Our daughter was a quiet baby and, at the time, we didn’t think too much about it. Not only was she a quiet baby, but she slept on a schedule the moment she came home from the hospital. We just thought she was an easy baby.
One of the things that stood out, though, was the choking. We noticed that she was choking during feeding frequently. It seemed to run in cycles; we would go without any incidents for a time and then they would happen in rapid succession. When we started her on solid food, we did so slowly and took our time introducing her to foods that required chewing and mashing. I tried to discuss my concerns with our pediatrician, but I felt waved off with a, “First-time moms worry about everything. She will be fine.”
When she was over a year old, the choking incidents got more severe, frequent, and scary. My husband and I both became well-versed in pediatric Heimlich maneuvers and when to appropriately perform a finger sweep of the mouth. Nothing can put a damper on a church luncheon like a toddler choking and needing the Heimlich.
I was so disturbed over my daughter’s increasing frustration over trying to communicate and the choking incidents that I was ready to find a new doctor and get another opinion.
The moment we met with our new pediatrician, she immediately began assessing our daughter’s speech before either my husband or I had a chance to fill her in with our concerns. She looked at me and said, “Mom, you’ve got some concerns, don’t you?”
I started crying quietly, nodding my head, and my husband and I talked over each other as we poured out what we had been experiencing with the lack of communication, screaming fits, and choking incidents.
Soon, we were scheduled for evaluations.
We went through occupational therapy evaluations, educational evaluations, speech evaluations, and met with the school psychologist for his evaluation. Suddenly I was learning all about IEPs, highly sensitive children, different terminology for speech issues, and different learning methods. Her intelligence was high, her comprehension was remarkable, yet it was apparent that there were some serious concerns with her speech.
About a year and a half ago, we started treatment for Childhood Apraxia of Speech.
This condition is not well understood, but we were relieved to finally have an action plan in place. Our daughter’s frustration and anxiety level was extremely high, because children with Apraxia know full well how much difficulty they are having trying to communicate verbally. My husband and I were both desperate for her stress to be relieved, so we turned our house into a giant learning center to keep reinforcing some of the themes in speech therapy. Over time, we have watched our little girl start to calm and open up.
One of the issues of Apraxia is that the child may be understood some of the time and able to imitate words, yet revert back to being unintelligible. It is touch and go, touch and go. The most difficult part for me has been feeling as if I cannot meet her needs because I have been unable to understand what she is saying. I love the sound of her voice, but it is a priceless gift to the heart when I am actually able to understand my own child as she expresses her needs.
Today, we met with the speech therapist and reviewed her progress. There are still areas of concern, but my daughter’s progress is actually quite remarkable. She turns four this summer and we may be referred for yet another evaluation at the children’s hospital between now and then, but I am no longer as concerned as I once was with the road ahead. Her level of confidence has increased greatly and I was so happy to see her participating in her assignments with more enthusiasm and less frustration.
When the kids and I were heading home from speech therapy this afternoon, I heard her little voice pipe up from the back seat, “Hannah did a good job, mommy. I’m Hannah!”
Yes, baby girl, you are Hannah and Hannah did a very, very good job.