An Unlikely Pair: Living with Functional Multiples (And, Hi, Nice to Meet You!)

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Categories Addiction, Adoption, Attitude, Different Gender, Diversity, Family, Functional Multiples, Parenting, Perspective, SAHM, Special NeedsTags , , , , 8 Comments

Summer 2013 -8423We are blazing a trail here, my hubby and I! Our family does not really fit into any established category.

Yes, I am most definitely the mother of multiples. But, am I the mother of twins? Mmmmm… No, not really.

The days look really similar to life with twins, but they are not. My children are not twins in the traditional (or even biological) sense. They did not share my womb. They were not born on the same day, although I have heard of the Irish mom who gave birth to twins, her first daughter at 23 weeks and the second daughter eighty-seven days later! So, maybe what day they were born isn’t as much of an issue here. Of course, the fact that they are not even biologically related is the real kicker!

We know they are not twins, yet we are parents of multiples, just the same. Our situation, although not unique, sits in a different category altogether. There are those that would argue that we don’t even belong here on a blog about multiples. I don’t suppose it really matters in the end. I can tell you it was tough! I see my life in many of your stories.

A bit of our story

We have six older kids, and when we realized they were all flying the coop at once, we decided we needed some new life in the home. We looked into foster care.

At the same time, I was studying to become a Chemical Dependency Professional, and the plight of drug-exposed newborns was near and dear to my heart. I studied the physiological effects of drugs and alcohol on the brain in adults. Let me tell you, watching an infant struggle with the pain and misery is a whole other ball game!

We sought training via an intensive care nursery in our state that specializes in caring for and teaching others about the effective handling of drug exposed and drug addicted newborns. In June of 2011, we got word we were fully licensed and ready to go!

Isaiah

On July 11, 2011, our son (then foster son) came home at 24 hours old. It was appalling to realize that the nurses at our local hospital had zero experience or understanding of how to care for drug exposed newborns. They told us that he was having issues with feeding, but they weren’t quite sure what to do to help him. They had a “good luck with that!” attitude. Thank goodness we had been trained!

Our journey had begun.

For the first four months, Isaiah was the only little one in our home. I spent the first two of those months helping him gain weight in spite of the drugs passing out of his system. I had to help him cope with the sensory overload that was his constant state. The tremors were incessant. He often whimpered as if he were in pain.

I cared for him in our basement bedroom, with the lights low and a soft sound machine for background noise. I needed to wake him to eat every one and a half to two hours for the first two months of his life. That sounds easy enough, but part of his response to sensory overload was to shut down and sleep. He slept eight straight hours after his first supervised visit with his first mom. He was only 3 days old and already struggling with failure to thrive. We simply could not wake him! Still, we tried, every hour until we succeeded in getting him to eat.

In spite of that regimen, Isaiah lost over a pound in his first week home, and only gained slowly and painfully for the first two months. If they had not placed him on the higher calorie formula intended for premature infants, I am sure that it would have been even longer.

Infants who are meth exposed are notoriously plagued with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and often have, shall we say “explosive,” diapers. They also commonly have trouble coordinating the muscles in their mouth to suckle and swallow effectively. So he lost far more than we could get into him at first. Such is the life of many foster moms!

And then things got really interesting!

When four months had passed, Isaiah had recovered from the withdrawal phase.  Life was settling into something that looked a lot like “normal”.

What do you know? The phone rang! Enter Zoe.

Zoe was also drug exposed, although primarily to an intense nicotine addiction. There was secondary exposure to methamphetamine. She screamed twenty out of twenty-four hours a day. The first three months of her life were a constant struggle to keep her calm and comfortable.

At the same time, we had our Isaiah evaluated by the local Birth to Three program and began his Occupational Therapy for dyspraxia.

Zoe was three months old before we had made a discovery that resolved many of her early issues. The introduction of a probiotic to her diet stopped the screaming like flipping a switch.

