Monday, July 16, 2007

On the Downside of Up

Honestly, I don't remember which song the title of this post comes from, but is seemed appropriate...wait, no....oh, I almost had it. "What it's Like" That's the song and a quick web search reveals it's by a band called Everlast. So there you go.

Anyhoo...I generally reserve my blog space for the happy, positive stuff going on in our lives. I justify this post by saying that I want to be able to look back at it in a year and smile at how far we've come. That's the optimism speaking.

Pessimistically, maybe I just have a few things I need to unload off my mind. A friend recently asked me if I have a compulsion to write. With the amount of writing I do, I'm not all that compelled to blog. But MommieN, this one's for you...a blog post born entirely out of compulsion to purge my suffering brain.

Today was a big day for us. It was the day we officially gave up on Smuch's first speech therapist (although I'd argue she sorta gave up on him months ago) and hired a new one.

Our first therapist came highly recommended. Her offices in Palo Alto are nice. Parents can watch sessions on closed circuit TV in the waiting room. The receptionist is friendly and exceptionally kind and both "Teacher Pat" and her colleague "Teacher Donna" are wonderful. They have a ton of experience with speech therapy, but in the end, they knew they were failing to help our son.

In what I heard as a last desperate suggestion, they said they'd talked to our pediatrician and that our pediatrician was interested in taking another look at Smunch. They didn't tell me why and our pediatrician wasn't all that forthcoming either. When we went in, she said she didn't think there was a problem, but she'd talk to the neurologist. She called back within a couple of hours and finally cleared up the mystery. Pat was concerned that maybe Smunch had Tourette's Syndrome and that the stuttering was caused by tics. The only way to know for sure would be to put him on medication to see if his stuttering improves.

I'd already been looking into other varieties of speech therapy. I'd heard some good things, and some bad, about the Lidcombe Program for preschoolers who stutter. Through a worldwide support group for parents of children who stutter, I fortuitously met a local mom whose daughter went through the Lidcombe Program and now stutters very little. Her therapist is here, in Menlo Park. I talked to her last week and we went for our first Lidcombe appointment today.

I liked the therapist, Mercedes, but the appointment wasn't exactly encouraging. She talked to us about the Lidcombe program and what we would need to do to make it work. We already knew this program included a lot of parental involvement, so it was mostly old news. Smunch played with Play Doh quietly while we talked about him. Then she interacted with him for a little while and went back to talking to us.

The most alarming part of the meeting was how her suggested approach changed after talking to Smunch. There was a significant feeling of "holy crap, this is BAD" hanging in the air. She started talking about how some of his coping strategies would make for clinical challenges. She asked us to rate the stuttering on a scale of 1 to 10. We agreed that, for him, it was a 7 or 8. "Really?" she said. "I would have said 9 or even 10." This is a woman who stutters (although I couldn't tell) and comes from a long line of stutterers herself.

We're to start his therapy by getting him to repeat one syllable words without stuttering. For a kid who loves to talk and speaks in long, complex sentences, this is going to be torture. Of course, trying to interpret his long sentences is also torture right now. There is no win here.

I got home and called his previous therapist's office to cancel our appointments from here on out. Instead of feeling relieved to have a new avenue to pursue, I felt sad. It's so hard to find good people who take a real interest in your child. When you do, they sort of become an extension of your family...the team working to help your child have a normal childhood. It was like breaking up with a boyfriend I still cared about just because I knew the relationship wasn't going anywhere. Awful.

Although many of our friends have said that Smuch's speech doesn't sound bad, we knew it was a big problem. We'd already had speech therapists confirm that suspicion, but there's nothing nice about having it confirmed again and again. And it's hard to think back to the time, just a little over a year ago, when this wasn't even a problem. It's like a monster came and latched onto our little boy and won't let him go.

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