Today, I was not-so-subtly accused of being one of those crazy moms that overreact about everything. Liam finally had an appointment with Kennedy Krieger today. My expectations and hopes were high, which could only lead to my inevitable disappointment.
First, I had to carry my son across the busy streets of Baltimore in the face-numbing wind to 3 different buildings until the security guards finally pointed us in the right direction. An elevator ride and 2 registration desks later, and we finally found the place we were supposed to be. Thank God I left early.
The first exam room was simple enough. A nice nurse. Some vital signs. And a few general questions to prep for the doctor. Then, we were led down a long, winding hallway until we got to the doctor's exam room. At this point, Liam was incredible restless. So, I pulled out my phone to play Liam's favorite YouTube kids channel while we waited.
Within a few moments, the doctor walked in and introduced herself. Then she said, "I'm gonna go get some toys while you wrestle the phone away from him." I gave her an odd look, as I told Liam to say bye-bye to the videos so that he could play. She returned with a dump truck and a few board books. Liam immediately grabbed the dump truck and started driving around the exam room. The doctor looked at me and said, "he can eat and drink, but no electronics," as if it was going to be a problem. I nodded and said "ok," and prepared myself for whatever was next.
After asking me several questions about my concerns with Liam, the doctor started evaluating my son through play. I sat on the sidelines, biting my tongue so that I would not interfere with her assessment.
Once the doctor was finished, she told me that Liam was delayed in expressive and receptive speech. At 30 months old, Liam's language skills were at a 21 month old level. Thankfully, she explained that there were no signs of autism or any other disabilities. The doctor explained that having a speech delay is a risk factor for developing a learning disability later in life, particularly when Liam would start learning to read. However, it was nothing to be concerned about at the moment.
So, what could my husband and I do to help him? Start using more hand gestures or sign language when talking to Liam so that he would not only understand us better, but so that he would also start using gestures himself when he was unable to find the words. Also, use simple phrases when talking to Liam to help him better understand what we expect of him. In other words, when Liam neglects to do something we ask of him, it is possible that he truly does not understand what we are asking.
But here's where things took a turn for the worst. The doctor told us to eliminate all technology from his life, including TV, iPads, phones, and battery-operated toys. These devices are said to discourage language and imagination. The doctor told me we should cut Liam off from technology cold turkey. Was she serious?
And then, I asked what she thought of my concerns with Liam's feeding issues. She said, "that's just normal toddler behavior." I was shocked and angered all at the same time. I would not have made this appointment for my child if I thought there was a chance of this being "normal." I proceeded to describe some of Liam's behaviors so that she would understand my concerns.
After only half-listening to what I was saying, the doctor said, "okay, well Liam might be a little outside of the normal spectrum for feeding then." She said she would write a referral for Liam to be evaluated by the feeding clinic. Are you kidding?! I thought that was part of the reason we were here in the first place! Now we would have to make a separate appointment altogether for Liam's feeding issues?
At this point, I was so angry and disappointed that my ears started ringing and my cheeks grew flush. I did my best to keep my smile glued to my face so that my son would not detect my sour mood. The entire way out of the office and to the car, I fought tears. The whole way home, I focused only on the GPS to avoid my thoughts.
I was so hopeful that someone would finally be able to help us with Liam. But here we were again...with another person letting us down.
Do we follow through with the feeding clinic referral? Or do we let it go, chalking it all up to "normal" behavior? Nevermind the fact that my child had lost 2 pounds in a week or that his ribcage was showing. Forget that my son has a meltdown in the middle of the night because he has hunger pains but still refuses to eat. That must just be "normal."