DC played baseball with the *Challengers League from the time he was 5 until he aged out last year at 21.
The “official” Challengers field in town is located in front of the school he attended for Birth to 3, Early Intervention and Kindergarten. Needless to say he was in this building and with many of the same teachers for a good 4 or 5 years.
I’ve had my battles with the school system over the years, but none so on-going as the need for speech therapy. This battle began in Early Intervention and continued on straight into High School.
Sign Language, I believed was absolutely necessary, thanks to my sister in-law, Lisa who convinced me that sign would not prevent him from speaking if he had the capability to eventually speak. It might lessen his frustration level at not being able to communicate (it did). But sign was not, in my mind ‘Speech Therapy” and should not be considered as part of the Speech Therapy hours listed in his IEP. Speech Therapy in a group setting also should not be counted as his speech therapy. Yes, he did need to learn to be able to focus in a group setting, but focusing in a group setting is not speech therapy, it is learning to focus in a group setting.
I can’t tell you how many of these teachers told me he would never speak. One speech therapist, Barbara, actually told me that I was obsessed with DC speaking and “You know, if he isn’t talking by now, he probably isn’t going to”. He was 5 at the time.
They went so far as to schedule and pay for an evaluation at a well known Medical Center to have him evaluated for a **“Talking Board”. I went to this evaluation, never intending for him to use a Talking Board, but to use the evaluation as proof he was capable of speech. As it turns out, this is exactly what the Doctor doing the evaluating said; he did not recommend the Talking Board and noted this in his report.
I didn’t give up on my battle with the school system, but I also didn’t want to waste any more time getting him the speech therapy he needed, I went out and got other speech evaluations and hired a private speech therapist. Liza was wonderful and made a great deal of progress with him. She was with him for many years. Armed with the evaluations and his progress, I was finally able to prove this to school system – Quite the Catch 22, he had to speak before they would agree to one on one speech therapy! Unfortunately it took a few years to get to this point with them; years that would have been wasted if he were not receiving the private speech therapy.
But back to baseball…….
Our league used a PA system and we always had a volunteer to announce the games. Each game was opened with the Pledge of Allegiance.
When I was President of the league, I decided that every player should have a chance to be in the spotlight. Each week two players were assigned as team captains and another player was assigned to do whatever they were capable of doing on the microphone.
Some led the pledge; some sang a patriotic song or just yelled “Play Ball!” If they were not verbal, they stood at attention at the Flag or threw out the first pitch.
Our games were played on Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings. DC was about 10 years old and on this particular Wednesday when he was scheduled to be in the spotlight. Coincidently all of the teachers from the Early Intervention Program had been attending a meeting at the school after hours and decided to come down to watch the game before heading home. Most of the players had been their students at one time or another.
Many of them had not seen DC in about 4 years. Just imagine the feeling I had to see DC to go to the mic and sing “America the Beautiful” as clear as a bell with all of those “professionals” who years earlier told me he would never speak, sitting right there in the stands! I could not have PLANNED this if I tried!
Sometimes an “I told you so” is just good for the soul, even if you don’t have to
actually say it out loud.
*Challengers Baseball is a division of Little League for children with physical and intellectual disabilities
**”Talking Board” I don’t know what they might be called these days, but that is what they were called back in the 90’s.
A VERSION OF THIS POST WAS PUBLISHED ON THE MIGHTY – “They Told Me He’d Never Speak. Then They Heard Him Sing”