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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Thursday Thoughts: Speech and Preschool Worries

I know I originally said my Thursday theme would be thankfulness, but I wanted to do something more open-ended. I need a day when I can just write about whatever is on my mind. 

And Calvin's speech problems are heavy on my mind this week. 

He talks a lot at home now. He knows that, for the most part, I understand him and sometimes he uses sign language or just gestures to help clarify what he's saying. He can have a conversation with me, tell me what he is thinking about, ask for things he wants. He has opinions, he has complaints, like any other 3-year-old. He says funny things, he even sings songs. And I can figure out what he's saying or singing. I understand him because I spend the most time with him by far. 

Good news is that we do think the surgery he had last March to repair his submucous cleft palate has made a difference. He sounds less nasal and he seems able to create the pressure he needs to produce sounds. But his articulation problems are severe. It's like his brain and his mouth muscles have the hardest time figuring out how to make certain sounds. He has to concentrate so hard to put his lips together and say "mmm" or "ba" and there are some sounds he can't figure out how to make at all. 

Sometimes I forget how problematic his articulation is because I'm so used to the way he talks. Other people cannot understand him like I can. Especially other kids. In fact, he doesn't even try to talk much to other people besides myself and James. I think he knows they won't understand him. But it doesn't stop him from being social and friendly! He just relies a lot on nonverbal communication, which he has become really good at - body language, gestures, facial expressions... and it always helps if the person he's trying to communicate with knows a few ASL signs. 

This is why I'm so worried about him going to preschool. He's so clever and capable. He's independent and social. He's even careful and thoughtful. But what is he going to do when no one understands what he says? How far is that nonverbal communication going to get him in a school setting?? How will he show his teachers and classmates how much he knows, how much he can learn, if they can't understand him like I can?

He will still get speech therapy. In fact, his speech therapist will be right there at the school, and his speech doctor at Stanford is going to try to get him increased therapy sessions. 

Learning to communicate without me there to translate could push him to make progress out of necessity. 

And we can get him language boards or let him use his talker app if it seems like he needs that kind of thing. 

But I am afraid it will break his little heart. 

I'm afraid he'll get frustrated and feel hurt. I'm afraid that the frustration will diminish his outgoing spirit. 

I know that kids are resilient and I believe that Calvin is resilient. My hope is that the benefits of a preschool experience will outweigh the difficulties. My prayer is that the challenges will help him discover that he is able to work hard to overcome them. That's how people learn, right? That's how we become strong and capable - by facing challenges and finding ways to work through them. 

In a way, I'll be right there with him doing my own learning and growing as I work through the challenges of figuring out how and how much to support him, and coping with letting go and giving him the chance to get out there, be himself, and learn for himself. 

It's so scary, y'all. I have so much worry and I'm trying so hard to let go of that worry and hold on instead to the hopes, the goals, and the good possibilities. Is it this hard for every parent to send their kid to preschool?? 

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