“Can She Talk?” Out of the Mouths of Babes…

This past weekend my family went to a birthday party for the daughter of our good friends.  It was all the wonderful things you’d expect when a little gal turns two; balloons, crafts, laughter, Minnie Mouse decor.

Teagan approached the situation the way she normally does when she is unsure of her surroundings – standing back and watching the other children, playing with toys out of the way of the hustle and bustle, and sticking close to her father, sister, or myself.  As much as I would love to see her get in the mix with the other children, she seemed happy – so that was fine with me.

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I felt I hit it out of the park when present opening came – our gift, a six foot crawling tube, was immediately taken out of the box, and all the kiddos scrambled to take turns worming their way through (okay, okay, mother of the birthday girl gave me the idea – Caitlin, you get all the credit).  Teagan wanted to go through, but as we approached the opening, I could tell she was intimidated by the boisterousness of all the other littles rushing in and out.  Even though we didn’t speak, I feel that together she and I decided we’d wait for things to calm down a bit, and then she would take her turn.  In the meantime, there was cake and ice cream to eat!
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My daughters got themselves seated at a table with a few other kiddos, and Joel and I helped each of them with their plates.  I can’t even remember now what was happening – I assume I was asking T questions that she wasn’t answering – but whatever it was, it didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary…to me.  All of a sudden, a voice says, “Can she talk?”
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My heart jumped into my throat a bit and my body went a little numb.  I look up from the plate of birthday goodies to the the question asker, a boy of six years or so (I think, I’m really bad at guessing ages), who is observing Teagan with a curious look on his face.  I know this type of question will be a part of my life, but as much I’ve thought about it, it’s still a bit of a shock to hear.  Maybe this will change as time goes on.  It isn’t a shock because I mind the question, but because I don’t know exactly how to answer it.
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Because at home, T is quite noisy.  And often times she says things that maybe not everyone would be able to understand, but I know what she is saying.  Her speech pathologist recently did an assessment of her progress, and she is a year and a half or so behind where she should be.  This might be a surprise, but I’m actually quite happy about this…for a while I didn’t think she’d ever talk at all!  And besides all that, when you’re dealing with a disability that is so rare, how deep do you go with your explanation – no matter what the age of the questioner?
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“Can she talk?”
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I look from the curious young man to my sweet daughter and answer: “A little bit.”  He shifts his curious gaze from Teagan to myself, and says “Why just a little bit?”  “Because,” I say, “Sometimes people learn to talk at different ages.”
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“Oh!”  He says, “Like Ella at my school!” And goes back to his own plate of cake.
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Simple as that.
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I know it won’t always be that easy.  I know kids won’t always be that kind.  But for this little dude, an answer was all he wanted, and then he was happy to move on.
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And thanks to him, I get to put a check next to “Answering Questions I Don’t Know How To Answer” on my list of things I’m nervous about for the future.
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