Dateline Graham - Late September
The boys had sat through hours and hours of speech therapy, and still there was no speech. I had resigned myself to this non-verbal state. After all, the neurologist told us that if Josiah and Jalen were not talking by the age of three, then they would likely never talk. Josiah was now five years old, and Jalen three and a half. Josiah had no language – not a word. Jalen would occasionally say an approximation of “mama,” but it was very infrequent and rarely upon request. Our friends at TEACCH encouraged us to hold out hope, that there is so much unknown about this disorder. Our focus changed. Yes, we would continue speech therapy, but we resolved that, if God wanted the boys to talk, they would. If He didn’t, then they wouldn’t. We chose to focus on resting in God’s sovereignty.
Towards the end of September, Jalen began what seemed like babbling. He always made noises, but the sounds he now made were almost like a conversation. He began to cue in like never before, taking interest in the facial expressions of others. He also started saying the letter “d” when we would recite the alphabet to him, and he would repeat most of the word “eat” when we would say that it was time to eat. All of this was great, but we remained guarded. We had seen what appeared to be development before, but it went away as soon as it showed up.
On October 10th, I was standing in the kitchen when I heard singing. Olivia and Jack were at school and Judah was playing. I knew instantly that it was Jalen. I turned around and found him in the swing. He was singing, Behold. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hear my voice, and will open, open, open the door, I will come in. He sounded like a deaf child – the melody of the song was perfect and some of the words were recognizable. Jalen was singing!
The speech therapists that we work with believe that Jalen has something called Apraxia. It is a disorder that causes problems with oral motor planning. This is why Jalen sounds deaf and is hard to understand. It is something that can improve with therapy. Normally it takes years of therapy to overcome, but it can improve.
In the weeks that have followed, Jalen has added several new songs to his repertoire: B-I-N-G-O, Deep and Wide, Jesus Loves Me, and The Wheels on the Bus. He has started saying the alphabet from A-Z when I use sign language to finger spell it. The sounds are very hard to understand, but given the melody of the songs and the order of the alphabet, there’s no mistaking what he’s trying to do.
What are we learning? That God is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think” (Eph.3:20), that we can rejoice that God’s mercies are new every morning and He is faithful (Lam. 3:23), and that God knows the plans He has for us (Jer. 29:11). God created Jalen, and placed him in our family. God sustains Jalen’s life, and has given him a voice. We are rejoicing!