In addition to the holidays, trying to figure out life with 3 thousand babies, now holiday hangovers, Grammy Detox, laundry for 3 thousand babies, etc..., we've had a few things going on with Shepherd that deserves a post all to itself.
When Shepherd was around 15 months, I started getting a little concerned about his speech. He was hardly saying anything and really would only say "dada" for everything. There started to be a lot of pointing and yelling and the frustration set in both on our part and his.
We started a conversation with our pediatrician who at the time wanted us to really watch and be concerned with his comprehension more than necessarily the words he was using. He said he was happy to have him evaluated but also felt comfortable watching him with a little bit more intentionality on our parts.
After that, we came home and watched him and felt that he could comprehend most things and we updated our doctor accordingly. But as we have watched him a big word kept coming up that couldn't be ignored: INCONSISTENT. Some days I would feel like he had a great understanding of what I would say and a lot of days he wouldn't. And the frustration continued.
You would think that since he was our second child we would be able to tell if he had a speech delay, but because his big sasster is gifted differently than him, and tends to excel at all things verbal, I didn't really know what a good middle "normal" was.
At Thanksgiving, I observed his behavior with his cousins (At the time: Cohen 2.5 yrs, Jackson 16months, Cason 10 months) and just noticed some subtle differences that I couldn't ever really articulate but the best way I can describe it is just that the way he digested the world around him was just a little big different.
At this point his vocabulary was about 6 words: Daddy, fish, cookie, balloon, uh-uh, and bubble. (Occasionally ball, duck, and outside but not regularly).
I decided I was ready to have him evaluated for peace of mind and I just needed some resources to help me parent him well during this season. I was coming to an end of my limited knowledge.
So we called our pediatrician's office who referred us to ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) Services. It is a public service and the evaluation was free. I called them and made an appointment for a couple weeks out to have him evaluated, my main concern being his delayed speech.
The day of his evaluation I felt like was an average day for him: not his best and not his worst. We went into their office for the evaluation (A lot of friends who have worked with ECI have had the experience where they came to their house for the eval). Even though our main concern was speech, the evaluation is comprehensive on all areas of development. They explained to me that while the evaluation was very clinical, ECI services after the eval were very customized to each child. To qualify for services there needs to be a 25% delay in any area and then we could work on a plan. They also explained that they had to evaluate him on what they saw that day, even though there might be some discrepancy since he was in a new environment around people he didn't know.
The evaluation was long - almost 2 hours - and consisted of interaction with Shepherd and questions from me. 3 women with different roles conducted the eval and I was really impressed with each of them. Very warm people who obviously loved children and loved their jobs.
Afterward, they left the room to calculate his score and came back in about 15 minutes later to discuss everything with me. They explained that Shepherd shows delays in every area: Adaptive, Personal-Social, Communication, Motor, and Cognitive.
Part of me was relieved to have affirmation for my concerns and I was also a little sad. After they explained the results of the evaluation to me, they explained that Shepherd definitely qualified to receive services from ECI. I chose to enroll in the program right away and we started setting some goals for Shepherd.
We were assigned a team of 3 people who will come to our house: 1. A Case Manager who keeps his file up-to-date, manages the team, makes us aware of resources available to us, and kind of acts as a liaison for us and ECI as a system. She will come out once a month with either the specialist or therapist. 2. An Early Intervention Specialist (EIS)who's main goals for Shepherd are helping to decrease frustration, follow instructions, and increase play skills. She will come out to our house once a week to work with him. 3. A Speech Pathologist who will mainly focus on speech. She will come out once a week.
In addition, we had a hearing screen done (common for any speech delays) and are happy to report that Shepherd showed age-appropriate responses to the test.
We also had an MCHAT screening which is a "test" (checklist) that screens for any red flags for autisms. ECI does this with any child over the age of 18 months who shows any delay. I am also happy to report that Shepherd tested "low-risk" for Autism.
We have had one session each with our specialist and therapist. The speech therapist happens to be the same one who performed his evaluation and she was very encouraged with his improvement since she had last seen him. In 4 weeks he has almost doubled his vocabulary. She explained how great that was but also to be prepared for plateau or even back-tracking a little bit.
At this point, Shepherd can say these words:
Daddy, plane, car, fish, dog, go, uh-oh, bubble, ball, outside, yeah, nana, duck, blue, cookie, mama, Grammy, uh-uh
Though a little overwhelming, we are really thankful to have a game plan and to have good resources available to us for very little cost. My heart as Shepherd's mom is just to be able to parent him well all throughout his life. I know that the Lord specifically chose me to be Shepherd's mom and I want to do that to the best of my ability, all the while pointing to Jesus. Ultimately, this is just one more reminder that Shepherd is not mine. Shepherd belongs to the Lord and HE is the one who has planned his days.