By Leslie Lindsay
I recently connected with a mother eager to share her story of apraxia. I couldn’t have been more touched by her words, her son Finlay, and the lessons we all learn from those sweet, everyday moments–the ones that take your breath away and the ones that turn your world upside down in a sparkly snowglobe. I think you’ll nod and appreciate her sentiments. Leona hails from the UK where she is a former-primary-grade-teacher-turned-full-time mummy to a son and daughter.
“It was a moment that most other parents of five year olds would take for granted.
We were at a party of one of my son’s classmates. The guy in charge was asking the children their names as they came in. Other parents chatted between themselves, looking relaxed, not really taking notice of what was happening, it all seemed so natural for them. I, on the other hand, was hovering behind my son, making sure I wasn’t too far away in case I was needed to translate; to be his voice as I had been for such a long time now.
“What’s your name mate?” The instructor asked.
I waited, watching carefully as my little boy said “Finlay.” We had been working on it for months, first learning to make a “f” sound, so that we could at least use Fin (even this seemed so effortful for him at first and at times it felt like he would never be able to do it) and eventually a “l” sound. I had witnessed so many of these occasions. It started off as a kind of ‘H-i-ay’, moving on to Hin-ay, then even at Finway people still looked blank faced as my little boy persisted on trying to tell them who he was, not understanding why they didn’t know what he was saying.
But today we had ‘Finlay’. And the instructor looked back, I was there, ready to re-iterate ‘Finlay’, when he replied “Hi Finlay, my name is Matt”.
And that was it, a simple moment that suddenly felt like the best moment in my life. I felt myself getting tearful, wanting to tell the whole world about it. I don’t remember ever feeling so happy or proud before.
There were so many of these moments that I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid about with my daughter. But having a child with a speech disorder makes you realise how much you take for granted.
Going to see Father Christmas was another one of these stressful times. It was okay when I was there but this year they were getting a special visit from the Main Man in school. I wouldn’t be there to help and this made me anxious. I spent a week before the day practising with him how to say ‘Ben 10 toy’. I knew that he would be able to manage this and I could feel safe knowing that he wouldn’t be asked to repeat himself several times or to have to see those blank expressions staring back at him.
When he decided he wanted a school dinner instead of his usual packed lunch, this again led to more worrying. Will he be able to ask for what he wants? He can’t say please properly yet. What if he doesn’t know what to do and needs to ask somebody?
And then there were the comparisons with other children. Hearing other children, younger children, chatting away with ease. Even his older sister began to notice the difference and would innocently pass comment. Occasions with friends and their little ones would always leave me with a sad feeling wondering why isn’t my little boy getting it? What are we doing wrong?
People make well-meaning comments, hoping, I guess to make you feel better, worry less maybe. “Oh he’ll get there in the end”, “He’s a boy, they talk later anyway” and worse still the “I talk/read/play with my little one all the time”. As if having a child with speech disorder automatically means that you must have clearly ignored them for the first few years of their lives. I may have naively (in private) shared some of these views before I had my son. Our house is filled with books, we talk all the time to our children and when I had my daughter speech came so naturally to her, but despite doing all of these things again with my son it just didn’t happen for him.
The truth is, having my son has taught me a lot of things. Not just about speech but in the last twelve months I have read every piece of research I could find. I have joined discussion forums, read books, followed up the advice of our therapists and basically become a bit of an amateur therapist (not an expert by any means but I certainly have a wealth of knowledge on a subject I knew very little on not so long ago).
That one simple moment at that party felt like the start of all of that worry, the stress, the guilt, the needing to be there listening to every conversation ready to jump in, melting away.
I will often listen to Finlay chatting away to people now, or chatting away to us at 6:30 in the morning and I can’t help but smile to myself.
I don’t need to jump in nearly as often now but I will still keep an ear open, just in case. We are not at the end of the journey yet but he has come a long way and life is already beginning to feel a little more relaxed. I doubt I will ever take these situations for granted though, we’ve worked far too hard to get there and every little triumph is a special moment.”
Many thanks to Leona for sharing her heartfelt story–an inspiration to us all.
If you are interested in guest-posting a story/proud moment/struggle of triumph, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!