On January 21st, Dante hit the 19-month mark. They say that by this time, he should be walking (running, even!) and speaking with a vocabulary of 20 or so words. Dante is doing neither. He stands, he points, he babbles, and he certainly seems to understand us well enough, but he is neither walking or talking.
At his 18-month checkup, his doctor suggested that because he seems to be lagging the curve, we should get him evaluated by Child Find. We were finally able to get this done last Tuesday. It was a pretty intense experience — four people (a motor specialist, a language specialist, a child psychologist, and a “service coordinator” who makes recommendations for treatment) together in a room, asking us a bunch of questions, experimenting with Dante’s behavior, and giving us feedback. It would be very very easy to feel defensive, accused, or misunderstood. We each had different reactions to the situation, but both of us were working hard to make it a positive experience.
After an evaluation lasting a little over an hour, they diagnosed Dante with a developmental delay in both speech and gross motor skills, while also noting that his fine motor skills are actually ahead of the curve, and his cognition and social/psychological development seem to be just fine. His speech delay is more pronounced (uh, no pun intended) than his motor delay. They’re recommending that he get some physical and speech therapy. This can take many forms, but the primary one seems to be having a therapist come to our home once a week and work with him doing play-based exercises targeted to help his development. The treatment is free — paid for with federal and state funds, I gather. We’ve both agreed to accept this therapy. Unsurprisingly, there’s a big bureaucracy to deal with, and a waiting list. Apparently, we can get a motor therapist who knows something about speech in about two weeks, while a speech therapist who knows something about motor skills takes eight weeks. So we’ll go with the former until the latter becomes available. In the meantime, we’re following some suggestions from the evaluators, including setting up an environment that encourages him to stand more, and doing a lot of identifying objects with simple, repeated words.
Here’s the wildest part: whether because of these techniques, or because it was going to happen anyway, or because we’re just more attuned and therefore observing it more, or because we’re doing some funky nonverbal energy-aura communication with him (no doubt a big combination of stuff), Dante seems to have suddenly stepped it up, development-wise. Just in the last few days, he’s started standing up in the middle of the floor without pulling himself up on anything. He’s starting doing a lot more syllable-signalling when he points at things (i.e. pointing at a ball and saying “b-b-b!” or pointing at the laundry and saying “l-l-l”.) I think I’ve even seen him taking a few small, independent steps, though more to keep his balance than to get anywhere. He seems on the cusp of a big blossoming, and it’s very exciting to watch, especially in contrast to the fear that’s so readily available after a diagnosis like the one we just heard.