervention, it was what YOU needed to know that you were doing what you could for him, right?


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