Adrienne Fedorowich knows what it’s like to have to fight for her children’s rights.
While her daughter Tansley (two years and nine months) and son Kashton (nine months), have very different needs, those needs have only been addressed thanks to strong advocating from Adrienne and her husband, Josh.
Adrienne traces her daughter’s speech issues right back to the day she was born.
“She was born on a weekend, so she did not get her hearing test done before she left the hospital. I have kicked myself a lot about that. I don’t know if it would have fixed or changed the outcome, but it could have perhaps gotten us on a track sooner,” says Adrienne.
“I tell parents that should be one of your requirements that you must do before you leave the hospital because you never know.”
Tansley never had ear infections or hearing loss, so her parents never took her to get her ears tested. But because she had a plugged tear duct in her eye that was always weeping and goopy, they visited many specialists, and Tansley has had two surgeries in that eye.
Adrienne has a client (Adrienne runs her own interior design company) who is an ear/nose/throat specialist, so she asked him to look at Tansley. He found she had inconsistent fluid levels in her ears, which caused her not to be able to hear sounds consistently. Before she was two and a half, she had tubes put in her ears. Immediately afterward, Adrienne and Josh began seeking out speech pathology (they called directly to get a referral – every time she went to the doctor, Adrienne had to fight to get her daughter into a specialist). They now take Tansley to both public and private practice, because public can’t see you enough to make the progress they need.
“If it wasn’t for us, she wouldn’t have help. You can’t sit by and let your kids struggle.”
For Adrienne, it’s personal. She didn’t learn to read until grade 3, went to special ed and had tutors, and the experience wasn’t positive.
“If I can do whatever I can for my child not to have to go through that social anxiety, if nothing else, I will do it. It was horrifying when the teacher knocked on the door and (said), ‘Adrienne, you have to go to the special classroom.’”
When Tansley began seeing the private speech pathologist, she was saying about a dozen words consistently. Now she has between 50 and 60 words, and has started saying two and three word combinations.
It’s made a huge difference, but going to a private speech pathologist has been expensive.
“What are we supposed to do? Just give up? No.”
There are days that it’s really hard, says Adrienne, noting you see other kids her age speaking in full sentences. It’s emotionally draining.
“It breaks my heart that I cannot always understand my own daughter.”
Additionally, it breaks her heart when she explains to people her daughter is delayed because she doesn’t want to make Tansley feel bad. Adrienne points to a recent experience where Tansley needed foot x-rays. The technician walked in and greeted Tansley and asked her, ‘What’s your last name?’
“I was stunned. She doesn’t even know how to say her first name, and what kid would you expect to say “Fedorowich” – how do I explain to someone that she cannot tell you what her last name is without putting my daughter down and that she can’t tell you, ‘I’m scared’ or the anxiety she feels.
“I remember walking out of that room and I said to Josh, ‘We have got to figure out a better way of communicating to the other people a positive way of explaining what she needs.’”
The situation has been a lesson in slowing down for Adrienne and Josh.
“You can’t just race through things and expect her to be there. You’ve gotta explain things, you’ve got to make sure she comes along side you and you’re not leaving her behind, and that she feels as appreciated and as loved as any other child.”
That’s because she is.
“I don’t look at her any differently. She’s the damn cutest kid ever. When she smiles, all of this goes away.”
Adrienne Fedorowish is a prenatal educator in Warman, Saskatchewan. She and her husband, Josh, teach The Bradley Method and regularly run classes for expectant parents.