I am very excited to tell you about a new series on the blog, Speech Language Success Stories. During the first quarter of this year, I will highlight success stories of children who improved their communication skills as a result of speech-language therapy. You will even read stories from guest bloggers as well. This is one of the missions of BSL Speech & Language Services to share the benefits of these services.
I love being a speech-language pathologist because I enjoy having the opportunity to identify a child’s challenges, develop a therapy plan to improve them, provide direct instruction, and watch how a child responds to the interventions.
SLPs are great at diagnosing children with communication disorders. This skill comes naturally to those who have been working with children for a while. It takes more time to perfect the craft of selecting, implementing, and tweaking interventions that will enable kids to learn speech-language skills. The true joy and success from speech-language therapy is when you, the child, and the family can hear the growth in communication.
The first success story goes back to my first love, early intervention. My first experiences working as a licensed SLP was providing individual speech-language therapy for toddlers and preschool aged children. For many of the children, I was their first experience with any kind of structured learning as they were not yet attending day care or preschool.
I remember a sweet and active little girl that I evaluated when she was about 3 ½ years old. At that time, she would say “hmm” when I asked her a question. She had a very limited receptive/expressive vocabulary and definitely did not use the words she knew to make requests or comment. She would point to or grab whatever item she wanted. I recall getting case history information from her parent and completing my usual play based language assessment with The Rossetti Infant-Toddler Language Scale. The results confirmed that she had a significant receptive and expressive language delay.
I worked with this little girl for the next 2 ½ years and gave her parent plenty of home program materials. I remember teaching her social greetings, basic concepts, verbs, object functions, how to categorize/sort basic items, and how to build phrases and then simple sentences. During therapy sessions, she began learning to name nouns during play, identify concepts from objects/pictures, ask questions such as “what’s this?”, and even made a few requests using the “I want” carrier phrase that I taught her. However, her overall spontaneous communication skills were not typical. She was very echolalic as she would repeat noises and phrases that she heard from others or television.
I also recall her challenges following directions, difficulty with some motor skills, short attention span, and sensory concerns. After a short time of working with her, I referred her for an occupational therapy evaluation that confirmed fine motor, low muscle tone, and sensory integration challenges. I think she had visual-perceptual difficulties too. Within 6 months of starting speech-language and occupational therapy, my co-worker and I documented our concerns and recommended to her referring pediatrician that our client receive a comprehensive developmental evaluation by a neurodevelopmental pediatrician and multidisciplinary team. Although there was a waiting list for the clinic that did those assessments in my area, my sweet and active little girl received the additional evaluation that she needed. The results confirmed that she had an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
It was not easy for her parent to understand what this diagnosis meant for her child, but she was happy that her daughter was getting all the help that she needed. During the course of me working with her, she started preschool and then a special needs kindergarten class. I think she had just turned six the summer that I last worked with her. She made lots of gains in her receptive language, expressive language, and social skills. Although she was still echolalic, she learned how to make requests and comments. A friend/co-worker of mine continued to provide speech-language therapy for her when I changed work settings.
One of my precious memories of her is the day she brought me a vanilla milkshake. She frequently had these before her sessions with me and one day she told her mom that Ms. Tamara needed one too! Of course, I couldn’t resist and had a big smile on my face. 🙂