We knew Rachel had special needs long before we brought her home, so I scheduled an evaluation for her with our local early intervention program before we even left for China. I figured that, if nothing else, Rachel was missing a hand so her fine motor skills were probably not on par with a typical kid's. I realized the first day that we had her that Rachel's hand was not an issue, but within a few days I noticed that speech was. At 21 months Rachel had only one word. Mama. And she used that word for everything.
Rachel went through an evaluation a few weeks after she arrived home and she qualified for services. The early intervention staff felt she needed some work on fine motor skills (after all, she was missing a hand) but were not overly concerned about her speech. So once or twice a week Miss Linda came to our house or to daycare to play with Rachel. She brought a big bag of toys and all sorts of books and art projects. Rachel adored her. It soon became obvious that Rae really didn't need any help with fine motor skills, despite the missing hand. But her language was another story. Rachel understood everything but her spoken words were very slow to come. Miss Linda added language activities to her bag of tricks. Little by little Rachel started to talk. Soon she jabbered non-stop. But we had a hard time understanding what she was saying. Making certain speech sounds or putting syllables together is HARD for Rachel.
I have worked with speech-delayed kids for years. Rachel's speech is nothing new to me, but it has been more difficult than I had imagined to be the parent of a speech delayed child. Watching her struggle to express herself has been hard. I feel so helpless when she tells me something and I can't decipher it. But I am amazed by how hard she works to make herself understood. And I cheer her on with every little step.
Once Rachel turns 3 she will no longer be able to receive early intervention services. She'll move on to preschool and a classroom just like mine. We have been working on that transition, with all the testing and paperwork that it entails. Today we had Rachel's IEP meeting. She met her teacher and her speech therapist and charmed them both. We visited her classroom and she didn't want to leave. Rachel will go to preschool two mornings a week and get speech therapy there. She will start on her 3rd birthday! I know some people think she seems awfully young to start school, but sessions with her speech therapist and lots of time listening to other kids talk is exactly what she needs right now. Rachel, of course, can't wait!
Since Rae had a doctor's appointment today as well as her meeting, we made a fun afternoon of it. We went to the park so that Rachel could swing. We have a huge park with fabulous equipment, but all Rae really wants to do is swing.