Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What A Difference

In January, the Boy started a special preschool program for kids with developmental delays. The kids in this program range from those with classic autism, to children like my son - who are delayed in certain areas for no known reason.

This time last year, we dealt with the very real possibility that the Boy was autistic. He was almost two and a half, and yet wasn't speaking. He'd started to speak during the summer of '07, but by this time last year, he wasn't even using those simple words any longer. He had horrible temper tantrums and screamed all the time.

Well, as anyone who's read my blog for the last year knows, the Boy qualified for NJ's Early Intervention Program and we had three therapists coming in once a week for him. A speech therapist, a developmental therapist, and an occupational therapist. We taught him to sign and from there, he learned simple words.

In October, when he turned 3, he aged out. I'd been resistant to the idea of enrolling him in the preschool program because I didn't want him - at the age of 3 - to be labeled as "Special Ed". His therapists were fairly certain that, by the time he starts kindergarten, no one would ever guess he'd gotten a late start and I didn't want him labeled before he had the chance to prove whether or not he was right where he should be.

But then common sense won out. Why lose what ground we'd gained? Why un-do everything we'd done to that point? And why punish him for my own hangup about "Special Ed" (which is a term I don't think they even use any more.)

And it would have been a HUGE mistake.

Yesterday, the Boy and I were sitting on the sofa, talking about his latest passion - SpongeBob SquarePants - and it hit me. We were talking about SpongeBob.

He has come so far since last March, when he didn't speak two words. When we taught him to communicate using sign language (which was pretty cool, actually. I learned a lot of phrases and still remember them) and used M&Ms to reward him when he'd use a sign. That same little boy sat beside me yesterday and said, "Snuggle, Mommy?" as he cuddled up with me.

His progress since January is amazing as well - he talks about Royce and Liam and Chanmi - his friends in school. Autism has been pretty much ruled out, and we get consistently good reports about his behavior and speaking from his teachers. And wonders of wonders, now I listen to him rattle on and think, "What I wouldn't give for five minutes of quiet."

But that's a lie. There's been no sound nearly as wonderful as that of his voice. It's the most beautiful sound I've heard in a loooong time, and I'm reminded of that every night when, at bedtime, he gives me a squeeze and says, "I love you, Mommy."


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