It’s been a frequent aside mention for months in this blog. My kid isn’t talking even though he is almost twenty months. He is certainly vocal. He certainly communicates. He most certainly understands everything I say. His memory is fine. He tells jokes and is surprisingly considerate of other people much of the time.
Last night was the long awaited behavioral assessment courtesy of a private nonprofit early intervention agency/program and federal/state social investment.
I’ve spent much of the time between the initial phone call and this appointment not feeling concerned, and, frankly, a bit curious about the process this entails. I am trained and practiced in literacy intervention which has some components of speech and language, but my population is older adolescents or adults. Even with the help of the expertise of Google, I don’t really have a good handle on early speech. Little Man seems to do things that aren’t listed, but nowhere near the things that are in this area.
Of course, everyone has an opinion and suggestion. I wish I had financial reimbursement for every time I’ve heard, “He’s a boy.” Through this waiting process I continued to watch and interact with my happy and loving little man and turn a blind ear to the outside noise because it is just that, noise.
The afternoon arrived. Three women would be conducting the normed assessment. I asked a couple of questions as a special educator who has administered my fair share of these types of things; I certainly have my biases regarding normed assessments and what they reveal. I’ve also cultivated a fine cynicism regarding interventions and the role of corporations. This isn’t to say that I’m hostile or not open, but approach this process and its results with caution.
While the women were professional and seemingly ethical, it occurred to me that they were quite conservative in their conclusions of my son’s accomplishments in all areas tested. While their determination wasn’t completely off base in grey areas, I could see the undertone of the most likely scores to receive services once everything was tallied. I understand these places are a business, so this is not to say that there was an air of sketchiness requiring me to take a long shower into the early morning, rather an interesting note. My son barely met the benchmark for receiving services in communication, but he did technically qualify. He isn’t talking yet and no one can say why, so qualification is not necessarily bad or unwelcome news.
We will be contacted in a couple of weeks by a caseworker. In the meantime we received a few recommendations to bridge the gap until our sessions begin. Two I already do without results thus far. The other won’t hurt, but I couldn’t help but wonder if all the recommendations were chosen because they sound like they would be effective or because research and data determined they are. But, it isn’t worth the fight. Their suggestions won’t do harm and aren’t all that cumbersome, so why not? Such an interesting state of mind; imagine if other professional areas relied on the same guiding principles…
I sound rational and together right? Then maybe you can explain why I broke down when I had a moment to lie down after returning home. As much as I know my son’s language delay is not my fault; it isn’t anyone’s; it very much feels that it is. I’m his primary caregiver, so shouldn’t it be on me to shepherd my wonderful offspring through his development?
I’ve had so many similar conversations over the years with families confronted with mental illness. Often it isn’t anyone’s fault. Bad luck. Bad genes. Whatever, it doesn’t matter… But, now I’m on the other end sitting through almost two hours of a process I only vaguely understand. While I knew some of the skills tested were well beyond what is reasonable for my son at this time, every failure of his to produce the desired result felt like my failure to him. I had no notion of where each skill presented fell in the age range. He happily played along, charming the room, but the constant ill ease through the assessment duration sat on my head, pressing down until well after the results were presented.
It sounds crazy. Maybe because I’m pregnant. Maybe because I began the week feeling delicate because of another issue occurring a mere couple days ago. Maybe I don’t want my son to struggle as I did for so long. At the end of the day the answer to “maybe” isn’t important, rather its existence.