Loquacious, garrulous, chatty or talkative. These are the adjectives that describe Buzzard. Considering where we started, this is something of a miracle.
As I’ve said before, when Buzzard was 2, he was diagnosed with autism. In addition to the autism, he had a gut problem that caused chronic vomiting during the period that they develop the muscles in their mouths used for speech. He didn’t develop those muscles in the window of time babies are supposed to, which is between 4 and 10 months, so he was physically incapable of producing the appropriate sounds for speech.
I remember sitting in one of the first IEP meetings feeling like I had been punched in the stomach. The attorney was looking through the IEP that had been written up, when he suddenly stopped the proceedings and said, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but according to the goals that have been set by the speech therapist, Buzzard will be farther behind at the end of the year than when he starts.”
The speech therapist glared at him. “It’s all he’s capable of,” she said crossing her arms.
“But that’s not the point of the IEP,” my attorney replied. “The point is to set goals on a track that catches him up. It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t meet them.”
The speech therapist replied, “In my professional opinion, it’s all he’s capable of.”
Never have I had so many conflicting emotions as I had at that point. Angry that she would sell him short. Angry that she was lazy and didn’t even want to try. Angry that she threatened my carefully constructed defenses. Overwhelming fear that she might be right, an idea I wasn’t willing to entertain for any amount of time.
Tempers rose between the speech therapist and the attorney, but the attorney was right and he pressed his point. There was no way to find Buzzard’s limits if he wasn’t challenged, and I wanted him challenged. The representative from the county was the peace-maker. She required the speech therapist to make the changes, but followed up by saying, “I think everybody needs to recognize and accept that some children will not improve like we would like them to.”
I went home and cried. I rocked him at night sobbing because I thought he’d never speak. I prayed and prayed with fear in my heart every night, wondering how I was going to cope when it became patently clear to everyone that it just wasn’t going to happen. Then one day I was sitting on the couch, and he walked up to me and picked up one of my tennis shoes sitting on the floor beside me and held it out to me and said, “Shoe!” I froze.
“What did you say, baby?” I asked him, barely able to breath.
He shoved it closer to me, and said, “SHOE!” Then he dropped it and walked away, as if to say, “I will talk. You’ll see.”
And once he got going, he didn’t stop. Not only did he master English, he is now in his third year of Spanish and doing well, in addition to succeeding in his other classes. In 8th grade he went on a field trip that was a long drive and rode with another family. After they dropped the kids off that evening, the other mother that drove came up to me and said, “Buzzard talked the whole way up. We heard all about your family.”
I laughed. “Only the whole way up?”
“And the whole way back,” she said. “I always thought he was kinda quiet.”
“Not once he gets going,” I said, smiling.
This evening we were watching a movie and he kept talking during it, asking questions and telling his thoughts on what he would have done in that situation. We were begging him to shut up. My how the tables have turned. I wouldn’t have it any other way.