I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now, but I wanted to write it with complete honesty. We all know that parenting can be hard work. Parenting is quite possibly one of the hardest responsibilities I’ve had in my lifetime. Parenting a child with a speech delay? Even harder. Think about how important it is to be able to properly communicate with other people. Then think about just how often you have to communicate with other people. In life, for any reason, it can be frustrating when your needs aren’t being met, but it’s also frustrating to feel like you’re not being heard.
Imagine someone dumping you in a foreign country, and needing an answer to a question as simple as, “Where is the nearest restroom?” or “Where is the closest restaurant?” and not being able to both understand responses, and vocalize your needs. I can only imagine that this is what it feels for my daughter at times, without even having to leave the comfort of her own home.
She has a hard time expressing that she’s thirsty, that she’s hungry, and even if she gets my attention enough for me to fully understand what she needs, it gets difficult to know exactly what it is that she’s asking for. Sometimes she points, sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes she signs, and sometimes she doesn’t.
My daughter was officially diagnosed with a speech delay almost a year ago. My tiny little lady is almost 3 years old now. She says plenty, just not very much that you would be able to understand. The entire thing has been a new experience, a hard experience, and a huge period of adjustment.
I love my daughter, but I would be lying to say that the gap in communication doesn’t frustrate me at times. It’s hard to communicate simple commands, commands for safety, even discipline her. As a mother I had a hard time with feeling like I wasn’t doing enough, or that I wasn’t doing things right. Sometimes I was worried that I wasn’t being as patient as I could be, or that I wasn’t being understanding.
Before it was “official” that she had a speech delay, I tried really hard to teach her things that the average growing baby was doing. As she got older, I tried to teach her things like ABCs and 123s (She also has hyperactivity and an attention problem, but that’s not my current point lol) but it was always so difficult, and I couldn’t understand why. Even now, I constantly feel like I’m in an uphill battle trying to teach, while also feeling like an awful teacher.
So, we brought in some outside assistance for help. It was helpful for her, but her speech is still a challenge. For her, and for me. Bringing in outside help meant more opportunities for her, like in home therapy options, and now the option to attend part time preschool, but that also means more labels. I had to get over the hump of hearing words like “special needs” and “IEP” and come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to let the average social stigmas define her.
My daughter is brilliant, caring, and energetic. She’s full of love, and she doesn’t need her words to express that. And I don’t need my words to express that to her. I will always have to be more patient with her. I will always have to be her number one advocate. I might share my spot with my husband one day, but until then he lets me mostly run the show.
Years from now, she could still struggle, or maybe she won’t be struggling at all. One thing I do know is, I will be right there, continuously trying to teach her, continuously helping her through her struggles, reading to her, and eventually letting her read to me.
Parenting can be a struggle. Parenting a child with a speech delay just makes that emotional roller coaster that much more rocky, but a speech delay is not an end all be all. My child is NOT a special needs label. She has specific special learning needs, but she, is just SPECIAL, period.