[continued from part 1]
Our participation in the KidTalk study began with a round of evaluations and standardized testing (including two days of wearing a recorder all day at home!). In May, we started the intervention. We were assigned to Megan, a licensed speech-language pathologist and the director of this particular branch of KidTalk (this is her doctoral work). We loved her right away--and she loved Elijah immediately, which totally warmed my mama-heart :)
All summer, we went to Vanderbilt every Tuesday morning. Megan would play with Elijah for 15 minutes, occasionally commenting to me about what she was doing and why. Then I'd play with Elijah for 15 minutes, and she would coach me. Everything was videotaped.
Unlike Early Intervention (which said its goal was to be this way...but it really wasn't), this study really focused on training *me*. Every few weeks, someone else would entertain Elijah while we'd have a workshop for Megan to teach me the next set of skills and strategies. She'd explain what I needed to do and why, and she'd show video clips of me playing with Elijah or her playing with Elijah as examples. It was fascinating, and so helpful!
I also had to keep a detailed log about our time at home during the week and how often I was using the strategies in daily life. This study focuses on "enhanced milieu training," meaning that rather than sending a child to speech therapy for an hour a week, you train the parent to create an environment for language development at home. Much more progress can be made, because therapy is happening 24/7--during meals, errands, diaper-changes, getting dressed, bathtime, in the car, you name it.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I realized very quickly that this was going to be good for *me*, not just for Elijah. I'm ashamed to admit it, but if I'm honest, I have to say that I have struggled to engage with Elijah. I'm not sure why, exactly; maybe a combination of factors—the rough start we had; his laidback personality and willingness to play independently; sin issues in my own heart... But he wasn't the only one who had growing to do. I needed to step it up as a mom in terms of working diligently to help my child overcome language struggles.
It is humbling--humiliating, even--to think that you need to be taught how to engage your child, how to be a good parent. There's this sense of, what is my problem? All these other moms I know don't need to be taught these things, and here I am needing to participate in an intervention program to learn how to parent my son. Not to mention how it was painful to think about how my lack of engagement has perhaps contributed to his struggles.
But God had some important truths to teach me. I always need lessons in humility, and as this study began, I was forced to go back to the gospel. Christ knows the truth about me--my failures as a mother, plus a whole lot worse. The cross broadcasts for everyone to see how bad I really am, what I really deserve. So it is really that shocking to think I am an inadequate mother? Who am I trying to put on a show for or impress, anyway?
And lest you think this was merely a painful, discouraging revelation...there is *hope* when you begin to see ways that your problems are related to your sins. There's a Savior for sinners! Christ died to give grace not only to cover sin, but to enable me to change.
Similarly, if Elijah had some sort of developmental or physical disability like autism or cerebral palsy, I would be completely powerless to do anything about it. It wouldn't be my fault, but I wouldn't be able to fix it, either. Whereas if he has minor delays that have been caused (or exacerbated, at least) by my failures as a mother--well, I can do something about that! There is grace to grow. I can get help; I can compensate for where I have fallen short.
It became clear very early on that our participation in this study was way more significant than I initially expected. God was up to much more than simply "help Elijah talk better"! How thankful I was and am for His sovereign, wise, guiding hand bringing this opportunity to us. How thankful I am that He loves me enough to prune me, to teach me humility in hard ways, to entrust a precious child to my care even knowing I will screw up and hurt Him. He is good and loving, and our participation in KidTalk was yet another way to experience that.
[part 3: Elijah's Skills Take Off]