As my daughter turns four, we've been grappling with the real possibility she suffers from a language disability. Around spring time, a couple of things happened: I heard from yet another preschool teacher that my kid was lagging behind socially, and was very reticent to speak up in group settings. I mentioned that part of it might be emotional regression from having a younger sibling, something the teacher hadn't considered.
Still, something else forced my hand: kiddo was very sick for a couple of days, and it all ended with a trip to the emergency room because she was unable to communicate it to us, so we didn't really notice she was not doing well until it was extremely obvious (note: she's doing super good now, it just was one of those childhood scares you get here and there). That's when the alarm bells sounded for us that her lag in speaking was not necessarily typical.
Now, let me be clear: it's not something as bad as selective mutism, or that she hardly speaks any words. Kiddo knows a great deal of words. It's just that it takes forever to get her to talk to people, and sometimes we have to suggest words to her to help her get her ideas out. While this is not necessarily atypical of 2 to 3 year olds, my kiddo seems to be *stuck* in that stage as she ages, which is starting to worry us.
Slowly, we're making our way through the problem. Her pediatrician suggested a visit with an audiologist first, for a test she passed with flying colors. Next, we were referred to a speech therapist, and also told to contact Seattle Public Schools for a special needs sceening. Surprisingly, SPS was more proactive than the speech theraphy firm (who had no spots for May, and were supposed to call me back when something opened up, but never did). In September, we went to a screening appointment with SPS, whereby they determined that they needed further screenings. That's going to take place in the near future.
After that, I could no longer live in the land of denial. Something WAS/is wrong. Ironically, Giada is talking more these days (moving to a PreK with older kids over the. summer helped), but she's having real difficulties with her pronouns (I/me he/she). I spent a few sleepless nights wondering if maybe her traumatic birth resulted in a TBI of sorts (when she was a newborn, she would stick her tongue out a lot. The hospital staff told us it was "neurological confusion" that she should grow out of eventually, and as far as the tongue sticking, it did), if being unmedicated for anxiety during her pregnancy messed things up, or... Finally, after bursting into tears during therapy about it, I decided I needed to pursue any avenue I could to know. I just need to know.
In order to do that, we were referred to Seattle Children's Hospital's Autism Center. My daughter doesn't have autosm, we don't think, but the pediatric neurologists there might know what's going on. We just have to get through being on a waitlist for a while. That's the part that sucks for me. Like any part in my position, I want to fix this, and fix it now. That's making a huge assumption that this is "fixable" and it won't affect her future in adverse ways.
So the sleepless nights continue, with my wondering what's going on. My educated guess as a non expert: a language disorder, in which case I know of a lab whose services she might have to use throughout her childhood. But hey, if that turns out to be the case, I'm doing better than most parents in similar situations: I know where to look for help, at the very least.
The autism thing? Too soon to rule it out. That said, this would be the mildest form of autism I've ever seen: kiddo communicates, wants to, and understands many things, in surprising ways.
Recently, we discovered how awesome Carkeek Park is. As five plus years Seattleites, you'd think we'd have known about it sooner, but while I knew about it, somehow I never found a time to visit, until recently, that is. On one of what have been uncharacteristically sunny September weekends, we finally visited, and it was glorious. While our youngest basically crawled around, Giada went on her first see-saw, slid down the salmon slides, and had a great time.
Chris wanted to explore the coast on the west end of the park, so we did. It was great, minus the part where there was some sort of runoff that looked suspicious. "Let's not wade in there, okay?", I told my kid. We went around, and went to the beach part, where a good time was had with skipping rocks. On our walk back, I saw another mom chasing a toddler away from the same runoff. "See?", I pointed out, "No one is going in there". Without missing a beat, my kid said "But birds", so I had to admit "Yes, the birds are going in, but they have no moms or dads who know any better".
Or there is how recently my pumpkin looked at her crying brother who had been up all night with a low grade fever and said "Mom, he's crying. Germs make him sad". We've never talked to her about herms, save in the context of "clean your hands so you avoid getting sick". She's made the sick=sad connection on her own.
Then there's how she always knows how to make her brother stop a tantrum by distracting him and making him laugh, or stories I've gotten second hand from teachers about her sitting next to a friend on a bad day, saying nothing, but clearly communicating with action "I know you're sad, but you aren't alone".
I don't think autism is it.
Again, though, not knowing what we're dealing with makes it somewhat worse. I know one thing though, and I hope she knows it too: whatever happens next, I will be there. It's the best I can do, and when it turns out not to be enough, hopefully I've agthered other people in her corner who caaan help her where I can't. That's my hope.