When Chandler first started speech, he was less than two years old. He wasn't talking, we knew something was wrong, but we didn't have "the diagnosis". When it came, I convinced myself he would talk by three. Four. Five. Six.....I slowly let my death grip on hope slip away. I remembered days of sitting in front of him with flashcards, reading the words slowly and turning his little face to mine. "CAT"..."BOAT"..."TREE"...and he would smile and turn away. Or on worse days, he would scream and tear the cards out of my hand. He had tears falling, I had tears pouring, and I threw the cards down in frustration. I walked him into speech therapy, down the elevator, sat in the waiting room every week waiting....waiting...hearing he did "okay", he did "fine today".
We finally had a breakthrough or two, but it was such slow progress, that last year when he began to use one word requests like "Milk" and "Bath", I was satisfied. It hurt me because I knew how hard they were working, and I always wondered if they thought it was hopeless, but I could never bring myself to ask. This rudimentary communication was going to be our lives, and I sadly accepted this with a stiff upper lip, and vowed to work as hard as I could to improve his multimodal skills. We got the IPAD, I enrolled in ASL (sign language course), and I began to talk to him more, and enunciate my words, and speak louder, anything I could think of. I watched him work for others, in speech, in school...he was improving, wasn't he? Was it me? Am I not doing enough? I heard the calm, stern voice of his speech teacher, his para at school, my voice, my husbands voice....we were all working with him, it wasn't really fair to beat myself up over and over for it, but I just...can't...help it.
So Tuesday afternoon, December 14th, 2010. I was typing an email on my laptop with a pen in my mouth, my hair up in a snowband, and my feet on the coffee table when Chandler walked over to the fridge and pulled out a snack pack. He walked over to me and held it. I stared and was about to start with some prompting and ask what it was that he needed. His mouth opened and I heard slowly and painstakingly "I.....wah....puh-ing"...the pen fell out of my mouth, my eyes quickly welled up with tears, and a ragged breath and a little squeak was all that came out of my mouth. "YES! You want pudding?!" I jumped up and held him, trying not to scare him with all the tears. I laughed and he laughed, and we got spoons and ate double snack packs. My early Christmas present. My heart overflowing with emotion. My son, I have waited so long. SO LONG to hear your first unprompted sentence, and if it never comes again, I will be happy. God, I will never let my hope waver again. Hope is sometimes all we have.