Me: “Is that poopie on the floor?” Son: “Um, yes.” Me: “How did poopie get on the floor?!” Son: “My poopie is bouncy.”
That’s my son. Completely irreverent, matter-of-fact and inventive. A four-year-old who loves to play rough and run fast—so fast that he won the title of speediest kid at his preschool. He’s a boy who can’t help but cut in front of people in line or run out into crowds, which makes me want to raise my voice until he turns back and smiles so big it makes me forget. But I should start at the beginning.
From the moment my son was born, he was on the move. When the nurses laid him down in his clear plastic hospital bassinet, he was pumping his legs as if running. A few months later, tummy time was the same—his belly to the ground, arms and legs in action, going nowhere really fast. The boy never crawled. One day, he simply got up on all fours and started galloping around like a little monkey.
At two, he wasn’t talking. Not a word. When I called his name, he would look off somewhere else. I would say his name several times in a row but still nothing. My wife thought it was a “phase,” but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something more was going on. We were stressed-out and worried like most first-time parents.
As a parent, you feel responsible when things don’t turn out perfectly for your children. My son was a very late talker and a lot of thoughts went through my head: Is it autism? Is this because we chose to vaccinate him? Is his diet a problem? Are we stunting his speech by letting him watch too much TV?
These concerns were unfounded, of course. They are the kinds of myths parents are exposed to on the playground, in the media and sometimes through family members. Ironically, I recently wrote an article for LD.org about the myths surrounding learning disabilities that addressed some of the misconceptions I had as a first-time parent. Through my work with LD.org, I’m also aware now of helpful resources, such as the LD Navigator, a guide to learning disabilities for doctors and nurses. At the time my son wasn’t talking, however, I wasn’t aware of these resources.
We eventually had our son evaluated and our doctor recommended a wait-and-see approach with a focus on reading to him and encouraging him to speak. He finally said his first word – “cracker” – and we enrolled him at a preschool with a strong emphasis on language. In the year between ages 3 and 4, he went from timidly whispering one or two words to spouting full sentences. Last week, we took him to kindergarten orientation and he seemed to feel right at home playing footsies with one of the other little boys.
I suspect that in the future there will be challenges, but this Father’s Day, my son has given me the best gift ever – his irreverent smile. In return, I’m going to make sure that I’m there for him and that I stay informed about the facts regarding learning disabilities and childhood development.
Andrew M.I. Lee works as Web Editor for LD.org. He strives to make NCLD’s online content relevant, timely and compelling for all who seek to overcome challenges to learning. Andrew lives in New Jersey with his wife and two children.