We’ve been waiting for this moment for so long, little buddy – your first sentence. You’ve kept us in suspense. I anticipated that I would clap and shout and jump for joy when you reached this milestone. I remember a time when I would dream that you had said your first sentence to me. I would wake up so disappointed when I realised it was not true. I have so wanted to hear your voice speaking freely for so long. You know what? Your mummy and daddy almost missed it! But I’m glad we didn’t.
This is how it happened. It was Wednesday, 14th February 2014. You were 3 years and 10 months old. We were sitting outside to enjoy the last of the summer evenings while we had dinner. Grated cheese was on the table to eat with our salad wraps. You and Sam generally get it all over the floor, so that’s probably why we were outside!
Mummy and Daddy were a bit preoccupied. See, you’d just been through two separate speech evaluations with two speech therapists. Both said you had severe Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Your Mummy was feeling just a bit down. I mean, you’re awesome. In four months you’ve come so far – so many new words, two syllable words, two word phrases. In one year you’ve gone from 30 spontaneous words to over 200. Finally your communication is coming along. But, according to some multitude of tests, you still have a severe expressive communication delay. So what, buddy? You’re catching up, right?
Just when I was wondering whether all our hard work was getting us anywhere, you sprang another surprise on us.
For months you and me have been practicing one little sentence. Over and over. Here’s how it goes.
Mum: want (signing want)
Noah: Drink! (after signing but not saying want!)
Mum: No, say want
Noah: want (garbled version of want with the sign)
Noah: drink….pleee (please)
Anyway, Mummy and Daddy were busy discussing these latest speech reports. You were reaching for the cheese. I absent-mindedly reached out to take it away from you. I didn’t want to clean up grated cheese mess. But you, you would not suffer the deprivation. Something welled up inside of you and out leapt a fearsome yell,”IWANCHEE!!!”
What? I looked at your daddy. Did he just say,”I want cheese?” Yes. I mean, Yes! Three simple words. I want cheese. Your first complete sentence – a group of words conveying a complete idea and containing a subject, verb and object. And guess what? You got the cheese.
So there you have it. Another major milestone and a reminder that you are progressing every day. You are finding your voice bit by bit. Since then you are saying ‘want’ so much clearer with the help of hand signals I learnt from your new speech therapist. And you can now make the sentence on your own. Now the exchange goes something like this.
Mum: OK, you want a drink. What do you say?
So go ahead, Noah monster. Ask for whatever you want. Enjoy it while mum is caught up in the novelty of you being able to ask for what you want, ‘cause she’s more likely to give in to your requests for a little while yet! IWANCHEE. Awesome. IWANBEER. No.
I’m going to finish with this verse. I read this the night I got the first speech report. Discouraged, I opened my Bible and there was a book mark with these words on it.
1 Chronicles 28:20
Be strong and courageous and DO THE WORK. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.
It was a timely reminder that we are not in this alone. You know more than any of us how difficult it is for you to turn sounds into words and words into phrases, little Noah. I see how tired you are after a speech therapy session. I see how much effort it costs you just to sequence a couple of words – your brain working overtime to try and program the motor movements for speech. I’m praying this verse for both of us. I know that the only way to overcome apraxia of speech is to practice sound sequences over and over. So that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to DO THE WORK. We’re going to celebrate every milestone, no matter how small. And we’re going to be encouraged by your progress, no matter what the reports say. What more can I say? IWANCHEE!
Love Mum xoxo