It all started a few months ago. Michael and I got home from a date and chatted with the twins' babysitters (Michael's parents). :) They mentioned Jude's new trick - crossing his fingers - and asked if we'd noticed it before. Neither of us had and I made a mental note to look for it.
Sure enough, it didn't take long the next morning before he crossed his fingers. As Michael played with the kids, I grabbed my phone and casually typed in "toddler crosses fingers" in that evil Google search bar. In one second, several message boards popped up that all talked about autistic toddlers who crossed their fingers. I couldn't breathe.
The twins had just gone to their 18-month well appointment and taken an autism screening test with zero red flags. My google search led me to a website where I read other signs of autism. Delayed speech was right at the top, which definitely described Jude. I shared my findings with Michael and he told me to put my phone away (he HATES my Google searches).
Last year a friend had her daughter tested for speech delay so I sent her a quick message and asked for more information. She wrote back about ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) and told me about the amazing experience they'd had. I decided I'd give it a month and if Jude's speech hadn't improved, I would give them a call.
His speech didn't improve. I wasn't sleeping. I became a complete wreck of a mom, watching Jude's every move, analyzing every gesture, and panicking over very normal toddler behaviors. I shared my fears with my family and friends and they all told me to relax. But I couldn't relax.
I finally called his pediatrician and shared my fears. I told her about him crossing his fingers and his delayed speech. She said I had nothing to worry about but if it would make me feel better, she'd have him tested.
For a few days I breathed easier. When panic would creep in I would think about her calming words and it would subside. But then Sloane would say five new words to every one of Jude's and I'd feel my heart racing. Michael finally sat me down and told me to make an appointment with ECI. He had absolutely no concerns about Jude; he was concerned about me. He knew me well enough to know I would not be able to let it go until I had an answer.
I called his pediatrician and asked that she refer Jude to ECI. She agreed so I called to make the appointment, hoping we could see them the following week. Instead, they told me their next available screening was Tuesday, July 15 - over three weeks away. I finished the phone call and prayed God would take away my fears and make the weeks go by quickly.
He answered both prayers. I was able to enjoy my son again and not question every single thing he did or didn't do. I noticed his vocabulary was increasing quite a bit - not as much as his sister but definite improvement. And then one day we were playing with a new toy and he blew me away. He would purposefully put something on the wrong peg and then look up at me to see my reaction. A few weeks before I would've thought, "Why doesn't he know how to do this?" but instead I watched him as he looked in my eyes, grinned, and then moved it immediately to its correct place. He laughed and did it with two more pieces. He was playing a game with me. He was so full of joy. How much joy had I missed over the last few months? It hurts my heart to even think about that now.
This morning Michael stayed home with Sloane and I took Jude to his initial screening. I'd told my friends and family that I would be thrilled with either result: the coordinator would tell me I was crazy or Jude would get the help he needed. Win/win in my book. Jude tends to take a few minutes to warm up to strangers but he was phenomenal this morning. There were three ladies (speech therapist, physical therapist, and the enrollment coordinator) who all played with him, asked him questions, and watched him closely.
He was social, polite, and so excited to "play" (they were all tests but he didn't know it). I was in awe as I watched him absolutely thrive when he didn't have to share the spotlight with his sister. It didn't take long before they were done and we went over his scores. They agreed he was delayed in expressive communication (using words) but was right on track for receptive communication (understanding language). They also told me he was way ahead in personal/social and gross/fine motor skills. The physical therapist explained that toddlers are typically capable of concentrating their efforts in only one direction at a time. For Jude, it's all about motor development and speech is taking a backseat. I brought up autism and they said there was a zero percent chance.
When it was time to leave, Jude reached for the coordinator's hand. She walked him out as I trailed behind, holding results that said he was NOT eligible for services. And then she gave me his hand and told me she wished every patient was as sweet and kind as my Jude.
I'm sharing this today because I know I'm not the only parent who scours the internet every time an issue arises. That "innocent" search made the last two months a roller coaster of (unwarranted) emotions. Had I never typed in those three words none of the above would've happened and I simply would've had a child who learned a neat trick that day. And for the record, he rarely crosses his fingers anymore.
So now you know a little more about me (bleck) and a little more about Jude Sullivan, gross motor skills extraordinaire!