We had the Birth to 3 people come out for Little Evan’s speech evaluation yesterday. They scheduled it for 1 pm which is an hour past his normal nap time, so when Evan started asking “night night? night night” before noon I knew it was going to be a LOOOONG afternoon. He actually did pretty well, only reaching that crazy level of exhaustion-induced hyperactivity for the last few minutes of the appointment.
Of course, he’s still a toddler, so his general behavior was in the realm of “I DO WHAT I WANT” for the whole hour. After the fourth time he almost hit the therapist in the face with his miniature hockey stick E took it away and an EPIC meltdown ensued – just at the exact moment the evaluator asked “Does he demonstrate appropriate negative emotions?”
Um, is standing in the middle of the kitchen wailing with giant tears running down his face because we took his stick away “appropriate”?
Turns out the answer is YES. BECAUSE HE IS TWO.
The evaluation was actually for all sorts of possible developmental problems, including an early screening for autism spectrum disorders. They brought toys and games and asked him to stack rings and point at items and identify pictures and show off his motor skills. There was one test that involved matching items on little cards (where’s the other spoon? where’s the other dog?) but he was totally over it after less than 30 seconds and ran off to chase the cat. The therapist actually skipped that test completely, because although not being able to focus long enough to participate is unhelpful, it wasn’t a measure of his ability to complete the task and she didn’t want to score him a zero on that one test when he could complete all the others.
The other 50% of the evaluation was questions for me ranging from my pregnancy to how Little Evan handles meeting strangers to what goals we have as a family. (I bombed on that last one BTW. I had no clue. She said some people say to be healthier as a family or to buy a bigger house or maybe a new car. I said “I just want us all to be happy” which makes me sound like a Miss USA contestant.) She asked a series of questions until we reached one where I gave a “wrong” answer, even if it meant going far past the skills they expect a 26 month old to have mastered. Not knowing which answer I was supposed to give made my palms sweat, but both women were so nice and very willing to help me explain and elaborate on my answers until they really understood what Evan’s typical behavior would be.
E came home from work early to be here for the meeting, which was both helpful – when dealing with EPIC TODDLER MELTDOWN – and unhelpful – when the evaluator asked “Does he have trouble separating from mom and dad, even with other familiar adults?”
“Not at all” said I.
“Absolutely” said E.
After a few minutes of clarification and discussion, we decided that we were both right. When we are all at home in the family room and one parent leaves Little Evan will scream and cry and throw a fit because someone is going somewhere and it is probably fun and how DARE they not take him TOO??! But when it comes to allowing another adult to provide for him he doesn’t care at all who it is. He let my father-in-law (who he hadn’t seen in months) put him to bed in an unfamiliar bedroom in Ohio without any problems. He regularly wanders off to the bathroom with my friend Cheri when she takes her son. He will ask anyone who happens to be around for help if he needs it. Apparently a lack of stranger-danger is OK at two, although I am suddenly much more worried about someone snatching him in public because he’d happily go without any protest. We should work on that.
But we WON’T be working with the Birth to 3 people anymore, because after an hour the therapist determined he’s totally normal for a 2 year old and we did not qualify for services. Which is good news. They assured me his vocabulary is fine and that they could understand a lot of what he said and that he had no other signs of any sort of delay. Some of their statistics were really reassuring – the 50 words by 2 is only a general guideline because that’s the point when kids start to put 2 words together and THAT is the real milestone for normal development. Little Evan has recently added “I” in front of most of his statements – “I slide! I wash! I stink! I fall down!” – so we’ve got 2 work phrases down. They also said a parent should be able to understand 60-70% of their child’s words at this age, which is almost exactly where we are. The speech therapist also confirmed that a child with advanced motor skills (she was REALLY impressed he can hit a ball with a hockey stick with direction) might take longer when it comes to verbal skills. I know it’s something people SAY but to hear it from an expert was nice.
One suggestion from the speech therapist that I really loved was to qualify and expand on the words he does have when he says them. When Evan points at a balloon and says “bah-oon!” instead of just saying “Yes that’s right!” I should say “Yes! That’s a red balloon! A big red balloon!”. I don’t know why I never thought of that on my own, but now I’m going to make a real effort to do it for all his words.
Two more things that made me really happy: First, we’re elligable for a development evaluation every 3 months, so if 12 weeks from now I’m still concerned they will come back and do it again. Second, at no point did they tell me I was over-reacting, concerned for no reason, imagining things or silly. I was actually more afraid of being laughed at than I was they would find something wrong and suggest we start therapy. But this evaluation couldn’t have gone better.
So if you’re wondering if you should mention your developmental concerns to your pediatrician? The answer is YES. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted and I can go back to just enjoying being mom to a toddler.