How do I sum up and explain what it’s been like in our house the past few months? Some people have asked questions, some don’t know what to say and some are still in denial. It all started when Zoey was around 14 months old. She stopped answering to her name, even when we yelled it as loud as possible.
She also stopped making eye contact. I used to light up when I’d call her name and she’d turn to look at me with her big beautiful smile. She started pulling away from us, not wanting to be picked up or held. I couldn’t just walk over to my baby and hug and kiss her like I’d done many times in the past.
Zoey isn’t my first child. She has a sister 16 months older than her. Yes, I have a 3-year-old and a 2-year-old… toddlers, gotta love em! I also went to school for Early Childhood Education. I’ve been around children my whole life. I knew Zoey was not hitting milestones, and her speech was delayed. My brain knew what my heart didn’t want to know. At her 18-month checkup, I mentioned it to her pediatrician. I watched Zoey’s doctor call out her name multiple times in different tones, and my child didn’t flinch.
What followed next were two hearing tests — hearing was fine both times. It was at that point I heard, “You should have a speech evaluation done.” OK.
The Early Intervention team came to our house — a physical therapist and an early education specialist. I sat down on the floor with these two women and Zoey while my husband occupied our 3-year-old. I was asked many questions, and I sat there as they tried to involve Zoey in play and imitation. I watched as they tried to get her to make eye contact and engage with them. After the three-hour eval was done, I sat impatiently waiting for what they had to say to me about my baby. They talked about fine and gross motor skills, but that’s not what I was on the edge of my seat about. Yes, she was delayed a bit in both.
I waited and watched as this professional sat on my floor and looked at her paper, reading what she’d evaluated from being with my child. “She is a beautiful happy girl,” and then I heard a lot of things I tuned out because I could feel it in my gut, my heart and I could see it written on this woman’s face. Then the words came out. “She has the communication skills of a 6 to 8-month-old.” Zoey was 19 months old at that time.
I could feel my heart drop from my chest as I cried. Not just the teary-eyed cries you get when you watch a sad movie — really big tears dropping from my eyes like rain, making my face and shirt wet. I looked at the woman and said, “I’m so sorry… I know that must have been really hard to tell me, I’m sorry, so sorry.” I got up and walked to get a tissue for my face, and I heard her whisper to the other therapist, “That was really hard.” “Yes,” the other woman said, “but you did great.”
You see, no one wants to give or get news like that.
When we finally did see the pediatric neurologist, we had the diagnosis that day.
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