Today Yirmiyahu and I went to his two year appointment with the child development doctor, his speech therapist and his physical therapist. We have these appointments about every six months. You may remember that I haven’t enjoyed these meetings in the past and even though our interactions have improved, I still had an apprehensive feeling when thinking about this meeting.
I was thinking about how to approach the meeting and decided it’s important at this point to share with them a bit more of what I do with Yirmiyahu, beyond what they directly ask me about.
The doctor started the meeting with a smile, saying she heard that I’m teaching Yirmiyahu several languages (ie English, Hebrew and sign). She asked me what words he knows and I began listing them. She was happy to hear that I use sign together with speech (not to replace it), and asked me what signs he knows and if he uses them independently to communicate.
We were talking while Yirmiyahu was walking around, squatting in place, asking me for a drink and drinking while standing. They watched him playing with a doll imaginatively rather than copying what he was shown. In response to her questions, I detailed some examples of how he follows instructions and shows comprehension of what he hears.
When he pointed to their computer and indicated he wanted to climb up to it, I explained he’s used to sitting with me at the computer and asked if they wanted to see the program we do together. I had brought my laptop along just in case it was relevant, so I pulled it out and turned on the early literacy program (Brillkids) that we do daily. This is a fantastic program that Yirmiyahu loves – he comes to me several times a day and signs ‘words’ to ask me to do this together with him. Seeing a demonstration of what Yirmiyahu does at home was more valuable for them than hearing about it, and they could also see how attentive and engaged he was by the words and pictures.
I feel like this appointment was a game changer. The doctor didn’t refer to Down syndrome even once. She didn’t grade him and tell me how he was doing compared to other kids. She didn’t talk about delays, she didn’t pressure me about putting him into a special needs daycare. She didn’t tell me I need to come for more frequent therapy. She didn’t say anything like, ‘kids like him’, ‘special needs’ – it was just about him as an individual.
After all the assessments were finished, the doctor said to me, “You’ve obviously been very successful with him.” In the past I would wanted specific feedback on what she meant by that but today I just said, “Well, he’s an amazing boy!” And then she replied, with something I never expected to hear, “Yes, he is an amazing boy, and you are an amazing mother.”
And then she repeated, “You are an amazing mother.”
There’s a saying, “Don’t quit until the miracle happens.” Well, this is how I feel about my interactions with the child development team. I stuck with them, they stuck with me, we kept trying to communicate and we’ve gotten to a good place of mutual respect and appreciation. It’s been a journey.