New normal

We settled into the therapy and care routines that carried us through many months. Today our lives look a lot like the typical life of parents with two-year old twin toddlers.

Functionally speaking, Isaiah and Zoe behave much like twins. They are very close. They have started to build their own language and pretty much drive each other nuts 24/7!

Occasionally they have other issues tied to their sensory integration difficulties. Zoe struggles with “gravitational insecurity” and Isaiah has multiple sensory issues including feeding/textures, certain sounds, strong smells. We are preparing to go through an 8 week-long session of the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol in hopes that we will help his nervous system to develop the capacity to filter some of these things out. Therapy keeps us busy.

In the midst of all of that we have the joy of watching these two phenomenal little people grow and develop into who they were meant to be, just like any other parents of multiples. While the kids don’t share that biological connection, in all things functional, I am most definitely living the very busy life of a mom of multiples! I have the same joy. The same intensity. A different perspective.

I’m looking forward to connecting with other mamas out there who are in the same boat!

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Children Lie

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Categories Discipline, Financial Literacy, Guilt, Mommy Issues, Older Children, Parenting, Special Needs, Talking to Kids, Theme WeekTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 6 Comments

I’ve gone back and forth on whether to blog about this incident. It’s embarrassing to one of my daughters, but not atypical for children their age. Seven-year-olds lie and even steal. It’s developmentally appropriate, but not socially or morally acceptable. Maybe our story will help another parent know that she’s not alone in tackling these issues. Here’s what happened.

For their 7th birthday, I got each of my daughters a gift card to a local bookstore. I like to use gift cards to teach my girls financial decision-making. The finite balance on the gift card teaches them that paying with plastic should be treated as responsibly as paying with cash. When they run out, they’re out. It encourages budgeting and exercises their basic arithmetic while they’re shopping. They have to factor in sales tax. Whenever possible, I try to set up situations where my daughters spend their gift cards over multiple shopping trips. I figure it helps them understand the idea of debit and the longterm record-keeping required to track their gift card balance is a good exercise.

The gift cards I gave J and M were identical. Although I suggested that we simply write their names on each one, the girls elected to distinguish them differently. One of them decided that she would remove the hangtag from her card while the other left hers intact.

Nearly two months after our initial shopping venture, the girls asked to go to the bookstore this weekend. I asked them to grab their gift cards and buckle up in the car. I gathered up my things while they packed up theirs. The one who’d left her hangtag on let us know that she’d found her gift card, but removed the tag so that the card would fit in the wallet. The other child was upset, feeling that Sissy had gone back on an agreement. It didn’t help that she couldn’t find her gift card.

I happened to know where the second gift card was. Someone had just left her card lying on the floor of the living room last time we went to the bookstore. Despite two reminders, it was never put away, so I picked it up and set it aside.

I retrieved the gift card and discovered that it was the one with the hangtag still attached. My daughter had claimed her sister’s gift card and concocted a lie to cover it up. I showed her the gift card and she instantly knew she was caught. Sister didn’t even realize what she was witnessing. I explained it to her, and she was understandably appalled. Her sister had essentially stolen from her and then lied to cover it up.

The offending party volunteered that the appropriate consequence for her actions was my permanently confiscating her gift card. I didn’t want to do that, but I did tell her that she would not be spending her card on this trip. Sister not only forgave her, but bought the offender a book with her own card.

The next day, I took a moment alone to talk to my daughter about why she’d made the series of choices she had. She didn’t want to talk about it because she felt bad. I reminded her that she had made some pretty bad choices, and one of the consequences of those choices was feeling guilty. She was going to have to talk about it and she was going to have to feel bad. Once she finally agreed to discuss the whole situation, she explained to me that she knew that she’d done wrong by not putting her gift card away. All the wrong actions that followed were to cover up that mistake.

I told her clearly that lying and stealing were far worse than the original offense, and those were the choices I was truly disappointed in. Dishonesty and theft would not be tolerated. Mistakes happen and can be fixed, but lying was unacceptable.

