The Struggles of Having a Speech-Delayed Child
From an early age, we could tell that my son was extremely intelligent. I loved reading the development checklists the first year of his life because he was always ahead of the game. We beamed with pride with every milestone we checked off. Then came time for him to start talking. Nothing. We waited, growing anxious for him to start chattering away. We talked to him, asked him questions, read countless books, everything that we were supposed to do but he still wouldn’t talk. I had this gut feeling that he would need some extra help and he did. He had a fairly significant expressive language delay. What I didn’t realize at that point was all of the additional struggles and challenges we would have with our speech-delayed toddler.
Fear- All parents have worries about their children from time to time. When my son started trailing behind in his language development, that worry turned to fear. Would he ever talk? Would he be able to communicate effectively and make friends? I started scrutinizing his every action and comparing it to a chart I had found on the autism spectrum. I put on a brave face but inside I was scared. Would my baby be okay?
Embarrassment- Let me be clear, I am in no way embarrassed of my child. He is absolutely perfect in my eyes. However, I sometimes find myself feeling embarrassed for him. I hate when he is trying to communicate with someone and they just don’t understand him so he repeats himself countless times. I feel so bad for him when I can tell he is trying to tell someone something but the words just don’t come out right. When other kids don’t want to play with him because they can’t carry a conversation. My heart aches when I hear other kids make comments about how he can’t talk right because I know he can hear those comments too. I know his little heart aches right along with mine.
Guilt– If I had a dollar for every time I blamed myself for his speech delay, I could afford a live-in speech pathologist. Did I not talk to him enough when he was a baby? Did I not read to him enough? Did we give him too much screen time? Was it that glass of wine I had before I knew I was pregnant? These were questions I asked myself almost every day, and I still find myself doing. I finally realized that it didn’t matter what caused it and all that mattered was how we can help him. I try to put all of my mental energy into the resolution versus placing blame on myself. It is hard to do. Being a working mom comes with enough guilt, I wasn’t prepared for this added guilt.
Time-Consuming– This was a big surprise for me. I had no idea how time-consuming having a speech delayed child would be. My son started early intervention right before he turned two. He had so many assessments, evaluations, doctor appointments, hearing tests, IEPs, that I honestly lost count. This was all before he even started receiving speech services. No sooner than we got comfortable and in a groove, he had aged out of our state program and had to enter the school districts program. We had to start the process all over again. It felt like I had taken on a second job. As a working mom I really struggled with fitting everything in, luckily I have a flexible job. Through this process, I have gained an even greater amount of respect for mothers of special needs children. I have no idea how they are able to keep up with everything. They are miracle workers.
Frustration- My son gets easily frustrated and would have bad outbursts. He would scream, throw things, bite, and hit. Granted, he was only 2 but he seemed to have more of a temper than other kids his age. I learned that is a common characteristic of speech delayed children. Because they can’t communicate the way they need to, they feel the need to get physical and lash out. When he was 2 1/2. We put him in a Montessori school to get him socialization and expose him to more language. It was horrible. He got a note home almost every single day for his temper. Seriously?! I thought I had at least 10 years before I had to start worrying about talking to the principal. Eventually, we realized that it just wasn’t working out and we would take him out and give him some time to work on his speech and behavioral issues. Luckily, as his speech improved so did his temper. Not only do you have to worry about your child talking but you also have to worry about their behavior. So hard.
Delays in Other Areas- As I mentioned, my son is very bright. He self-taught himself the alphabet, how to count to 100+, and to read all by the age of 3 1/2. However, he also has delays in other areas like coordination and potty training. When he would try to put his clothes on, he was so uncoordinated and awkward. It was almost like his mind wasn’t communicating with his body effectively. In fact, this is so common that our pediatrician warned us that he would have delays in this area as well. With potty training, he was 3 1/2 before even started potty training. He seems to be all caught up right now but we were totally unprepared for all of the other developmental delays that are associated with speech delays.
Bonding– Throughout all of this, I have a very special spot in my heart for this sweet little boy. I understood his language long before others were able to and as a result, we share this very special bond. I have been rooting for him and cheering him on from the very beginning and I think he deeply understands that. We have been fighters from the very beginning and have a very special relationship because of it. There is a silver-lining in everything.
For all the moms out there with speech-delayed children, keep fighting the good fight. It is an emotional roller-coaster. One minute you are in tears because you feel so bad for your child and the very next you are over the moon because they said a four-word sentence. Hold on to those joyful moments. Be kind and fair to your child. Be kind and fair to yourself and know that this too shall pass.
Do you have a speech delayed child? What have you found to be the most surprising or challenging?
- Apps That Every Working Mom Must Have
- 5 Must Read Books to Empower the Future Girl Boss
- 5 Tribe Members that Every Working Mom Must Have
Become a Darling CEO Today!
Join today to get exclusive content and weekly tips delivered straight to your mailbox!