With Matthew’s third birthday coming up in just 12 days (oh my goodness, I am about to have two 3-year olds!!), we are working to phase him out of early intervention. Early Intervention is our state program that offers services to children who are developmentally behind from birth to three years old. Once the child turns three, their local school system takes over if services are still required. We have had multiple meetings with our local school so that they could evaluate Matthew and see where he stands developmentally.
To receive services through the school system, the child has to show an even greater delay than is required to receive early intervention services. Since Matthew has thrived so much in early intervention, I wasn’t expecting that he would qualify for much. Their services range from things like 5 day/week preschool to simply having a therapist work with your child once/month on speech, or even having someone consult with your child’s preschool teacher at a private school, like where we send Isaac. I knew he would qualify for some kind of speech help, at least I thought he would, but like I said, he has come so far.
Our eligibility meeting was yesterday. I won’t leave you hanging. He showed significant delays in multiple categories. If it was just speech, then they would have just called it “speech delay” but because his delays included speech, social-emotional, and cognitive, he got labeled as Developmentally Delayed.
And I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that it made me sad and defensive and lots of other feelings all at the same time. Because it is a label. And I know it doesn’t define him and it doesn’t mean he is dumb or handicapped or anything, but I don’t like it.
I am not saying they are wrong. I agree with the results. But it is hard to hear because I know how smart he is. He knows his shapes, he can count to ten, he knows all of his colors, even stupid colors like gray, he knows his animals and the sounds they make. He can recognize all numbers and some letters.
But he can’t tell me when he wants juice.
And last week for the very first time he told me he was hungry. And that was HUGE.
You might wonder why he scored so low on the cognitive testing when he is so very obviously brilliant (because, he is!!). They consider a child to have “mastery” over something when they can do it in multiple situations with different people, etc. For instance, if just about anyone asked Isaac to name body parts, he could do it. Here at home, at school, at the park. And Matthew can and will do that stuff for me. But he refused to do a lot of things for the teacher. And he said “no” to everything she said. Even when he meant yes. Unfortunately that is not uncommon with him. So that didn’t help too much.
He works so hard. SO HARD. You can see him working when he is trying to tell me something, when he is trying to recall information. Jason and I laugh because sometimes he moves his head up and down with the effort to say certain words–I joke that he has to rattle the words out of his head.
And yes, he has only been home for 5 months–I am not saying I expected more from him or anything like that. But speech has been REALLY, REALLY hard. From what I hear from other adoptive parents of toddlers, I suspect he is having a harder time than most other kids. And I want him to get help. He deserves it. We all deserve it.
And I am so very grateful that help is available to us, to him. Did I mention that this preschool is FREE? Yes, I do love free things. But this free thing hurts just a little.
I am feeling very conflicted about all of it.
We will take advantage of it. In the end, this is where he will go, he will receive services that he needs. They have a specially tailored plan to help him meet measurable goals. And he will blow them away.
But I am mourning too. I thought my boys would be together next year at the preschool we know and love. In different classes, but seeing each other in chapel and on the playground. I am mourning this new “label” (and yes, I still know it doesn’t mean anything and it’s not like he’s wearing a scarlet letter, but cripes!!), especially because I was starting to forget he had any kind of special needs at all. When he first came home, I thought about his diagnosis non-stop and would watch his behavior and wonder if it was a side effect of his condition. But recently, I find myself forgetting that he is anything but a typical boy. I go days and weeks without considering the condition of his brain. And they reminded me. And I didn’t want to be reminded.
Developmentally delayed is not the label I wanted my child to have, and it is certainly not the way I think of him.
If I had to put a label on Matthew, I can think of a few that fit much better:
Best Turn Taker
Meanest Stink Eye
Biggest Bacon Lover
Hairiest Toddler Ever
Owner of the Roundest and Fastest Flowing Tears
Never Being the First to Let Go during a Hug
Most Gentle and Loving 2-Year Old, especially with Babies and Small Animals
Genius–uh huh, I said it. Mark my words.
Oh yes, I can think of plenty of labels for my little boy, and I’m sure his preschool teachers will enjoy finding out ALL of these wonderful things about him next year as well.