When the stylist stops moving, I open my eyes to see her looking over at Equis, bemused. "What's he saying?" she asks.
My boyfriend smiles and shakes his head, "I don't know. He has his own language."
Scenarios such as this one have recently become recurring. Equis works very hard to relay information to me in his "language," but I just don't understand him unless he's pulling me towards him or whining while gesturing to an object he wants. Two months ago, I wasn't very much worried about it, although I felt frustrated that he didn't call me Mommy and that a year and a half after giving birth to him, I still had to figure out if his crying meant he needed a diaper change, was hungry or wanted to climb out his crib.
At Equis' last check up, the doctor asked me what words he says. "Daddy and nariz," I responded with pride. "He also copies sounds like the you in I love you." He narrowed his eyes and explained that my son, at 19 months old, is supposed to have at least 15 words and a vocabulary that grows daily. 15 words! I started replaying all the instances in my mind of me asking Equis to pick something up or to sit down and he looking at me blankly. What was I doing wrong?
In order to receive any needed services, Equis needed to undergo multidisciplinary evaluations. Within eight days, a service coordinator, special educator, social worker and speech therapist visited Equis to evaluate him through play and ask me repetitive questions. "Did you carry him to term?" "Did you have a natural birth?" "How many words does he say?" "Does he follow simple commands?" "Does he walk on his toes or spin in circles a lot?" "Does he watch TV for long periods of time?" "What does he do when he wants something?" "Does he drool so much that his shirt gets wet?"
At the end of her session with Equis, the special educator wasn't sure if she would recommend a teacher for Equis or not. "I have to calculate my findings," she said. "He doesn't follow simple commands unless you gesture to him what you want him to do. Like even though I showed him how to work the wind-up toy, he just threw it and didn't ask for help. He also flips through a book without looking at the actual pictures. But he's very sociable. I'll let you know." She advised me to buy bubbles to strengthen his low mouth muscle tone - that was why he was drooling so much and probably having trouble forming words.
Meanwhile, friends and family members told me not to give the issue too much thought. "Don't worry, a family friend said. "My daughter didn't speak until she was five; and now she never stops talking." My sister reminded me, "Equis is smart."
When the speech therapist placed Equis' meaningful word count at zero and his developmental age between nine and twelve months, I hid my face in my hands. I felt responsible for Equis' seven-month developmental delay. I had tried unsuccessfully to remind myself that children develop at different rates and to convince myself I would be fine with this diagnosis, that as long as my son would receive the services he needed, I'd be happy. Yet, the confirmation that Equis needed speech therapy simply made me feel like I didn't play with him enough or talk to him enough or take him to the park enough and guilty for not yet weaning him off the bottle.
"Don't cry," he said, surprised. "90% of children go through this. He'll be fine."
As I write this post, I know it's not true that my son's developmental delay means I'm a bad mom, but I wish I instinctively knew the activities I can do to help him progress. Hopefully, after our meeting with the city, Equis and I will start home sessions with a teacher and speech therapist who will teach me how to do such activities on my own.
I'll do WHATEVER IT TAKES for my son to call me Mommy.
Check out Baby Center's Warning Signs of a Language/Communication Development Delay
Have you been in a similar position regarding a child's development? How did you cope with these concerns?