Thursday, January 7, 2016

Chase: Part 1: No Words

photo by Kiljander
Einstein didn’t talk until he was four.
He’ll talk when he has something to say.
Can he hear?

All were remarks from our relatives and friends intending to be supportive, but I mostly ignored them. My child was not Einstein, and it seemed to me that if he could whine and cry he could toss out a word or two.
By age two, at Chase’s physical exam, the doctor asked how his vocabulary was developing. I listed what I knew: da for Dad, dō for dog, ba for bottle, but they were sounds not words. I explained he had never babbled like other babies. Sometimes he gestured for things, a cup, a cookie, but mostly he yelled. 
“He should be putting two words together by now,” the doctor had said. “Make a list of his words and see me again in two months.”
Chase had been born six weeks premature so I expected delays in his development, but when he sat up at eight months, and walked at thirteen months, I stopped worrying. Did he need more time? Was I doing the mom thing right? Did this happen in other families? Chase was my oldest child. I hadn’t been around enough children to know for sure that something was wrong.
One day, feeling desperate, I decided to not let him out of his high chair until he said “down.” Any similar sound would do: dow, deh, doo. Nothing.
“Just sit there then,” I told him, and ignored the consequences. His vocal chords were fine.
“Say ‘down’,” I said.
He stretched out his arms.
“DOWN,” I demanded.
He kicked and his highchair wobbled.
“DOWN,” I yelled. (Not a good strategy, but I was feeling it.)
Afraid that his rocking might land him on the floor, I finally helped him. “Want a cookie?” Perfect. Now I was rewarding him for not talking. He snatched it out of my hand and ran from the room.
Two months later in the doctor’s office, I didn’t need a list. There were no words. Instead, there had been noises, silly noises, elongated vowel sounds, or tuneless humming, endless noise. “Quiet!” I yelled. We were the perfect pair, unable to communicate; there weren’t enough cookies in the world to fix us.
The doctor handed me a slip of paper with the phone number of North Bay Regional Center. He explained it was a state agency that offered free psychiatric testing for families in need of services. He also ordered a hearing test.
The results came back normal. 

To be continued…


Amber Lea Starfire said...

Barb, you've really captured the worry and exasperation you went through during that period of time with your usual sense of humor. Love the picture of Einstein . Can't wait to read part 2.

barb bits said...

Thanks, Amber. Part 2 is in the works.

barb bits said...

In an email comment from Lenore Wilson:

Barbara! Your writing soars! Chase is your muse! I was close to tears reading your words. Impeccable words! You have a book here that is wondrous and going to get published-- I feel it in my bones!

barb bits said...

Wow. Thanks, Lenore. Coming from you (an especially gifted poet) these words mean a lot.