Time to Talk About Graham

August 5, 2009


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.


  1. He sounds like a wonderful boy! I’m sure it will all seem easier now that you have a plan of action.

    Comment by lisaiscooking — August 5, 2009 @ 9:00 pm

  2. Yes! You have an incredible child! I have never carried a child to term but I can understand the worries and the stress that you feel about the future but as my husband says “let’s cross that bridge when we get there”. It always infuriates me when he says that but he is so right because I’d be missing on what’s right next to me in the meantime…and you are not as you clearly notice all the beautiful things that define him.
    It’s ok to spill your gutts here, it’s your space. Much of our relationship to food comes from our interaction with the world around us.
    Hugs to you Dana and to your family, especially Graham

    Comment by Tartelette - Helen — August 5, 2009 @ 9:47 pm

  3. LOVE LOVE this post. Thank you for giving us a real glimpse into your life. I feel like I know you such much better, and that is what draws readers in and connect to the wonderful woman you are. So wierd, this whole blog world, as you feel connected to people you’ve never met. I wish you peace and hope in this journey you are only at the start of. You are a blessing to all of us.

    Comment by Sprouted Kitchen — August 5, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

  4. Clearly I don’t know Graham, but I love him already. What a blessing he is. And you are an amazing mother.

    Sprouted Kitchen is right–the blog world is so strange, how you feel connected to people you don’t know in person. I’m trying to be a little bit more open on my own blog, but it’s hard to give up that last little bit of privacy I feel we all have in an increasingly un-private world. But it’s stories like this that I love reading–getting a glimpse into a blogger’s real world–so hopefully I’ll get the guts to do it myself one day!

    Comment by HappyTummy — August 5, 2009 @ 11:37 pm

  5. What heartfelt post about your dear, dear Graham. Sounds like a caring,wonderful boy full of innocence and joy. Hugs!!

    Comment by Veron — August 6, 2009 @ 1:43 am

  6. a lovely post. he is such a cutie pie.

    Comment by kelly — August 6, 2009 @ 1:55 am

  7. Oh Dana, thank you for sharing this!!!!! I have to say, Graham demonstrates his love and enjoyment for people more than any other child I have known. There is something so endearing and encouraging about his hugs. I wish everyone could have one. They make your day.

    Comment by Julie — August 6, 2009 @ 2:24 am

  8. What a lucky little boy he is to have such an amazing Mom and family to support him. Graham is such a little ray of sunshine, I can’t help but see that whatever hardships this may bring, he will weather it with a smile. Still, it is so hard to be a Mom and have your heart walking around on the outside of your body, isn’t it? Thank you for sharing all of yourself, I look forward to all your posts for both your recipes and your warmth.

    Comment by Mara — August 6, 2009 @ 2:25 am

  9. What a beautifully-vulnerable thing to write, Dana – it is a testament to the love of you and your husband and to the terrific boy that your Graham surely is. He sounds like a gentle soul and a wonderful spirit; just like his Mom. All the best to you.

    Comment by tara — August 6, 2009 @ 4:25 am

  10. What a wonderful boy Graham is, Dana, a real Treat! I know all too well the desire to keep things “easy and breezy,” but your readers clearly love you, and why not? It’s your forum, and sharing what you choose to share, in your own style, is what matters. In the meantime, make some comfort food. You can always share that later. :)

    Comment by Marilyn — August 6, 2009 @ 4:30 am

  11. Dana, this is an honest and beautiful piece of writing. Your love for Graham comes through strong and clear. Thanks for sharing something so close to your heart – and for the pictures of this sweet boy!

    Comment by Karen — August 6, 2009 @ 4:54 am

  12. Thanks for writing this, and you can thank your husband for posting the link to Facebook too :-). My husband and I are going through something similar with our son, Kieran. He turned 3 at the end of May, although he’s been improving in leaps and bounds lately, he’s not on par with other kids his age. We did have him tested and he was right on the cusp of needing speech therapy, so we opted for it of course. Unfortunately I was laid off after only a few months of his sessions, so we’ve had to stop until I’m able to determine if my new health insurance will cover it. Anyway, thanks again for sharing… it’s comforting to hear a story like this. You know other parents are going through it, but putting faces and names to those issues certainly makes you feel not as alone.

