I wasn't worried. My daughter also had a speech delay. A speech therapist came to our home twice a week to give her therapy, and now you couldn't stop her from talking if you wanted to.
When the time came, a group of clinicians arrived with toys for Henry and paperwork for me. They asked Henry to perform various tasks, such as stacking blocks and sorting shapes by color. Henry sat in his booster chair at our kitchen table and dutifully tried to comply.
A week later I met with one of the clinicians. The team had determined that Henry did in fact have a speech delay and qualified for weekly, home-based, therapeutic services.
The therapist who showed up a few days after that meeting introduced herself and then approached Henry. As she got closer, Henry's body language changed. He was not buckled into the safety of his booster chair this time, and she was invading his space. She tried to play with him, and he started to cry. She touched his arm, and he began to wail. By the time she left, I was crying, too.
That therapist came two more times before I mustered up the courage to call the Early Intervention Program and ask for a new clinician. I worried about hurting her feelings, but she made Henry so upset, I just couldn't watch it anymore.
Three weeks later a new therapist arrived. Henry was sitting on the living room floor playing with his Matchbox cars. This new therapist quietly watched him for a minute or two.
"Does he always play like this with his cars?" the therapist asked.
"What do you mean?" I replied.
"Does he always arrange them in a line like that?"
"Yes. He always makes a long line. Sometimes he sorts them in the line by size, color, or style. He can sit for hours doing that."
She nodded. I thought it was almost brilliant that a 16-month-old could arrange such a large grouping so meticulously and amuse himself for so long. I wondered if she thought so, too.
The therapist then approached Henry slowly. She lowered herself and sat cross-legged about a foot and a half away from him.
"Hi, Henry. My name is Hope. Can I play with you?"
Henry ignored her.
"Can I have one of your cars to play with?"
Henry continued to ignore her.
She reached out to touch one of the cars, and Henry's body began to shake. He made a sound, the beginning of a cry.
Hope pulled her hand away. "That's okay, Henry. I brought some of my own toys."
She reached into a bag and pulled out a wooden puzzle. Henry glanced over at the toy.
"Would you like to play with my puzzle, Henry?"
Henry cautiously assessed the scene and then moved a few inches closer to her.
"This is how you do it." She demonstrated how to take the large wooden pieces out and put them back in. Hope then handed Henry a piece. He took it from her hand and tried to fit it into one of the openings.
"Oops. Doesn't fit there," Hope confirmed.