posted May 16, 2015, 6:53 PM by San Jose Scottish Rite   [ updated May 16, 2015, 6:53 PM ]
Will is an adorable, charismatic, and endearing four year old who has been coming to the San Jose Scottish Rite Childhood Language Disorders Clinic two times per week since mid-March 2009. He has been receiving speech and language therapy since he was approximately 2 ½ years old due to his diagnosis of severe Childhood Apraxia of Speech. This is a speech disorder that interferes with a child’s ability to consistently coordinate the movements of the tongue, lips, and jaw for the production of speech sounds and for sequencing those sounds into syllables or words.  Generally, there is nothing wrong with the muscles themselves, rather it is the timing and planning of ‘how’ and ‘when’ to move each muscle to make a particular sound or series of sounds. As a result, even though the child knows what he wants to say, he cannot say it correctly at that particular time because planning how to and executing muscle movement is not readily accessible. These errors are not under the child’s voluntary control so he often cannot correct them, even when trying his hardest, which is very frustrating for both the child and the parents. At Will’s first session, he was approximating words but had very little to no movement of his tongue and lips, so most words sounded like “ah”, “uh”, or “eh”.  Will’s mom recalls, “He couldn’t put his lips together to form the ‘moo’ sound for cow”.
Imagine every time you get into your car you know that you are supposed to drive from Point A to Point B; you know you have to make some turns to get there, you are just unsure of when and where those turns are. This would cause anxiety and frustration for you as well as other people on the road. Once someone has shown you, even taken you the direct route several times, it becomes easier to simply drive to Point B without thinking about it. This, in essence, is what therapy has been like for Will and his family. During each visit, his therapist Sharon physically facilitates and guides Will’s tongue, lips, and jaw in order to map out the movements and “teach” the muscles when and where to move to produce precise sounds and sound combinations. Will’s parents participate in every session and have been remarkable in practicing these “maps” or pathways at home. Once a motor pathway is over-learned, the hope is that it will be readily accessible to Will when he needs it to form a sound, word, or phrase.
Will’s speech and language have improved considerably in the short time he has been coming to the clinic. He has truly blossomed into an interactive, comical, and playful little boy. Will is now primarily using short sentences to express himself and has become a more confident communicator. As his overall motor coordination and sequencing skills improve, sessions focus on expanding his play and social skills and putting words in the correct order to form sentences. The family describes Will’s treatment as “…a miracle…We are able to understand him. When we can’t , he slows down and uses the tools he’s been taught to let his needs be known. Also to simply have a conversation with him is wonderful.” For mom, it has been most rewarding to see “the confidence that Will and I both feel. Before we were so scared, unsure, not seeing any results from so many different sources. Each week, Will is changing and progressing, he can see it in himself. I will often catch him in front of the mirror using the exercises and trying to make his mouth move properly.” Will’s parents describe their experience at the clinic as “Warm, friendly, and welcoming. Will can be a handful at times and Sharon is like our angel. This has not been our experience before…the clinic has changed our lives. We laugh more, play more, listen more. We are better parents.”