Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Speech Delays, Social Settings, and Anxiety

By Joel Brens

My little man is a social butterfly. He loves attention and being around others. Almost to a fault. On more than a handful of occasions, Jayden has walked up to complete strangers, said "Hi" and tried to grab their hands as if to say c'mon lets go play. Is it cute and funny? To some extent yes. By all accounts he is taking after daddy, who befriended a bum in Boston at the ripe old age of three. Apparently I was friendly to just about everybody. All the same, I do get nervous when we are in unfamiliar social settings.

One of the biggest setbacks of having daddy daycare is Jayden doesn't always get interaction with other children. Certainly not as much as he would if we had him in a structured daycare setting. That's something that bothers me a lot. We do go out and play with others, especially with his best bud C-man, but because of his speech delays, it's always a bit anxious for me when we are around new people.

At the forefront of the concern is Jayden's excitability. When he sees kids his age he gets amped up, like I just told him the most exciting news ever. While I know dozens of kids his age who are just as rambunctious as he is, I tend to find that other kids are much more docile. It makes me nervous. It makes me nervous for Jayden. It makes me nervous for the kids. It especially makes me nervous for the other parents. Jayden has an aggressive, but not confrontational personality. He will willingly take a toy right out of the hands of another child, but rarely have I even entertained the idea he would hit or push another child.

Unfortunately, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Once I know the setting is safe and stable, idle small talk begins and that's when sometimes I feel a great deal of angst. Because of Jayden's size, I haven't met a single person since he was six months old who thought he'd ever been a preemie.

Conversations typically go like this:

Me: Can you say hi, Jayden?

Jayden: Hi

Stranger: Hi! You having fun at the park?

Jayden: inaudible toddler speak

Stranger: How old is he?

Me: He recently turned three...


This is where anxiety hits me square in the face. How will they react? Why do I feel the sudden urge to explain our story? Will they play it off like its no biggie or will their be an awkward pause? Why do I feel like I need to be protective of my son? I'm not ashamed or embarrassed about his progress. As a matter of fact, I am incredibly proud of what he's been able to accomplish. However, it's something that pokes at me every time we are out and about.

I wrote a blog a while back about understanding your own reality. We never thought Jayden's life hung in the balance while in the NICU. Jayden wasn't diagnosed with CP. He didn't have to go home on oxygen. He has hit most of his milestones at a relatively normal pace. But we still face daily obstacles. Some days are a breeze, other days I am starting the countdown to bedtime around 3pm.

I've probably said this three dozen times, but I will gladly look back at Jayden's speech delays as a blip on the radar when the time comes. He is making progress every single day, and I am so proud of him. I look forward to a day I can just be carefree about a social setting and just enjoy watching him be the sweet, fun, and energetic boy I've fallen so desperately in love with.


  1. "How old is he?" Why does that have to be such a hard question? I struggle with it too. Owen has a few visual cues (glasses and braces) that give some indication that he's not in the "typical" camp but I still am never fully sure how much background I should give. Here's my question - does it make you ever stop before you ask a stranger how old their kid is?

  2. Great post, Joel. Jayden is lucky to have you and your wife as advocates for him. And you are by no means alone in your feelings. Thank you for putting it out there so eloquently.