I live what I preach. I admit my mistakes to my children. The only lie I’m guilty of is eating chocolate at work so that my girls don’t know the quantity of sugar I consume. I’m working on fixing that one. I even struggle with the mythology of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Those feel like lies, even if our entire community is complicit.

This is another one of those ways in which parenting gets harder. You leave behind the sleepless nights and the diapers and potty training, only to have to help your children navigate morality and peer pressure.

What would you have done in my shoes? How do you tackle lapses in honesty?

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They’re Still Twins

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Categories Balance, Community, Difference, Friendships with Other Multiples, Parenting, Relationships, Special NeedsTags , , , 6 Comments

During pregnancy, my husband and I had many conversations about all the things we would do for our twins to let them know they were loved and valued as separate individuals, not just half of a set. That they cohabited in utero was only a very small part of who they would become, and we wanted them to always know that.

I dealt with all the comments during pregnancy—the “better you than me”, the “double trouble”, the “my cousin’s neighbor has twins”, the “I always wanted twins” (or, bizarrely to me once: “I almost had twins”…a story which did not result in the loss of a twin, but rather a woman who, prior to ultrasound technology, knew all along she was having twins, but never heard two distinct heartbeats and only delivered one baby). I joined twin groups, mentally prepared myself for the barrage of twin-comments we’d receive everywhere we went.

I never imagined how much it would sting to lose that.

I am luckier than many in the twin world: both my twins are alive and thriving.

But.

They do not reach developmental milestones within days of each other. Not even within months. They do not wear the same size of clothing, and haven’t since D outgrew the preemie size (while A was still a 3-pounder, outfits hanging on him like Doby’s pillowcase). They will probably not be in the same class at school (except perhaps preschool). Strangers do not ask me if they’re identical or fraternal, or even “Are they twins?” They ask me, “How far apart are they?”

The first time I got that question, the boys were 9 months. Now, D quickly outgrew the “adjusted” charts and was over 50% in height quite early, and has been slower but always on-the-charts in weight. Even so, he looked at most 11 months old. With A, who yes, (yes, believe it or not, I know), is small. But at 9 months, he looked perhaps 4 months, but probably closer to 5. Just what gestational length did these questioners have in mind, anyway??

But now, at 16 months, D could easily pass for 2. And A could be a tall-but-skinny (95th and below-zero) 9-month-old. Which is probably about where he is developmentally as well. The question is no longer absurd.

And it hurts. Selfishly, it hurts, as it is not what I imagined. It is not what “twins” entails in popular culture, mythology, anyone’s mind. But it also hurts for them. They are and always will be brothers, but I feel like they each are missing that twin-thing: the sharing of clothes, sharing of friends, sharing school books, mastering new skills together.

I rarely comment in my twin group. I feel like so much of it just does not apply.

A lot of it does, though. A lot of it applies, and then some. Feeding twins is so hard! Feeding twins when one of them has a feeding tube? Even harder. Getting any sleep with twins is hard! Getting any sleep with twins when one of them has several alarms hooked up to him, which give both real and (thankfully) not-real alerts? Harder. Dealing with extended family who plays favorites? Whoooo, boy, let me tell you. Finding time to {x}? You get the picture.

A and D will never know a different life. As brilliant as they are, I highly doubt either of them pondered the concepts of twinhood while womb-mates, probably not even recognizing that other kicky-squirmy creature with a heartbeat from my own intestines. They are twins, and this is what twinhood will mean to them, even when they understand that it may not hold true for the greater world. In some ways, they are wiser than I am.

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Pride and Joy

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Categories Balance, Congenital Anomaly, Difference, Fraternal, Medical, Perspective, Special NeedsTags , , , 6 Comments

This is not the introductory post I had planned on writing. Then again, very few things in the past 15 months have gone according to plan, so, here we are.

