Developmental Screening

Mary Hurlbut Photography

Eli had a developmental screening yesterday to see what is going on with his speech delay. I left feeling rather stunned. I know he isn’t where the pediatrician hoped he would be by now in the speech department, but I didn’t realize the problem was this extensive. I have to wait a couple weeks for the written report and besides being stunned, there was a lot of information being thrown at me in rapid succession. What I came away with was this. They say that in expressive language he scored at a 6 to 9 month old level. In the receptive language category he did slightly better, coming in at 12 to 15 months.

I never had any concerns about his abilities in other areas, but the examiners detected sensory problems. They said this is probably why his is so extremely active, rough and constantly moving, something about a lack of body awareness. They think there may be a swallowing problem behind his recent extremely picky eating. Not sure I completely follow what they were saying. I have a lot of reading to do. Of course having the actual report will help, but two weeks is a long time to wait when you’ve been given this sort of news.

Mary Hurlbut Photography

There were concerns about his eyes not working in sync with each other, so we’ll be visiting an opthamologist. And we are getting in to see an audiologist tomorrow to rule out any hearing issues, especially since I inherited moderate nerve deafness from my mother.

The recommendations yesterday included both one-on-one and group speech therapy as well as twice weekly occupational therapy.

They also recommended Eli and I try going gluten-free for a month as gluten sensitivities often go hand-in-hand with dairy allergies. It would also explain the craving he seems to have for all things made of wheat. The holidays and traveling are difficult enough when avoiding cow’s milk in all its forms. I’ll wait until the new year to do this experiment, or I’ll feel just too overwhelmed.

I’ve always felt confident about my decision to teach Eli Baby Signs, but I have received some criticism along the way from people who think I’ve caused his speech delay by allowing him to communicate this way. The speech evaluator commended me on having taught him so much signing. According to her, it hasn’t caused the delay, but is a very useful tool for him to have. He would be so much more frustrated, and we’d be seeing so many more behavioral challenges without it. It feels good to have a professional agree with my decision, and yesterday I needed something to feel good about!

So now my husband and I are trying to process all of this information (without actually having much information yet.) ¬†How can he communicating at the level of a 6 to 9 month old when he uses around 40 ASL signs now. They said they gave some credit for signing, but what baby of that age has such an extensive vocabulary? Could it be that an accurate picture of your child can’t be gotten in a 1 hour time slot that was shared by two different evaluators (one for speech, the other for the other developmental areas).

Last night Eli was begging to watch his In Performance at the White House show of Latino music again, but my husband and I wanted to unwind with TV we were more interested in. Once Eli was settled in and nursing down I asked Jeff if he wanted to watch another program (other than Parenthood which was on at the time). Eli immediately popped up and began signing “music” which is the sign he uses for the In Performance… show. It seems like he understands so much of what we are saying, even just between us adults, these days. Does that fit with a 12-15 month range? I mean, maybe it does and my expectations are just very low. I don’t know.

I visited a friend and her children today and told her a bit about all of this. She comes from an AP/natural living perspective. She said that she avoided having her son screened because she knew that he would be pegged as delayed and she didn’t want him to be labeled. Instead she has worked with him (she is a very dedicated home-schooling mother) and he has come along at his own rate of development. She sees that there is a financial incentive for labels to be given to any child brought in by parents with concerns because that soon leads to the purchase of expensive therapy.

We may have insurance for a limited time now, so I plan on taking advantage of our benefits as much as I can while I have that option. I guess I’d rather error on that side of the equation. But it does make me think. Perhaps it is ok for Eli to learn to speak a bit later than “the norm.” I don’t want to medicalize what may be what is healthy and fine for him. But inaction might mean missing a good opportunity for early intervention if there truly is a problem other than a different personal developmental timetable involved. And I don’t know how much of my thinking is rational and how much is parental defensiveness or denial at this point.

I know this post may be a bit disjointed and incoherant. Mostly I am writing to help myself process my own thoughts. I would, however, welcome any insights, personal experiences or opinions people that read this might want to share.

Thanks for reading.