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I am still very much in the middle of this journey. I have four young children, and both my boys are late talkers. My oldest son, Brennan, is now 6-1/2.

We didn’t think he was that different from other boys until he was almost 3. The leader of our church congregation pulled us into his office and gently informed us that other parents were concerned for the safety of their children in nursery class with Brennan. We were devastated. I knew the reason Brennan acted out aggressively with his peers (pushing, hitting, scratching, biting) was because he could not verbally communicate with them. I figured it would come in time But we did not how to help him NOW. We were later told some people believed he was autistic.

 We were referred to the ChildFind area of our local school district, and they determined Brennan was “developmentally delayed” in speech and comprehension. We received a similar diagnosis from a private speech therapist. He was placed in a normal preschool with speech supports and had an amazing teacher. Under her care, he blossomed. Still, it took time.

A lot of his early speech was in the form of echolalia.  Someone would greet him with “Hi, Brennan!” and he would respond, “Hi Brennan!” He would quote extensively from his favorite movies. Back-and-forth conversation didn’t come into play until he was 5.

For years his IEP listed goals like “Speak in 4-6 word sentences” and “Understand and complete two-step directions.” But his intellect was never questioned.  And he always loved building and creating with whatever he could find—that was his outlet in those early, difficult days. In retrospect, he just needed the time to develop at his own pace.

Fast forward to present day: we have chosen to homeschool Brennan. He just finished kindergarten. He has really enjoyed learning to read—his prized possession is the light that attaches to his bunk bed—and I sometimes hear him sounding out words well past bedtime. He has taken well to math, and will recite math facts (simple addition or counting to 100) to himself just whenever.  He loves to draw and create anything he can think of with paper, masking tape, and scissors. Recently, he has decided to learn the names of all the planets in the solar system and he would love to build a rocket. The sky is literally the limit for this kid!

My other son, Sander, will be 3 in September. He is also a late talker—but nothing like Brennan. Sander has no receptive problems, as he easily understands and completes multi-step directions (when he wants to). He just doesn’t talk—at all. He makes all sorts of sounds, and has taken well to some simple sign language.

I’m back in this all-too-familiar place of wondering what exactly is going on in his head. But we already see the makings of an incredible sense of humor within this very independent and driven little boy! We have chosen to let him develop at his own pace, and to hold off on formal evaluation and therapy at this point. He will speak when he is ready. Wish us luck on the journey! We sure are excited to see how it goes.

by Anna Dinsmoor, Colorado Springs, Colorado

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Braeden had autism.  He also had PDD-NOS, hyperactivity, sensory “issues”, “severe cognitive deficits”, and Asperger’s Syndrome.  He couldn’t talk because we didn’t read to him enough, and perhaps unsurprisingly, he had behavioral problems triggered by poor parenting.  With all these diagnoses came prescriptions, usually involving extensive testing.   At one point, a passerby offered an all-encompassing solution:  “you oughta drown that kid, lady.”  Oddly, that incredible rudeness was preferable to the pitying tsk-tsking that many offered both in front of us and behind our backs.

Yet none of these diagnoses explained why Braeden began talking normally, stopped at age one, didn’t begin babbling again until age 2 ½, and wasn’t understandable to outsiders until age 5 ½.  How could a retarded preschooler understand negative numbers?  How could a child who lovingly put first aid cream on his dog’s calluses lack the empathy and social connection of an autistic child?  How could it be that he wasn’t talking because I didn’t read to him enough, when our home resembled a lending library?

 

A friend found the book Late-Talking Children, which in turn led us to Dr. Camarata, from whom we learned that Braeden had a mixed expressive-receptive language disorder.  That diagnosis changed our lives changed forever, because we could finally forge a path forward, despite lingering worries that every behavior might be a symptom of something dire.    

 

During those dark years before Braeden began to speak fluently, our anchor was the group of other parents of late talkers with whom Dr. Camarata had connected us.  I dared to believe, based on their stories, that maybe Braeden would improve.  Suggestions from Dr. and Mrs. Camarata on how to help our son also gave us hope, because their techniques actually worked.

 

Our boy is now 14.  He is potty trained (something that when he was four I was SURE would never happen).  He still adores mathematics, though his memory is not as frighteningly accurate as it once was.  He remains kind-hearted when it comes to animals and wounded people.  He is a competitive athlete and has solid friendships. 

 

To my dismay, Braeden still shows signs of his language problems—his vocabulary has odd errors and gaps, and he dislikes writing enough that I’ve given up hope that one day he’ll compose the Great American Novel.  He is, however, within the bounds of whatever it is that normal might be.  Most important, Braeden—who paved the way for his younger late-talking brother—is growing into a young man whom I like very much and am proud to have as my son.  On every level, he is just fine.

 

Tamera S.

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