“Declan is doing really well with his speech. When he started with me a few years ago he would use a single word or utterance to try to get his whole message across. Now he is using LOTS of words. We started working on having him answer “who” and “what” questions. In the beginning, he would just repeat the questions, or parts of the questions back to me. Now he is starting to answer some of them. We are going to continue to focus on this area as part of his goals in speech therapy. We will begin to add in “where” questions as well.”
“Ok, great.” I returned to Declan’s speech therapist.
“Declan is still not able to answer “why” or “how” questions. Those ideas are a little more abstract. We will continue to ask him a “why” question and tell him the answer so he will begin to understand. For example, “Why do we put milk in the fridge? To keep it cold.””
The speech therapist looked up from the paperwork and continued with her eyes on mine.
“The concept is hard for him. He may never be able to answer “why” or “how” questions. But we will keep trying.”
The May Never’s
I came home from the meeting with another new-found pile of paper work to add to Declan’s file. I wondered again, as I do after every meeting, if the shelf I store his file on will soon break from the weight of paper that it carries.
I walked to the shelf and pulled out his files from three years ago. I began to read through the goals, remembering the child that started with this program.
I remembered the child that screamed when anyone spoke to him. I thought about the child they wrote about that hit, bit and clawed – everyone including himself. The child that ran into any object, human included, just to seek sensory input.
I knew the child that no one really knew what he was capable of because he never sat long enough for any kind of assessment.
I remembered Declan screaming and pointing. I remembered Declan’s limited vocabulary and how frustrated we all were. I remembered asking him something to have him repeat the words back to me.
I put the paperwork back into the file and found this year’s file to place the new paperwork inside.
I thought about what the speech therapist said. He may never be able to answer those questions.
As I pushed the record of files back onto the shelf, I thought about how many times I have thought of the things that Declan would never do. Of how many times I had sat in meetings to watch people shrug when it came to the question of his capabilities in certain areas. No one was ever sure.
I began to think of Declan now, and how far he has come. I could read about it in his files. I could read from each group of paperwork and see the progress he has made. Goals achieved, new goals to work for. And if not on paper than in life, I had seen Declan come so far and reiterated to myself one important thought.
“There is always hope.”