June Patient Spotlight: Owen!

We first became concerned with Owen’s speech around 15 months of age, but we had heard that some children are just late talkers. Owen had always been a quiet child, not babbling very much, but he seemed to comprehend what we were saying to him, which contributed to us not realizing there was an issue. We had combined speech with sign language, and Owen could use sign language for basic commands to tell us what he needed. But he would only use a few sound productions such as “buh buh” or “ba” or “da da”. At his 18 month well visit, we talked with his pediatrician, who still encouraged us that there didn’t seem to be an issue, as Owen was comprehending things and using sign language to communicate. He was developing on par with his peers in all areas except speech production.

Tell us your child’s story.

People tell you to trust your instincts, and we still felt something was not right. We had grown concerned, and we wanted more than anything to hear from our son. We didn’t know what he was thinking, how he felt, what made him happy or sad. We started noticing changes in his behavior, as he would act out and get frustrated since he was unable to articulate what he wanted to tell us. We imagined it would be like going through life with duct tape over your mouth; understanding everything, but not being able to participate in the conversation.

We reached out to First Steps and had him evaluated. He went through several assessments, and we were given a diagnosis of “probable apraxia”, although they weren’t comfortable giving an initial diagnosis at his young age. That was a scary moment for us as parents, as we had never heard of apraxia. We of course did a ton of research, and the most important thing we found was that children with Childhood Apraxia of Speech require very frequent speech therapy, and the sooner you start the better.

We got Owen started with speech therapy with First Steps, and also enrolled him in Carriage House for twice a week preschool. We wanted him to have the opportunity to interact with his peers and learn how to play and communicate with them. We learned quickly that shorter, more frequent speech sessions work best (30 minutes), rather than a long 60 minute session.

We went to talk with a neurologist, who evaluated Owen. We were looking for answers as to what may be causing the apraxia. After an evaluation there, we decided to wait until he was three, and if no additional progress was made, we were going to have an MRI ran.

We also took Owen to see a specialist in Pittsburg, PA who observed Owen and helped us chart out a speech therapy plan. He confirmed Owen’s diagnosis of Speech Apraxia and gave us a customized plan for him.

Currently, Owen is in speech therapy 5 days a week. He sees Miss Kayla twice a week, sees an in-home SLP twice a week, and gets speech services through JCPS once a week. He also attends Carriage House twice weekly in the morning. It is a rigorous schedule, but one that is just our normal now. We try to make sure he enjoys speech most of the time – as we know there are hard days with therapy. He loves his therapists.

We’ve learned that parents and extended family play a huge role in his development. We have “homework” to focus on each week, to ensure we continue what he is working on in speech at home. We’ve also educated our friends and family on things they can do to help Owen with his speech development. It is definitely a team effort! Ms. Kayla will type up notes to tell us what they worked on in speech, and give us tips and tricks for what to work on in the week ahead.

Owen’s progress has been amazing. He is such a hard worker, and very determined. He has grown from only uttering a few sounds to speaking in sentences. It has been such a relief for us as parents, because we are able to get to know our son. His behavior has improved so much, which we contribute to him being able to communicate, which lessens his frustration. There are still times that we do not understand a new word or phrase, but after asking probing questions, we can normally get there. He is quite the talker now!

Why did you choose APT for therapy services?

It is challenging and overwhelming to decide on an SLP. When we wanted to increase Owen’s therapy, we looked for several weeks. On one occasion, we tried a new therapist, who is very qualified, but Owen was in tears, screaming to go home, at every session. We knew that wasn’t the right fit for him. So we kept looking.

We first met Miss Kayla through APT at Carriage House. We went to the first session with Owen to meet her, and she was so kind and compassionate with him. She eased him into therapy, and got him to gain her trust. The first session they talked and played, and it was more about earning Owen’s trust, rather than throwing him right into speech. We really appreciated that. The next session Owen went in alone, and while there were a few initial tears, he calmed down almost instantly. They just clicked and had a great connection. Her patient approach had gained his trust.

We started noticing improvements in Owen, and we contribute a lot of those improvements to Miss. Kayla. They have flash cards that they use in therapy, and Owen would come home and recite the cards from memory. He would tell us “ah, ah, apple” and do the sign that went along with it.

What improvements have you seen in your child since they started therapy at APT?

Owen is more confident. He has fun at speech and talks about what they play with. He can talk in sentences now. We feel like we know our son…and the other day, he started singing! It was wonderful to hear.

What has been your brightest moment along the journey?

It may seem simple, but once Owen was able to communicate how he felt that was a huge bright spot. Being able to ask him if he was happy or sad and hear him tell us he was happy was moving. Although it doesn’t take much guess work to determine when he is mad he will tell us he feels mad. Every new piece of insight into what is going on in his little head is a bright spot. When we first heard him tell us he loved us might be the brightest moment.

What has been your brightest moment along the journey?

It may seem simple, but once Owen was able to communicate how he felt that was a huge bright spot. Being able to ask him if he was happy or sad and hear him tell us he was happy was moving. Although it doesn’t take much guess work to determine when he is mad he will tell us he feels mad. Every new piece of insight into what is going on in his little head is a bright spot. When we first heard him tell us he loved us might be the brightest moment.

Speech Therapist, Kayla Sergesketter sees Owen at APT. We asked her to share a little about her journey with him.

 

How long have you been working with Owen and what improvements have you seen?

I have been working with Owen for a little over 6 months now and he has made so much progress in that time. He is using significantly more spontaneous language to communicate his wants, needs, and ideas to others at school and during therapy sessions. When we first started, he was mainly using single word utterances to comment or request. Now- he is frequently combining up to 5-6+ words into phrases/sentences.  And– not only is he putting together longer and more complex utterances, but his speech intelligibility has improved greatly, as well! When we first got started, Owen’s speech was pretty “choppy,” so we worked a lot on “stretching” out the vowel sounds in words to make his speech more clear and easier for listeners to understand. Owen is such a smart little boy and has lots to say, so it’s been a lot of fun helping him out along the way! His parents and other caregivers have also been wonderful! They are so dedicated to his therapy and put in SO much work with him at home. Their commitment is one of the most significant factors contributing to Owen’s success and progress!

Describe a little about your and Owen’s relationship.

Owen is such a sweetheart. He was a bit shy and quiet at first and it took him a couple sessions to warm up to me, but now he seems to love his speech time with me! He is such a hard worker, too!  I can push him pretty hard throughout our sessions to really maximize the practice that he’s getting, but he definitely lets me know when he needs a break. He has a few preferred toys/activities including basketball, “ball pit,” and bubbles…so when he needs a break, these are some of our go-to activities. My favorite memory from the past couple months was when Owen commented, “Owen shoot from downtown” while we were playing basketball! It was so cute! And he really does shoot from downtown…and he usually makes it, too! He has been a joy to work with and I can’t wait to see how much more progress he makes over the next 6 months!

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