We are attempting to reduce the number of bottles Mr. D drinks. He day-weaned months and months ago, lacking the patience to sit still at my breast. But he will carry a bottle with him all day, taking sips here and there, if we let him. Dire warnings of ruined mouth and teeth from our pediatrician have us taking action: he only gets bottles at naps and bedtime (and in cases of emergency).

“Ba-ba?” he asks.

“No, sweetheart, you only get bottles when you go night-night. Would you like a cup of water?”

“Ba-ba!”

“Only at night time.”

“Nigh-nigh!” He takes off, down the hall, towards our room. (Our as in mine and his father’s…but yes, we co-sleep, like the push-over, sleep-deprived parents we are.)

“Mister, it’s only 5:30, there’s no way you’re tired. Why don’t you come play with your house?”

“Nigh-nigh!!”

I follow him. He is climbing onto the bed. He lays down, rolls around, puts his bum in the air, then raises his head, looks at me, and triumphantly declares:

“Nigh-nigh!” (Long pause…) “Ba-ba?”

I scoop my deceitful, manipulative little man up into my arms. Trying to pull one over on me, at such a tender age (and with such a limited vocabulary)! How could this little creature, who didn’t even exist two years ago, have so much knowledge of the world?

And I think: could ever a mother be more proud of her son?

I attempt to relay this little story to my husband, by text-message. Phone reception in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the children’s hospital is terrible, pretty much non-existent. But this is far from our first PICU stay, and we have learned that iPhones can somehow get text messages (even from non-smart-phones!) over the internet, and there is wireless access through-out the hospital. My husband is there with Mr. A, though he and I will soon be trading places.

A simple cold left both boys with runny noses, and then Mr. D got better and Mr. A did not. Our pediatrician suspected a sinus infection (not his first), but when the ten-day course of antibiotics was done, he was worse. The pediatrician-on-call for the day (because of course it was Saturday), suspected his recently repaired palate was infected. I filled another prescription, gave him the first dose, and put him down for his nap. He woke up, vomited blood. I pulled his remaining stomach contains back into a syringe via his G-tube: they were bloody. I put them in a small Tupperware container, changed his diaper (poop looked weird, so I bagged that, too), and took him (and his ‘samples’) to the ER, leaving Mr. D with my mother.

I watched them working on my son (it never gets any easier). They wanted to intubate him; I was able to buy a reprieve and repeat blood-gas, which showed that to be unnecessary. I spouted off his medical history better than I ever could my own: dates of hospitalizations, surgeries, tube placements; pertinent findings from swallow studies, sleep studies, upper- and lower-GI studies, MRIs, echoes, everything. And the underlying root of it all: a deletion on the long arm of Chromosome 2.

“Which specific deletion?” asked the attending, and I told her. She nodded sagely, losing my respect. She’d never heard of his deletion, I knew. Which is fine, but be honest with me, as my son’s life is in your hands. She would leave the room and attempt to Google Mr. A’s syndrome, and not find out much. Fewer than 25 cases of similar (and no exact) deletions are known to exist. And, to be perfectly frank, there seems to be not much to say about it except: “This is not good, and will cause lifelong problems. Here is a list of some but not all, of which he may have many.”

We were told awful things: lists of he-will-nevers and he-will-always-needs and the impression that very few people had any faith in Mr. A. But we had held him (after his fourth day of life, once he was stable enough), sang to him, loved him. He was and always will be our first-born, heir to the kingdom, recipient of faith, hope, and love.

It eventually became clear to me—first from suspicions, then from out-right confirmation—that few, if any, had expected him to make it through his first year of life. (That no one bothered to prepare us for this is another post.)

But he has indeed survived. He has blown previous research right out of the water. He is writing his own story, and I get to watch.

This stay was short: 2 nights in the PICU and one on the floor. I bring him home in fine spirits. He wants to stand. I take his hands and help him. He lifts one foot, then the other, walking across the living room with my assistance. A week ago, he would only do this with much prodding and many tears, and now here he is, trying to chase the cat.

