By the time he was 18 months old, he was running and playing. He loved balls, cars, and stuffed animals. He thought his grandpa was the greatest and the Dog Walker appeared to have an aptitude for music. He loved the piano and he played the keys softly and beautifully, not like other toddlers. He had progressed normally except that his 3-word vocabulary had increased to only 5 words. He had added the words "no" and "mine." It was 1995, and as a mother of five, I was convinced that he was fine; he was simply developing his language skills a bit more slowly than my first four children. I had plenty of evidence that children develop at different rates.
My sweetie and I had both been late bloomers when it came to speech. I didn’t say anything but "Mama" and "Dada" until I was nearly two years old. Then one day I spouted sentences, beginning with, "May I have a piece of cake?" I was convinced that my little Dog Walker was just like me. By the time he was two years old, he had progressed in every way except language. He was extremely athletic; he could catch and throw better than his 4-year-old sister. He still loved TV, and he could mimic words from Barney and Winnie the Pooh although they didn’t quite sound like they should. When I took him for his 2-year-old checkup, the pediatrician suggested that I have him tested by a speech therapist.
I was devastated! He seemed to be making progress. I had increased his TV watching, hoping that the mimicking would help. I had turned a blind eye to the fact that he couldn’t understand simple instructions and he didn’t know any of his siblings’ names. He was unable to dress himself (he hated clothes anyway) and he showed absolutely no interest in potty training. He was extremely independent. If he wanted a drink of milk, he would bring me a cup and a gallon of milk. If he wanted his lunch, he would bring me the bologna and a plate. He just helped himself to whatever he wanted or needed.
He and I also had a system of hand signals that I mostly understood. If he wanted his shoes off, he would grab my hands and place them on his shoes. If he wanted something that he couldn’t reach from a chair, he would lead me to the item and point until I got it down for him. Sometimes he and I would both become frustrated with our lack of communication and he could throw an amazing tantrum. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to believe that we were facing something much more serious.
Jump to part 2.