One of the defining moments in my life as a mother happened last fall, when my two-year-old was diagnosed with a speech disorder called apraxia. When we started speech therapy in the fall, my little guy could say about 3 really solid words and a sign or two. Now, less than nine months later, he says more words than I can keep track of and is using 3- and 4-word sentences. None of the progress has come easily for him, or for me, but he’s a hard little worker, and he’s so proud of all the things he can express now!
A lot of the process has surprised me – how slow it seems at times, how fast at others – but one thing that has surprised me the most is how much company I have as the parent of a child with a speech disorder. At first, I felt like the only person around whose child was struggling to speak. Then I talked to all my friends and family, and blogged about it, and found circles of people who understood how frustrating apraxia was. And all of a sudden I discovered that just about everywhere I went, someone had or knew a young child who was going through speech therapy.
I don’t think instances of speech disorders are increasing or anything. I just think my awareness of them is because it’s such a driving force in my family’s life right now. But I have really noticed that, the more I talk about it, the more other women do, too. I was at a baby shower last weekend, for example, and the pregnant mama introduced me to her friend whose little girl had just been diagnosed with a speech disorder really similar to my son’s. We talked for a while about our kids’ progress and our hopes of future success, and then another woman came over and said she had a friend whose young son was just going through the evaluation process for the same thing.
Among the million things my little boy’s apraxia has taught me is that openness and talking about my child’s struggles helps me find other moms to relate to. We get so hesitant to share the things that are wrong with our kids, but the only way to find company and hope that your child isn’t some anomaly is to reach out and share your story. Who knows, maybe it’ll help someone else share theirs and help them feel a little less alone in the journey, too.