    Comment by Tina — August 6, 2009 @ 5:06 am

  13. Graham sounds like such a blessing and it is great that he is going to get help. Now you will start to see progress and he will get the time and expertise he needs. It sounds like he has the right attitude to get him through all of life’s ups and downs and of course he has a loving family to support him. It is lovely to meet Graham :)

    Comment by Jacqueline — August 6, 2009 @ 9:51 am

  14. Dana, just hearing you speak about your love for him and your family make my heart melt. What a wonderful gift. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Comment by fresh365 — August 6, 2009 @ 1:50 pm

  15. Thank you, Dana, for everything. It has been such a huge blessing to have all of you in our life for the past couple years. Graham is such a joy…and as a mom with a special boy of my own, I understand the uncertainty. Especially when the diagnosis is something non-specific and not “curable”, like speech and cognitive delay or sensory modulation deficit, like in our case. Ian put it beautifully a while back…with our very typical girls (certainly each special in their own way), we sit on the beach enjoying the view. If something were severely wrong with Will, we would be in a some sort of treatment boat out there on the ocean. As it is, with his diagnosis and treatment so up in the air, with so much of him so typical and so much so different, we sit right in the tidal zone, with the waves constantly buffeting us, feeling like we have our footing only to have the sand retreat from beneath our toes, times when we feel we can climb right up on the beach and days when the riptide threatens to take us out to sea. You are not alone. Continue to lean on your community. You and Randy are such advocates for Graham. A friend told me recently that maybe it wasn’t just that Will had become our child because of what he had to teach us, but that Will had been given to us because he needed parents who would understand and advocate for him. Keep up the good work.

    Comment by Jen — August 6, 2009 @ 5:40 pm

  16. I knew I wanted to read this post when I was at home (not on my phone)–good thing too, because it was emotional to read. But I’m not tearing up over the story of Graham’s challenges, I’m getting emotional because I love him and just reading–and even more knowing–what a happy, sweet, loving kid he is, I realize that we are very lucky to have him, and all of you, in our lives. He and Kendall will always be best friends, and I love how much they love each other! Thank you for sharing. You have two very special boys, and you are one incredible Mama!

    Comment by Deb — August 6, 2009 @ 6:19 pm

  17. Oh, Dana. I’m so sorry you’re going through this worry. But thank you for sharing it in this post – your candour is just terrific.

    Graham looks and sounds like the most fabulous little boy!

    Comment by Hilary — August 6, 2009 @ 8:14 pm

  18. Thanks for sharing. He is such a cutie!

    Comment by Maria — August 6, 2009 @ 9:39 pm

  19. Thanks for sharing the whole story with us. When do we get to babysit next? Just say the word!!

    Comment by Regan — August 7, 2009 @ 7:18 pm

  20. I just found your blog today, so this is my first impression. I’m sure your easy breezy food posts are fun, but this post was absolutely heartwarming and I like you already. Graham is adorable and special and so is his Mom.

    Comment by Chef Gwen — August 7, 2009 @ 9:37 pm

  21. Dear Dana,
    Thanks for sharing with us such intimate stories about Graham. I’m not a mother, nor a doctor, so the only thing I can say is that with love and perseverance Graham will develop his full potential and live a very very very happy life!!

    Comment by Marta — August 8, 2009 @ 12:19 am

  22. Dana,
    You were matched up somewhere out there.
    You need Graham too. It’s a wonderful thing he was born with such amazing, caring parents.
    Lucky him! and Lucky you!

    Comment by Stacey Snacks — August 8, 2009 @ 1:38 am

  23. Hi Dana,

    This just made me cry. I guess we never know the lives our fellow food bloggers lead, but you’re right, you have a wonderful son. And he has a wonderful mom.

    Comment by Cooking With Dia — August 9, 2009 @ 1:06 am

  24. Oh Dana, I can not imagine what you have been through. I can only send you my prayer, that thing will get easier for your family, especially for Graham. What a wonderful boy he is. I honestly want to give him a big hug now. Thing he says, and his wonderful smile, remind me of my own son when he was young.
    All the best,

    Comment by elra — August 9, 2009 @ 3:17 am

  25. I’m joining the chorus of “You are a wonderful mother, and Graham seems absolutely perfect in his precious way.” I wish you confidence and peace as you navigate the school journey.

