One year ago Ava was evaluated by early intervention. She was 22 months old. Her language scored at the level of a six month old baby. She had two consonant sounds and perhaps three or four vowel sounds. She had only about 2-4 word approximations she used regularly. She had mostly stopped trying to talk.
My emotions were a dark and tangled mess. I couldn't stop thinking about Ava's speech and the outside confirmation that something was wrong. I was fighting tears all the time. That night I sat down and wrote the first real post of this blog. Even today, one year later, my stomach still twists re-reading that post.
I just needed to write it all out. It was a tool to help me cope. I was too upset to talk to my loved ones. I couldn't talk without breaking down. So I wrote it down instead. No one was reading the blog then. No one at all.
Since then, others have joined in. Other parents. Other professionals. Other people who are interested in my family and the things I share. I appreciate all the voices that contribute. I appreciate all of you who read regularly and those who just stop by.
So much happens in the first year. There's the initial flurry of activity. First there is the evaluation. Then you have follow up testing and finding the right services. In our case we combined private therapy with the services provided by early intervention. We made our way through the first IFSP.
I feared the worst. I feared severe motor planning problems and little progress. I made communication boards and they went up at our house and at my parents house. We made a list of ASL signs that would be useful in our daily life. My husband and I learned them and then taught them to my parents. We all used those signs consistently with her for the first couple of months.
Ava was almost instantly happier. She loved the communication boards and was obviously empowered by them. She picked up signing almost instantly. Oh the power of the sign for "more". She also liked "please" and "up". And then she started vocalizing "uh" when using the sign for up and progress just flowed from there.
Services began. Sounds unlocked and words came. For us, progress came quickly at first and I was so grateful. The inevitable plateau came as well, and that was all right. At least she could communicate now. Not clearly, but we had so much more to work with. I had gone from wondering if she would ever be able to talk to worrying about clearing up the sounds in her speech. Those are two entirely different kinds of problems and I was grateful to move from one arena to the other.
At the six month IFSP meeting we identified additional needs in the area of occupational therapy and began OT services as well. Another miracle. Progress was swift again and perhaps kick started speech progress because we started seeing progress in her speech again as well.
As this first year came to a close we also participated in a transition meeting, because early intervention only lasts through the age of three. Ava was evaluated by the schools for eligibility to continue to receive services. She qualified.
I wish I could travel back in time one year and whisper in my ear. "It'll be ok." We are ok. There's still work to be done, but the journey is happening one little bit at a time and is manageable. We still live life and enjoy it every day. Working on Ava's speech is just one part of a complex whole.
One year later we have words, sentences, and conversation. More importantly, we have laughter, love, and family.