And I think: could ever a mother be more proud of her son?

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What Makes Her Special

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Categories Attitude, Congenital Anomaly, Difference, From the Mouths of Multiples, Identical, Medical, Other people, Parenting Twins, Perspective, School, School-Age, Special NeedsTags , , , , , 16 Comments

When I stopped by my daughters’ school to drop off birthday cupcakes (for J’s class) and doughnuts (for M’s), the principal spotted me and asked me into her office. She must have seen the look on my face–or perhaps she’s merely accustomed to people’s reactions to being called into the principal’s office–and set me at ease, saying, “I need to brag on M.”

“Did M tell you what happened last week?” she asked after we were seated.

“I don’t think so.” M told me a whole bunch of things that happened last week, but none of her stories featured anything principal-worthy.

The principal told me that one of her 4th graders, normally a sweet boy, has been acting up recently. In one incident, he sat next to M at lunch and asked her what happened to her face. M began to cry.

At this point in listening to the story, I began to cry too, which made the principal join in. It was a major tearfest.

Let me give you a little background.

These are my daughters. I don’t think it’s merely maternal pride that makes me think they’re both awfully pretty.

Twin sisters
J is on the left, in green. M is wearing blue.

They are identical twins, but by developmental happenstance, M was born with a facial cleft (think cleft palate, but higher in her face and not affecting her palate), while J was not. M has been seeing a craniofacial specialist since birth. The appointments were every 3 months at first, then slowed to being yearly, and are now every two years. She hasn’t needed surgery, and there’s nothing wrong with the function of her nose. It just doesn’t have a defined tip. The cleft also causes her eyes to be wide set and has given her a widow’s peak hairline. All of it combines, in my mind, to give her an adorable anime/china doll look.

M’s doctor warned us that, even if there was no functional issue with her nose, kids get mean about appearance around age 7, and we could always opt to consider surgery if it was needed for M to have a healthy self-image. Honestly, I haven’t given surgery much thought. M is a well-adjusted kid. It’s not like M’s unusual look has never come up before. When kids have asked why she has a “funny nose,” I’ve responded by saying it’s so that we could tell her apart from her sister. When I overheard a little girl telling M that her nose was “too small,” I responded by focusing on its purpose. “Does it breathe?” Yes. “Does it smell?” Yes. “So is it too small to do its job?” No.

I’ve told M that she has the world’s most kissable nose, and she permits me 5 kisses exactly at bedtime on her “kissy nose.” A while ago, J told someone that a good way to tell her and M apart was her pointy nose, in contrast to M’s flat one. I considered freaking out and then realized that she wasn’t attaching a value judgment to one look over the other. Part of me worried, though, that having an identical twin will eventually add insult to injury. There will always be J there to show M what she would have looked like without the cleft. It’s never come up, though. I hope it never does. It helps that, while my girls value the twin relationship, they also relish being individuals and having some differences from one another.

Let’s return to the principal’s office, shall we? As you may recall, there was crying.

The 4th grader had been mean, and M had cried. It took a while for him to admit that he’d acted wrongly and with intent to hurt, so by the time he was ready to deliver a real apology, M was back in her 2nd grade class. She was called out into the hallway, and he apologized.

“It’s okay,” she told him. “You already said sorry, and I forgave you. People say that stuff to me all the time. It’s fine.”

Just to keep the tearfest going, the little boy began to cry. He was ashamed.

“It’s not fine,” the principal told her. “You’re a beautiful girl, and it’s not okay that people say mean things.”

“But I forgive them,” said my amazing, extraordinary child. “I love this school!” And she skipped back to class.

Tonight, at dinner, J was distracted by her dessert, so I took the opportunity to talk to M about this whole thing. “I heard you were extremely forgiving at school. [Your principal] was pretty proud of you.”

M beamed.

“Wanna tell me about it?”

