Three years ago, when Liam was two and a half we had a substitute therapist at Bravehearts, Karin, to take over for the summer. I was apprehensive because not every therapist is a good fit, and the fit can make or break progression. However, within five minutes of walking Liam around the arena, she b-lined over to me, looked me square in the eyes, and asked “Has anyone used the word apraxia to describe your son?” I was stunned and said “No,” and she walked right back to Liam to finish the session. After, she began to describe what apraxia was, gave us some tools, and websites to learn more. Over the course of the summer, she was doing drills with Liam that made us all look wide eyed and shocked (like putting a tongue depressor in his mouth while asking him to make sounds-which he did not love), but also gave us comfort knowing that this woman knew what she was doing, and that God brought her to us.
The fall came and Karin was leaving Bravehearts, and so we asked her if we could follow her to other clinic 75 miles away, because when someone has the experience and the relationship with your kid like she did, you follow her ANYWHERE. For eighteen months, every Wednesday, Liam and I would drive over an hour, both ways, in silence. I would talk to him occasionally about the landscape and the big trucks, knowing that he couldn’t respond, but also knowing that nothing is wasted, and that he heard his momma talking to him.
For 18 months, I remember sitting in the waiting room, looking around at the families who were waiting for their appointments. Some of the kids had typical delays, some had more severe delays than Liam, and yet in our differences, I felt safe and at home. I watched as kids graduated out of therapy and, at the time, I was filled with both joy for those kids and their families and a mixture of hope and jealousy, not knowing what Liam’s future would hold. We would often pray “God, we know you see Liam. We know you’ve brought us to this place. We know you have our future in your hands. Please.” We couldn’t even ask for the specific request of hearing our son speak. It was too overwhelming to be that vulnerable with our faith, we knew others were praying specifically for Liam and that helped us stay focused in the present and the job at hand.
But then it happened.
18 months ago Liam began talking. Slowly, bits of words and gibberish here and there; then more concrete words emerged. Our drives into Arlington suddenly began to change. He would begin by saying “Hi” to me periodically in the car, then asking for his water, then would comment on the landscape; now we discuss the big construction taking place and it blows my mind to think back to where we began.
Which brings us to today, it was our last day at Arlington with Karin. I can’t ever say good-bye to the people that have been instrumental in Liam’s life. And our relationship with Karin is not over, as Liam is on a journey with his language and one that may find us back at Arlington down the road. But for now, we are hitting the pause button, which seems an appropriate time to say “Thank you”. But, how do you thank the woman that unlocked our son’s voice? How? I don’t know, but this is a start:
It took you less than five minutes to see Liam. To explain what you believed to be the problem and then the solution. You often joke that you were so hard on him and that the beginning of your relationship was a love/hate one as Liam would fight you on the work that needed to be done. But you have to know he saw you too. Liam never trusts anyone that isn’t a good match for him; he just knows. He won’t waste anyone’s time with nonsense. Thank you for allowing us to follow you to Arlington. It’s been 3 years of hard work and insights and homework and deep hope that our journey with Liam’s speech wouldn’t end until we HEARD him. We can’t believe this day is here, and that God brought us to you. How do we say thank you to the woman that unlocked our son’s ability to verbally tell us that he loves us, if he’s sick, or that he had so much fun at school? We think of you all the time when we hear new ideas and words and phrases come out of his mouth, and we will NEVER forget where you’ve brought us. You do miraculous work, the stuff that turns parents’ dreams into reality. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU.
Much Love and Respect,
Matt, Courtney & Lee (Liam)