Our (now 22 year old) son Zach didn’t start speaking until he was around four years old. After a six week hospital stay at birth, we were advised to initiate “early intervention” services to help Zach buffer from the rough start. These included but were not limited to speech therapy.
You can imagine our excitement when some words started coming and Zach began communicating beyond physical gestures and facial expressions. We worked diligently with him to integrate PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) and attached small, laminated images to house hold items. We had therapists coming to our home, and he received support at his preschool.
There was one Speech Therapist in particular, that became part of our family. We met this beautiful angel through his pre-school program. To our delight she began a private practice shortly after Zach began speaking, and Zach became her loyal client and admirer.
Week after week, month after month, year after year we met with this amazing, compassionate and skilled young woman. That appointment was often the anchor to our day and sometimes week. Zach enjoyed going and I was thrilled to have 45 uninterrupted minutes of “me” time in the car while waiting for him.
Although Zach never evolved to develop the skill of eating during this decade-and-a-half cadence (he remains tube fed to this day) the speech portion of his therapy was progressing. More words came from Zach over the years, and we were always grateful for his therapist’s expertise and presence. We enjoy visiting with her to this day.
Back to speech therapy. Zach had a propensity to feel threatened by large trucks on the road. This manifested as an increased anxiety and tone when we were near 18 wheelers on the highway, which was nearly every day. As we would approach, he would want to pass them as quickly as possible. If there was stand still traffic and we were next to one, the car became a pressure cooker for a full on melt down: Shoes flying, head banging, window hitting, screaming which often resulted in vomiting. The “big trucks” were a source of stress for all of us.
Fortunately, Zach had been working on saying the word “truck” so while initially, it was not clear to me what the trigger was for this eruptive and dangerous behavior, I was able to make the connection once he could say it. And he said it, repeatedly. The closer we got, the faster, louder and more convicted he became, in shouting the word.
A solid decade into Zach’s continued therapy, it occurred to me that in aggregate, we’d probably spent (along with insurance, that did NOT cover a lot of this cost) roughly $50K for these services. One day after passing a truck on the way to his speech appointment, I said to his therapist: “We are so grateful, for all the progress Zach is making and for your presence in his life, but honestly, after 10 years and several thousand dollars, do you think you could get Zach to start saying “T-R-U-C-K” instead of “F-R-U-C-K?” Because when he gets wound up, he tends to drop the “R” from the latter?
We both started laughing out loud, as we had a joint understanding of what that sounds like, especially when fueled by anxiety! “We will work on it !“ she replied, as she continued laughing proudly.
Fast forward to current day, we don’t get to see his therapist much anymore. But Zach speaks like a champion, putting 6 or 7 words together in a sentence and saying “Truck” without reference to the four letter expletive that we’d heard so often when he was younger.
Zach still suffers from “truck anxiety” but now he repeats “Truck! Truck! Pass it! Big truck! Pass it Mom! Pass it!”. Once in a while a shoe still flies, but it is slightly easier to take, without the added “F-Bombs” that used to accompany the melt downs.
Thanks Stacey, you truly are an angel!