How ironic! The author would probably add a plug for Alanis Morissette…”Don’t you think?” When I chose to blog about the fifth and sixth chapters around Sept. 9th, it was more of a “pick some short chapters” instead of my patriotism, which I hate to admit. I didn’t even know the content at the time. But ironically it was the weekend of the 15th Anniversary of 9/11. Coincidence? It was humbling and also brought me back to where I was and my feelings about the events on September 11th, 2001 (only my second year working with JCPS as an SLP). For my generation, it’s definitely one of the “where were you when” moments and seemed to be for the author as well. If he is going to write about his young daughter during that time, it’s one of those things you just mention. You just do. Especially if you were as close to the location of the tragedy as his family was.
He starts by talking about playing and dancing in the area of the former World Trade Towers, and Schuyler’s laugh which she has never lost. He remembers her hands touching the glass of the towers and the invulnerability and innocence taken for granted then. In my mind, it foreshadowed or was some sort of analogy this family had BEFORE Schuyler’s “MONSTER” was first reveled. Then he immediately writes, ”when the first plane hit.” Everyone knows what he means without much introduction. He continues to write, “something horrible was going on in the city, but no one seemed to know exactly what it was just yet.” I can only assume this is how Robert and Julie felt during their extremely long wait before their daughter’s final and accurate diagnosis. He writes about “it”. It. One word to encompass the entire event and the whole place. The saddest place in all the world. A place and people with unanswered questions, anger, frustration, and scared as could be.
Robert (the author) tells us that his daughter was now 18 months old. He wrote that they really weren’t aware that she should have been talking, or at least trying to talk by now. I guess we (well I will speak for myself), as SLPs, with our education and training, think, “DUH!”. I guess I take it for granted knowing the communication milestones of children. I have had it memorized from undergrad language development class (GO CATS! You know I had to throw that in :)). One word at one, two word utterances at two, three at three…it was one of the easier things to memorize, wasn’t it? But then I think about my own knowledge or lack of knowledge about car engines at the same of my college studies. At one time I opened the hood (proud I could do that) and looked around the pipes, tubes, tanks, etc. and said, “Where is the radiator?” So, that made me more forgiving for a family that are not SLPs.
Robert tries so hard to get his daughter to say, “Mama…Mama…Mama!” But every single time, Schuyler would look up at him with a big smile and say nothing at all. By the time they were beginning to have her evaluated for their Birth- to -Three program (I guess what we call First Steps) her speaking deficits were becoming more obvious. Her speaking deficits, not necessarily her communication deficits. She could produce vowels, had inflection, appropriate eye contact, and smiled at others, but no consonants…therefore no words.
I have never heard of “The Holland Thing”. This was a new concept to me. Apparently about 20 years ago, a writer for Sesame Street (my fav) had a special needs child with a diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome. She wrote an essay about how she perceived life with a child with special needs. Her essay compares the unexpected situation of planning for a vacation in Italy, to instead have the plane land in Holland. She discussed her disappointment in the differences, but learned to appreciate the wonderful aspects of Holland could be as good as Italy. My first thought-“This is no sort of vacation in anyway.” This “Holland Thing” didn’t help them. He states that he was bothered by the fact that it called for nothing other than acceptance. At this time, there was something very wrong with their daughter, and no one could tell them what was wrong or what it was…Who would “accept” that? They continued to wait for answers at the Child Development Center at Southern Connecticut State University which spent several hours observing Schuyler, weeks compiling data-to say the obvious-“She Couldn’t Talk”. The unanswered questions started the thoughts of personal failures and the beginning of personal darkness and negative effects on the family as a whole.
–Kim Raho, SLP at Norton Elementary