Every day at our house is so filled with basic care of toddlers and concentrated efforts to guide each of them along at their particular level, that sometimes I forget about where a “normal” (I hate that word) nearly 2-1/2 year old should be regarding developmental milestones. Aside from the internal comparisons to what I remember life was like when my 14 year old was their age (which is its own bad idea for many reasons, not the least of which is bad memory). I know intellectually we have significant delays, especially in speech and language, but as we live our lives, I adjust my expectations and continue to work with each triplet where they are today. Teaching wherever I can, trying to emphasize sounds, using sign language, encouraging simple words, etc.
Then, come the days when you work in the church nursery or visit friends with kids of similar age or go to the park, etc. Suddenly, you see a little girl their age doing things you are still dreaming of for your children - things like saying, “I want my mommy!” or following easy directions like “can you get a book for me and I’ll read it to you.” Sometimes even from children younger than they are and all of a sudden the reality of significant milestone delays hits you like bricks falling from the sky.
Then you fight off tears as best you can, smile and keep going. You see, there’s no one in the world who wants to hear our 2-1/2-year-olds speak and share their thoughts more than Tripped Up Daddy and me, but we can only get there one step at a time. And by the way, that’s their steps not necessarily the big giant steps I’d like to take.
Sometimes I think back to when I first had that painful thought, “Are my kids behind? I mean, like behind enough that I should be worried? The doctor hasn’t been worried, should I be?” and all the other questions that raged in my head. There are all the comments you get from everyone - “kids develop at their own rates, don’t worry so much” and the like, which I think I listened to too long. When you’re dealing with the initial 15 months of raising triplets, sometimes survival and immediate needs keep you in a potential state of denial longer than is healthy. We started asking the serious questions when the triplets were 18 months, like it or not, I still wish we would have begun pursuing help at 12 months or 15 months.
Our first call was to the Early Intervention group in our state, once our pediatrician indicated he would support a call to the organization. Since then, we’ve had the girls assessed and are busily working on their Individualized Education Plans, which are updated every 6 months with a new assessment. We don’t talk a lot about “catching up” anymore with their special ed teachers, speech pathologists, and more, instead we just focus on the goals for each girl.
I found the tagline of the group very compelling, “Don’t worry, but don’t wait.” Recently a friend asked me about who I called, because she had some concerns about her own child. Once she visited the site, we talked about that tagline. It was interesting because we’re both writers, and we both thought, “Damn, that’s good copywriting.”
The hardest part of having kids with delayed milestones is being willing to make the first call, I think. It’s hard to admit your kid may be struggling. It makes you confront all kinds of worries you may not want to really acknowledge. The key is to make that call. Every state in the U.S. has an Early Intervention program which will help assess your child.
If you’re even worried at all about milestone delays, check with your pediatrician or family doctor. Both will have information on which milestones should be occurring at which month, etc. You want to know what to expect and what to keep an eye on with milestones and specifically speech delays. In short, I advocate calling for help earlier rather than later, because if there really are delays, the sooner you know, the sooner you can start helping your child in specific ways.
I know someday my triplets will talk to me, but today it’s a dream. And I’m doing all I can to help them get there in the meantime.