She told me essentially the same story I’d heard in the office. I reiterated what the principal had said, that she didn’t need to just accept people’s cruel words.

“But Mommy, it’s okay. They can say what they want. It’s my job to forgive. I just don’t get it. I don’t understand why they would want to be mean about what makes me special. My kissy nose makes me special. What’s wrong about that? I don’t know why it’s like this, but it makes me special.”

There was nothing wrong with that, I told her, and by a major act of self control, kept the tears in this time. Would she like to know why her nose was special? She did want to know, so I explained in very simple, objective terms the nature of her cleft. I also pointed out that it was responsible for her widow’s peak, which she calls her “heart hair,” since it helps give her a heart-shaped face.

“I love my heart hair!” she said. “That is part of what makes me special too.”

She went on to tell me that her teacher had told her about being teased as a child for not speaking good English. Her sister’s teacher told her about being teased for having a big nose. I added my own story. I told her my tale of being teased for my eczema. I told her that I’d never realized I was pretty until I was 18.

She gasped. “But Mommy, you’re beautiful.”

“So are you, baby girl. I’m so glad you already know it.”

“Me too. I’ve known ever since Nicole told me I was beautiful when I was very small. That’s why she’s such a good friend,” she said.

There was nothing more to say.

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Twin Accent, but No Twin Language

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Categories Classroom Placement, Development, Language, Older Children, School-Age, Speech Therapy3 Comments

A surprising proportion of people ask me whether my twin daughters ever had their own language. They didn’t.

I find myself apologizing for the girls’ lack of twinspeak, more correctly known as cryptophasia. Perhaps it was because we used Baby Sign–J and M starting signing at 7 months of age–that they didn’t need a special language with Sissy, I find myself responding. Or perhaps it was because I also spoke to them in Bengali. After all, my entire academic background is in linguistics and I write for a mother of multiples blog. I should be a fountain of cool twin language trivia.

I confess that J and M sound very alike today. I used to have no trouble distinguishing their voices, but even I get their voices confused at least once a week. I have to remind them to open their phone conversations with Daddy with a comment about who is speaking. When she gets very earnest, M tends to click her tongue before every sentence, and J takes more pauses, but hardly anyone can tell their voices apart. In fact, a friend of theirs who happens to be blind describes them as having one voice rather than distinct voices.

In recent months, I’ve been getting questions about the source of the girls’ accent.  They get comments on their accent at school too. According to M, the older girls in their afterschool program consider it “completely adorable.” We were talking about homonyms the other day, and J offered up “short” and “shirt” as an example. M nodded in agreement. I told them that those words were only homonyms the way that they pronounce them. “Board” and “bird,” too. They have no trouble spelling the “hospital,” but pronounce it “hoss-ta-pole.” They both say “posichun” and “ackchun” for “position” and “action.”

Both M and J went through speech therapy at age 3 to tackle articulation delays. To my ear, they still sound significantly younger than their classmates, but I’m not in any hurry to push them back into speech therapy, since comprehension by others is no longer a problem.

All that I know from linguistics about the acquisition of language and accents would lead me to expect my children to sound more like their peers than their parents. They should be saying things like “y’all” instead of “you guys” like me, although you might be surprised by how twang-less today’s central Texas accent is. They’re in separate classrooms, but it doesn’t seem that that’s quite enough time apart for them to mimic their other classmates’ pronunciation more than each others’. It appears that, despite their lack of a twin language, my daughters’ twin accent indicates that their sisterly relationship has more of an influence on how they speak than any other.

Despite having grown up in Scotland, England and Bangladesh, after 15 years living in the USA, Sadia has come to sound resoundingly Valley Girl. Her 6-year-old twin daughters, J and M, attend an English-Spanish dual language first grade program in the Austin, Texas area. Their Spanish has a way to go before they can duplicate their Olympian feats of  conversation in that language. Unfortunately, Sadia doesn’t speak Spanish and cannot report on whether her daughters’ twin accent extends to that language too.

