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What My Daughter's Speech Therapy Made Me Realize About Her Mental Health

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When my daughter was a toddler, like many, we used to joke it often sounded like she was speaking a different language. She talked early and often, but at times only my husband and I could understand her. As she got even older, and we were still sometimes the only ones that could understand everything she said, some started suggesting something might be wrong. Maybe it was because I was still recovering from severe postpartum depression at this point, but that bothered me so much at first. I don’t know if I felt it was my fault or I though it somehow made me a bad mother, but it made me defensive at first. My husband and I also did not have any speech issues that I knew of when younger, but some of our family did. Eventually I gave in, got her the help she needed, which turned out to just be speech therapy, and we saw almost instant improvement. This therapy continued for a bit and helped make sure she was ready for kindergarten.

However, in second grade, one of her teachers, who we still call the best teacher she has had even years later, noticed something with her speech that most probably wouldn’t. She only noticed because her daughter had the same issue. This time, I had no guilt, and did not hesitate to accept the free speech therapy offered by the school, (well, not really free, but paid with our tax dollars, but still, we had to pay the first time, so this was nice). My daughter continued this therapy off and on through the years until recently, and it has helped her tremendously. There are other children I have known, who are now adults with a stutter, because they never got the help they needed, whether it was because the parents felt guilt or shame, or did not want their children to, or for other reasons, I do not know.

I often try to imagine if my daughter had turned out to have a more serious issue, and how I would have handled that. Looking back of course, it seems silly for me to have been so defensive about my child possibly needing speech therapy, when others have much more serious issues. Maybe one of my fears was finding out it was a more serious issue, or it was my daughter experience shaming for having it, like she wouldn’t if we tried to ignore and it and did not get help for it. Of course I felt a little guilty in retrospect, but I have learned it is important to not harp on guilt. As I recovered from my postpartum depression for instance, I also noticed positive changes in my daughter. This made me realize something I already feared, which is yes, I think our children do pick up on our depression, and the hard part is to stop dwelling on the guilt, and to work on getting better for them, and for you. My daughter does not even remember any of it now, but she does know about it, we do talk about it in case she ever goes through the same. She is now my biggest fan and encourager!

Even though her speech issues are resolved for now, she still shows signs of anxiety like me. Because of this, she often talks too fast for others to follow, especially when she gets excited. Of course, I think a lot of people, or maybe even everyone, does this to some extent when excited. I am the same way, because, even on medication, my mind is often full and I try to get it all out before I forget at times. This made some worry she still had speech issues at first, but the speech professionals agreed that was just fast talking, possibly from anxiety and possibly just from normal excitement. My daughter may have speech issues again later in middle school, or in high school, and if she does, I would again not hesitate to get her the help she needs. She also does not feel any shame, and realizes it is to help her. She is proud of how far she has come, and wants to maintain her progress, so I hope if she has any speech issues, anxiety issues, or anything else as an adult, or if she has children with them, that she does not hesitate to seek more help.

A banner promoting The Mighty's new No Shame group on The Mighty mobile app. The banner reads, Struggling with self-judgment? The No Shame group is a safe space to talk about the things that tend to make us feel bad about ourselves and how to overcome those challenges. Click to join.

Photo credit: evgenyatamanenko/Getty Images

Originally published: November 15, 2020
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