This is my sweet boy. I have referred to him here endlessly as “my older son”. When I started this blog, it felt weird to me to share too much about things other than food. I didn’t think I would post pictures of my boys and I certainly didn’t think I would put their names out there. But over the year plus that I have been faithfully writing here, this blog has become so much more than food. My blog is more of a journal than any of my handwritten journals have been. And so, his name is Graham, and it’s time for me to talk about him.
There are many many wonderful things about this child. He has an incredibly gentle and sweet disposition and he is one of the happiest people I have ever met. Joy is everywhere in his life. He is enthusiastic about almost everything. He loves people and people love him (this is the kid who hugged Dave Matthews, let’s not forget.) He has been a very easy kid. Good eater, good sleeper, rarely gets sick, at the age of 4 1/2 has still never had a temper tantrum, is nice to his brother, transitions easily…I could go on and on. He is, in short, a gift.
For the past few years, we have also known that something is not quite right with Graham. He didn’t say a single word until he was over two years old (in keeping with his personality, that word was “hi”) and ever since then, he has been extremely slow to talk. At first, we listened to endless stories from friends and acquaintances who told us of children who were late talkers and who finally just bloomed. I can’t tell you how many times someone told me, “Einstein didn’t talk until he was 5!”. I took comfort in all of this, insisting to myself and others that my child was perfect and that he would find his way in his own time.
Eventually, it became clear that he wasn’t just not speaking words, he was not understanding them either. Not as well as he should have been. This realization is what finally got me off my butt and got him into some testing. I won’t bore you with the steps and missteps that that entailed. Eventually, we ended up at a truly incredible place called The Boyer Children’s Clinic, a birth-3 years program for children with special needs. Graham blossomed in his own way there and when he turned 3, we sent him to a preschool for typical children on the advice of the Seattle school system. He has been at this wonderful school and in private speech therapy ever since.
So why now? Why talk about Graham now? July was a big month for us. He had testing done through the Seattle school system and also did a broad scope test through an agency called the Center for Human Development and Disability (CHDD). We wanted to know whether there is officially something wrong. Something we can attach a name to, something we could research endlessly online, something that we might be able to “treat”. After being shown incredible kindness, respect, and compassion by those lovely people, we learned that Graham has what we have essentially known all along – a speech and cognitive delay. No syndrome or disorder, just an unexplained delay. We don’t know why. We don’t know if it’s something he will outgrow. We don’t know how much help he is going to need in the years ahead. We don’t know how to “treat” him or if there is any possible “treatment”.
The timing here was a little tricky and I won’t bore you with what happened when. The short version is that we got the results from the school system first. According to their tests, Graham only qualified for speech therapy, meaning that he should stay at his preschool and the public school system would provide therapy for him. I was relieved but also surprised. I can see how far Graham is behind his peers. I was not sure the itinerant speech therapist assigned to him was going to help him catch up enough to be ready for kindergarten in just one short year.
Then we got our results from the CHDD test. They told us that they, without hesitation, recommended he attend a special school. He had some strong areas, some average areas, and some areas where he was barely in the 10th percentile. But basically we were told – in no uncertain terms – that our child needs help. I have to say, my heart broke a little bit at that moment. And in the next moment, real relief flooded me. “Yes,” I thought. “Yes, they are right – he does need the help. And they will help us get it for him.” Now we are in a full court press to get him what he needs in time for the school year to start. This is when having a husband who is incredibly tenacious is a huge blessing. He will keep after these people until we get the answers we want.
Now, I don’t for a minute lose sight of who I have in my life. First of all, I have a child – two children actually – and we know people who have tried unsuccessfully to have any. I have a healthy child and we know two children his age who have battled cancer and one who died of SIDS at the age of 8 weeks. I have friends who share with me the difficulties and struggles of having typical children. Being a parent is not easy, they tell me, no matter how “normal” your child is. I know. I know. I know. I do really and truly know how lucky I am.
This is a child who, when I was apologizing to him for waking him up early from a nap said to me, “It’s ok, Mommy. Take a deep breath.” This is a child who offers snacks from his snack drawer to any child who comes over to play, even if he has never seen them before. This is a child who tells me, “I so excited” several times a day – when we are going to the park, visiting his best friend Kendall, going to get ice cream, waiting for Daddy to come home. This is a child who, every time he sees the “Hope” poster yells out, “Barack Obama!” Special does not begin to describe him. This is a child who endured hours and hours of testing, most of which required him to sit still and concentrate, with a smile on his face and enthusiasm. Every single therapist who came into contact with him called him charming, delightful, lovely – it’s written all over the reports. This is a child who has an absolutely incredible memory, sense of direction, and mind for puzzles. But I worry for him. I worry that kids will make fun of him. I worry that he will struggle and that things will not be easy for him. I also know probably every parent has these same worries, regardless of who their child is.
I know that things seem easy and breezy here at Dana Treat. And usually, they are. I have a wonderful life. I love writing about food and sharing recipes with all of you. But I have been sad about all of this lately and just continuing to be easy and breezy was not feeling authentic. Not to worry. With the next post I will return you to your regularly scheduled programming. Thanks for listening, er, reading.