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Where My Twins’ IQ Test Results Throw Me Into a Tizzy

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Categories Ask the Readers, Classroom Placement, Difference, Education, Identical, Relationships, School-Age, Speech TherapyTags , , , , , , , 13 Comments

Our identical (we think?) twin boys are in 1st grade now. While their speech issues hinder their spelling, they’re still performing above grade level in language arts. But math is where they really excel. This fall, G’s standardized test scores for math were the highest in the class, well above the 99th percentile threshold. Right now a parent volunteer is running a pull-out group for some of the kids who can do more challenging work, but next year that might not be an option. We wondered if the boys might be able to jump a grade for math. This isn’t something our district does readily, so we knew we’d have to push. We requested that our boys be tested for the district’s gifted program — if they qualified, we’d have the leverage we need to push for differentiation.

We were surprised by our results. G did not qualify for the gifted program, missing the cut-off by 4 IQ points. P did qualify.

Initially, I was upset with myself for even requesting the test. I hadn’t thought about the possibility of one qualifying and the other not.  Now we had this bona fide test result, on paper, saying G was less capable than his brother. And G has always struggled with self-confidence.

We had a conundrum, too. While we agreed it would be devastating to G for us to place P in the gifted program, we didn’t feel good about withholding enrichment opportunities from P just because his brother didn’t qualify. This is similar to the situation HDYDI blogger Sadia faced this year, except she was faced with moving one of her twins to first grade while the other remained in kindergarten. In researching what to do for our boys, I found this study of different twin types and their reactions to having one twin placed in a gifted program, while the co-twin was not. It definitely affirmed our gut feeling that our boys wouldn’t do well in that situation.

The more I’ve thought about it, the less I trust the IQ test results. I consulted with the director of the university speech clinic the boys attend, and she felt his speech issues could have thrown off the results. G is very aware of his articulation errors, and speaks very slowly to strangers so they can understand him. P does not make any effort to slow his speech for the benefit of others. The speech clinic director said G is likely to choose his words based on what will be easy for him to pronounce and for others to understand, rather than choosing the words that best convey his meaning. G is a kid who asks for math work on his days off of school, because he says he feels anxious on days when he doesn’t get to do math. He picked up his sister’s 4th grade math workbook and started completing the pages for fun. My other two kids who do qualify for the gifted program don’t do anything like this.

We will probably have him retested at some point, so we know what all of our options are. Our oldest child attends a charter school for academically gifted students, and our public schools have various levels of differentiation available. For now we won’t retest — G said he didn’t like the test and it was boring, so I hate to put him through the same thing with the same test administrator this school year. In the meantime we’ve decided to home school next year — we can let them work at their own pace, and provide as much enrichment as either of them needs.

What would you do? Have you run into a similar situation? How would your multiples handle one being placed in a gifted program, while the other remained in the regular classroom?


Jen is a work-from-home mom of 7-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 5 and 9. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver. Once in a while.

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Our Speech Therapy Journey(s)

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Categories Development, Feeding, Medical, Preschoolers, Solid Foods, Speech Therapy, ToddlersTags , , , , , 4 Comments

M has successfully completed two programs with a speech therapist, and we’re considering having her evaluated again. Twin sister J joined her for the second of those programs, and also benefitted greatly. Watching both my daughters work their way through speech therapy has taught me a few new things, and convinced me all the more of others.

  • There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
  • Follow your gut.
  • It never hurts to get a second opinion.
  • Some lessons are more likely to stick if they come from someone other than a child’s parent.
  • Things are often more complicated than they appear.
  • There is such a thing as knowing too much about something.

The first time we visited a speech therapist was at the recommendation of the family pediatrician. When M was nearly 3 years old, I became concerned about how slowly she ate. I once timed her spending 17 minutes chewing a single piece of meat, and finally had her spit it out. The pediatrician suggested that she had dysphagia, or trouble swallowing. I had imagined that a couple of degrees in linguistics gave me a basic understanding of what speech therapists do, but I was wrong. Speech therapists deal with all sorts of oral motor issues, including problems with chewing or swallowing.

