Reaching Towards Progress
Over the next two years, Jessie continued to work with exceptional speech therapists, who understood that a Goldfish cracker was a great motivator for her. One doctor suggested that omega-3 fish oils had been shown to help with speech development. I quickly added that to Jessie's diet. A therapist told us to use an electric toothbrush to stimulate her mouth; I ran to Target to purchase one. We used picture cards; we tried a speech-therapy technique known as "PROMPT;" and, as usual, we talked incessantly to her. Somewhere close to her fifth birthday, Jessie had mustered a few-word vocabulary, which included "muh" for "more" and "bahbah" for my father, "Papa" Mike. She picked up "Mommy" soon after, which, for a fairly unreligious woman like myself, was a spectacularly spiritual moment. Daddy had to wait a while longer to hear his name uttered, but he, too, finally had his day. And Jacob, the big brother who had devoted countless hours to making his sister laugh, patiently waited his turn, although I knew inside that he was as desperate to be given this gift as I was for him to receive it.
Ironically, with all that anticipation, Jake and I almost missed it when it finally happened.
The summer after Jessie turned 5 years old, the three of us spent a lot of time in Jacob's bedroom dancing to songs on his iTunes playlist. Jessie and I would often take a seat against the wall to watch Jacob dance for us. On a muggy Monday afternoon in July, I turned to my daughter and asked, "Who is dancing?" A little voice responded, "Dake!" Although an uninformed observer may have remained ignorant of what had just happened, to Jacob there was no mistaking it. His sister had finally called him "Jake." In the moment that Jessie anointed him "Dake," I saw the weight lift from his young shoulders, and he continued to dance; it was clearly a dance of joy.
Originally published in the August 2012 issue of Parents magazine.