    Comment by The Leftoverist — August 9, 2009 @ 4:25 am

  26. Crying.
    You write beautifully. And you do not exaggerate Graham’s charm and charisma. Anyone who knows him can attest to the way he can melt a room full of grown women, and there is no doubt that his smiles have won, and will continue to win him advocates throughout whatever jungle lay ahead. What a lucky boy to have parents who’ve made such a bright outlook possible. And what a lucky community we are to know Graham’s story.

    Comment by Sage — August 9, 2009 @ 5:40 am

  27. Thank you for making yourself vulnerable to share this part of your life. Your post is an encouragement to mothers everywhere. Graham sounds like an amazing little boy, a huge blessing to all who know him.

    Comment by Tammy — August 9, 2009 @ 10:09 pm

  28. I know what you mean about blogging when sad things are happening in the background and the hesitation – to share or not to share them on the blog.
    Some people are shallow and only care about food. But I believe most people do care about the people/others and appreciate sharing of our real life sturggles and challenges. That’s what makes a blog special to me.
    As a mom, and former-child :), I think no matter how “normal” a child/ren is, there will be people who will hurt them and people who will love them. I know the desire to protect my children from harm, but I know it’s impossible. The only thing I can do is love them as much as I can so they will know how good and wonderful they are and no one could ever take that away from them.

    Comment by Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. — August 10, 2009 @ 12:39 am

  29. thank you, thank you,thank you….
    For being you!

    Comment by frantic foodie — August 10, 2009 @ 3:07 am

  30. My youngest son did not start speaking until he was about 4. We had him tested and he was 18 months behind his peers. We were recommended to put him in a private preschool, even if I was a stay-at-home mom. We did. At five he started kindergarten and did continue to see the speech therapy. We are so glad we did because at one point he started catching up and by the end of grade 6 he was in the tops of the class. He is 15 yrs old now and had since been switched from French to English full-time (because we had to move West). He had problem learning the language, at first, but he is doing well. Now, since last year, he had decided on his own to learn Spanish also. He works hard, probably more than his friends but continue to be successful. He is not top of his class now, he struggles a bit, but he is doing fine. When he was young he said that it was hard to go to school because he was behind in speech and reading. I think you are doing the right thing to find answers and fights was is best for your son.

    Comment by Hélène — August 10, 2009 @ 5:38 am

  31. Writing about food generally leads us to personal stories, and for those of us that read your blog, we are honored to be led there. Keep the faith, and remember that strength is found where you least expect it. Sometimes in the notes of strangers…

    Comment by sweetiepetitti — August 10, 2009 @ 1:20 pm

  32. Dana. Even after hearing about Graham firsthand from you, reading it makes me cry. And, I’m not crying out of sadness but because your child sounds absolutely lovely and the love you have for him is inspiring and very very special. I think Graham is going to do really well at his program where people are looking out for him and treating him with the care he deserves.

    I cannot wait to meet him!

    Comment by redmenace — August 10, 2009 @ 8:47 pm

  33. Dana- hugs to you and Graham. I so hope I get to meet him someday. With you and your husband advocating, supporting and loving him unconditionally – he will blossom as he should.

    Comment by Michele — August 10, 2009 @ 11:43 pm

  34. I just found you this AM, through a Tweet, just wanted to thank you for sharing Graham with us all.

    Comment by Jane George — August 11, 2009 @ 11:54 am

  35. Your son sounds like such a wonderful wonderful kid!

    Comment by Ashley — August 11, 2009 @ 7:36 pm

  36. your little man is beyond special…he’s exceptional! he sounds utterly delightful. Stay strong! You’ll need your strength to be the best advocate you can for him in a system that has very limited resources.

    Comment by Suziwong66 — August 13, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

  37. Dana, I cant even imagine how this must be for you because I dont have kids. But from knowing you through your blog, I know that you enjoy your children and that you are a wonderful mother – thats all that matters. I’m really happy to see so many supportive and lovely comments to this post :)

    Comment by veggiebelly — August 14, 2009 @ 5:39 am

  38. Thank you for sharing your wonderful son. He looks so much like Randy and he couldn’t be any cuter. I truly believe that the people who work with children that need special attention are doing it out of love, respect and passion for those that require a little extra support. It’s my pray for Graham that he meets those teachers so he may continue to smile and blossom.

    Comment by Christine Estep — November 5, 2009 @ 3:36 am

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