It turned out that M had never quite figured out how to use her tongue to effectively move food around in her mouth as she chewed. Because of that, foods that required chewing would cause her to choke. After six sessions of feeding therapy with an amazing speech therapist and a lot of reinforcement at home and daycare, she could eat successfully. Meals became enjoyable again. It’s been over 2 years, and we haven’t seen any backsliding. In fact, M enjoys food so much now that she plans to open a restaurant when she grows up. Bonus: military medical insurance covered 100% of speech therapy session costs.

It was during feeding therapy that the therapist raised a concern that M might have articulation delays. It had never occurred to me that there was anything off in her speech, since the child talked incessantly and no one who knew her—I, her teachers, or our neighbours—had any trouble understanding her. I thought her pronunciation of yellow as “lellow” was darling, rather than worrisome. The linguist in me had always ignored the nagging doubts, knowing full well that there was variation in the timing of pronunciation mastery, but there should be no cause for alarm as long as the order of acquisition were being followed.

When my husband returned from Iraq and needed me or J to translate for him so that he could understand M, it was clearly time to revisit the speech therapist. My MA in theoretical linguistics hadn’t taught me as much about the practicalities of language development as I’d thought. The practice we’d been to for feeding therapy no longer took our insurance, so we had to find a new therapist. We had both girls, now 3 months shy of turning 4, evaluated at the new practice. They ended up being evaluated by different therapists, and we learned how incredibly subjective these evaluations can be.

J was determined to be 2 standard deviations above the norm for her age when it came to grammar, vocabulary and comprehension, but 2 standard deviations below the norm for articulation, the production of mature speech sounds. She sounded more like a child just turned 3 than one soon to be 4. M, on the other hand, was evaluated only for articulation, and declared to be just dandy. These results didn’t ring true for us. M was, to our ears, far less clear in her speech than J. My husband insisted that M be reevaluated, this time by the therapist who had seen J. When the office staff let us know that they were concerned that insurance might not pay for a second evaluation, we offered to pay out of pocket. Insurance did end up covering it, though. The second set of results was more in line with our expectations. Although J’s need for speech therapy was a judgment call, M definitely needed it. Where the first evaluation had her placed her in the 43rd percentile, the reevaluation placed her in the 2nd percentile for articulation.

Since their delays were along the same continuum, the therapist offered to work both twins together in weekly sessions. The sessions were great fun for the girls. The therapist pulled out board games, and let them each take a turn after they completed a pronunciation exercise. She focused on making them aware of how the sounds coming out of their mouths were different than hers. Soon enough, they could say ‘sh’ and ‘v’ easily. It was extraordinary to see how those two sounds alone helped with others’ comprehension of their endless chatter.

After 3 months, both the girls graduated from speech therapy. All J had left to master were ‘l’ and ‘r’, and the speech therapist didn’t think those needed to be rushed. M had a lisp to work on too, but we were comfortable with the exercises she needed to do at home to help with that. We should keep an eye on the girls, she told us, and consider revisiting a speech therapist if they didn’t appear to be making any headway after a while.

My husband and I think that we’ve given it long enough, and both girls’ ‘r’s are still very baby-like. At this point, speech evaluations are often conducted through the school district, so we need to ask both their classroom teachers what they think of their speech before we go hunting for yet another speech therapist.

If you’re curious about what precisely goes on in a speech therapist’s office, feel free to peruse the detailed tales of feeding therapy and speech therapy sessions on my personal blog.

Sadia and her 5-year-old girls, M and J, do their talking, lisps and all, in El Paso, TX, much to the exhaustion of her soldier husband. They try not to talk while eating, but it’s tough when there’s so much to say. They are happy to report that chewing challenges are no longer to blame for the length of conversations around the dinner table.

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