“I used to lay in bed at night, and pray and pray about her speech. This was definitely the answer to those prayers.”
When my 4-year-old daughter, Eden, was between 18 months and 2 years old, I noticed that her speech was no longer developing. Compared to other toddlers her age, she was behind in both vocabulary and articulation. I was concerned, but friends and family assured me that all kids develop differently and that she would catch up eventually. I tried to believe this for a long time, but when she was two, I took her to her pediatrician and voiced my concerns.
The pediatrician put me in contact with Early Childhood Intervention, and when Eden was two and a half, she was placed in speech therapy. After about 6 months in speech therapy with three different speech therapists, Eden had made no improvements whatsoever.
When she turned 3, she aged out of Early Childhood Intervention, and I opted to not continue speech therapy elsewhere because it wasn’t helping her. Around this time though, I was completely panicked by her lack of speech and development.
She started talking more and more and started putting strings of words together, but it was very, very choppy and pretty much impossible for people to understand. I could understand her because I was with her 24/7 and knew her patterns, and my husband could understand some, but other than the two of us, nobody ever knew what she was saying.
I worried about her constantly but didn’t know where to turn since speech therapy had been a complete waste of time and money. Since I was pretty much the only person who could understand her, she started relying on me to translate for her when she was talking to somebody else. If somebody asked her a question, she would tell ME her answer and then say, “tell them”. People were constantly commenting on how difficult she was to understand… everybody from grandparents and friends to random people in the grocery store that had come up to tell her she was cute or something.
Because she relied on me as a translator, I refused to leave her. Ever.
My husband and I never had date nights, I never left her with my parents while I ran errands, I would go months and months and months without a haircut, she would be dragged to all of my doctor appointments with me (at this time I was pregnant with our second child) because I just plain NEVER left her. I knew that nobody else would be able to understand her, and that broke my heart. I didn’t want life to be difficult for her with other people not knowing her needs, so I made sure I was always there to be her translator.
I also started isolating her. We stopped going on play dates and hanging around other kids because I absolutely could not handle listening to other kids talking and singing when she struggled so much. I couldn’t stand to hear kids that were YOUNGER than her talk circles around her. Her speech, or lack thereof, completely consumed me.
I laid in bed at night worrying about it and praying about it, I spent my days translating for her and trying to find answers on the internet. I would cry and cry because at the age of 3, she couldn’t even say “mama” correctly, and I just didn’t know why. I signed her up for preschool last April, praying that by the time August rolled around and school started that something in her would “click” and her speech would be better. But August came, and she had made no improvements.
I started considering not sending her to school after all. I was terrified at the thought of her being away from me, where I wouldn’t be able to translate for her. I was terrified that she would want to play with the other kids and they wouldn’t be able to understand her and that they would be mean to her. I was terrified that her teachers wouldn’t understand her if she needed something because at age 3 and a half, she couldn’t even say something as simple as “I need to potty”. Eden and I ended up meeting with Mrs. Machala and Mrs. Shuck at Faith Academy of Bellville the week before school started so that I could voice my concerns and they could hear Eden speak. They assured me that they would take care of her and that she would be fine, so I went ahead and sent her to preschool. It was definitely a struggle, as Mrs. Machala even told me at one point, “I can’t understand a word she says.”
A few weeks into the school year, Mrs. Machala told me that Mrs. Phariss at The Falcon Center (Faith Academy’s neurodevelopment center) wanted to meet with me and Eden about Eden’s speech. At that point, I had no idea what the Falcon Center was, but was desperate for anybody that could help me with Eden’s speech. At our first meeting, I went over Eden’s history with Mrs. Phariss, and she taught me some exercises to start doing with Eden. In addition to difficulty with speech, Eden was also a really bad sleeper. She was always an extremely restless sleeper and woke up multiple times each night.
Mrs. Phariss gave me four exercises to start doing with Eden. They were so easy! Every night before bed, we would do each exercise for a minute and a half. So it took us just six minutes total to run through the exercises each night. In addition to those four exercises, she wanted me to start rubbing Eden’s gums each day, let her drink her drinks with a curly straw, encourage Eden to blow bubbles with her straw in her drink, and little simple things like that.
Eden’s speech started improving. Like, a lot! Our friends and family started commenting on how much easier it was to understand Eden. By December, Eden had her very first sleepover with my in-laws! I finally felt comfortable enough to start leaving Eden with other people! The sleepover went great, by the way! I’m tearing up right now just thinking about what an incredible milestone that was for our family.
Eden also started sleeping much better! When I would go check on her in the middle of the night, she was peaceful and calm… and in the same position that she had been when she fell asleep hours earlier. Much different than the twisted-in-the-covers upside-down-in-her-bed positions she had been sleeping in months earlier. It’s rare now for Eden to wake up during the night.
I’ve gotten together with Mrs. Phariss two more times since our first visit to go over Eden’s progress and tweak her exercises. And Eden now? In April? It’s like a completely different child! There’s rarely a word that we cannot understand. I beam with pride when strangers come up to us now and ask her questions and they can understand her reply! She is able to hold conversations with people now! I go back and watch videos of her that were taken less than a year ago, and I’m just amazed at her progress! It’s crazy for me to even think about how far she has come since August- that when she started this school year, she couldn’t say the simplest of words. She could not even pronounce the word “hi”. (Instead she would say “di”.)
And now when I drop her off at school in the mornings, she calls across to me, “BYE MOMMY!” She sings songs. Just now, while I’m writing this, she ran into the room with a bunch of stuffed animals and said clear as day, “Look Mommy, I have three new puppies!” I just cannot get over it! I just cannot believe that such a short time ago, I refused to leave Eden’s side.
Last weekend my husband and I went on our first weekend trip away since she was born, and as I left Eden with my mom for three days, I didn’t have a worry in the world about her! Mrs. Phariss’s exercise program has been the BEST thing for her, for all of us. I used to lay in bed at night, and pray and pray about her speech. This was definitely the answer to those prayers.
Jenni Hargrave, New Ulm, Texas