The Silver Lining

Have I ever mentioned how much I love this person?

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He is just pure delight! Most of the time, anyway. Sometimes he can be a stinker. But that makes him very much human, so I love that part of him too.

The fact that he has Down syndrome is both very much a part of everyday life and not a part of it at all. Parts of everyday life with Sam are like parts of everyday life with any five-year-old. And then every day, there are parts that are not like life with a typical five-year-old. And those parts are fine, too. Just different.

Take today, for example. I pulled him in the wagon, where he sat quietly eating Cheez-It’s for breakfast (don’t judge—it’s food! Sometimes food is the best we can do) while his older brother talked my ear off on the way to school. So ordinary!

But then instead of dropping Sam at his school, we walked back home, watched a little Sesame Street, and then headed over to a speech evaluation in a neighboring city.

Sam was chatty and cooperative—so much so that I thought, “Uh oh. We might not get approved for speech services, since he’s really brought his A-game today! We’re getting words left and right.”

Silly, naive mama. Even Sam’s A-game didn’t bring him into the range of “no need for speech services.” Quite the contrary: I didn’t even have to wait for the official written report to find out that he definitely qualifies for services. My sweet, increasingly vocal five-year-old scored the language skills of a baby one year and nine months old. That’s right: where speech is involved, he’s not even a toddler yet.

But you know what? It’s okay. My heart used to ache a bit when I heard things like this, but I’m wiser now. Things I know, silver linings I see:

  • He qualifies for speech therapy, no question at all. I do not need to fight for it; they are offering it up for the taking.
  • He’s making progress. His last speech evaluation (more than two years ago) placed his language at 15 months. Now we’re at 21 months. In a little more than two years, we’ve gained six months of language skills. It’s progress—slow and steady.
  • Assessments are ridiculously unreliable in terms of real-world skills anyway. I don’t believe in “teaching to the test”; if I did, he might’ve scored higher. I believe in real-world learning. We talk to Sam all the time about everything relevant. I don’t drill him with drawings of kids in the bathtub and insist that he learn the word “wash”; instead, we talk about baths and soap and shampoo and names of body parts when we’re in the tub. The test wants him to know the word “wash.” He doesn’t, but he knows a dozen related words that have to do with the concept of washing. And I’m fine with that.

And so, today we celebrate the silver lining: We get speech therapy! And we give Sam a big high-five for bombing the test. He doesn’t know he bombed it, and he couldn’t care less. He knows he got to spend an hour playing with blocks and dinosaurs and balls and looking at pictures. He knows the evaluator let him climb into her lap and snuggle while they did pictures. He knows she praised him for everything he did well, even while marking all those zeros on the evaluation.

Silver linings. They’re all over, aren’t they?

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