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Friday, April 18, 2008

The Speech Whisperer

Olivia and I accompanied Sean-Peter's school on a field trip the other day, to the Cox Arboretum. The wind was a tad bit chilly, but it turned into a beautiful day nonetheless. When we were done traumatizing the fish, running around the maze of bushes, and eating our snack, I left with my two in tow and we went straight to Olivia's gymnastic's class, even though we still had a little bit of time before it started.

As we pulled into the parking lot I started to prep the kids, "Now, we're early today so we're going to have to hang out and wait for the other class to be done before we can go in for yours, okay?"

"You mean late," said Olivia.

"No, early."

"No, late. You mean we're late."

"Um, no, Olivia, actually we're very early today."


"Mom, what's very early mean?"

That question says so much about my family you have no idea.
The week has been simply gorgeous. My kids have been familiarizing themselves with the neighbor's swing set again -- how cute are they? big sister pushing the little brother. *sniff* Reminds me of a Little Critter book they like me to read to them.

In other news, Sean-Peter had his second speech therapy session with his new therapist through Children's Hospital. She is amazing. I'm starting to call her the Child Whisperer. Or at least the Sean-Peter Whisperer. Throughout a 30-minute time frame she enabled him to say, "me" and "I did it!" clearly and with consistency, helping him to open his mouth and use his palate every time. If this sounds pathetically unamazing to you, it's because I haven't been blogging about this in detail like I keep intending to and you have no idea why it is so exciting that my 40-month-old son is uttering pretty basic expressions intelligibly.

It's been a bit overwhelming to think about sitting down and writing coherently about my son's speech disorder, even though it is very predominately on my mind and something I spend many hours of time and energy sorting out and wading through. Just when I think I'm getting a grip on it another step in this journey reveals itself and shows me a light on the path that subtly changes the perspective of every step that has been taken thus far, and I find myself at a loss to even know how to begin to explain everything I am still learning.

Words like hypernasality and velopharyngeal incompetency have been added to my vocabulary, and I almost hesitate to mention them because the links describing them are all tied in with cleft palates and surgical remedies, neither of which pertain to my little guy. But these are the technical terms that describe his speech and have helped me to understand what's going on in the little guy's mouth that he mostly keeps closed while "talking". Velopharyngeal incompetency is just a fancy way of saying that his soft palate doesn't play well with the back of his throat, and hypernasality is the result.

And did you know that the soft palate is a muscle? Actually, it's a bunch of muscles. But the point is that apraxia of speech is a neurological disorder that affects the message from the brain getting to the muscles that we use to talk, and for Sean-Peter, the palate seems to be his biggy. Why he doesn't even typically open his mouth is not something I'm clear on yet, but simply saying, "Open your mouth when you talk, buddy" usually only results in hearing the same unintelligible nasality -- only with his mouth open.

Which is why it is so exciting that he can say me and I did it! clearly and normally, mouth open and all. And not only did he say them for the Speech Whisperer, he also repeated them at home, numerous times, to the jaw-dropping surprise of his big brother Conner. In fact, he he got to saying "did it! did it! did it!" so many times in response to our thunderous applause and whoops and hollers that he got himself into a giggle fit, like using his mouth properly gave him some kind of endorphin high and he lost control of his senses.

Using these words in his sentences is the next step. For instance, "What about me?" is his favorite phrase of the month, only it comes out more like, "Mmm bou' mm?" So I'm working on having him repeat it using his newest success at the end, the intelligible "me". Of course, this requires his cooperation, and he is three. Can you imagine having to work so hard to say a simple word? I try to remember this when Mr. Grumpy comes out to play instead of Mr. Cooperation, and I'm following the Whisperer's advice to encourage twice, then let it ride. It would not be good to invite Mr. Frustration to stay for too long.


Mrs. Staff Sergeant said...

It's so wonderful to read that he's making progress! Way to go Sean-Peter!

the dragonfly said...

You're doing a wonderful job with him, you know. Knowing when to leave something alone instead of frustrating your child (even though it might frustrate you!) is amazing, and very difficult to do. Hooray for you!

And hooray for Sean-Peter too!! That's great that he's making such wonderful progress! That he can do it in therapy but also take it home speaks volumes (sorry for the pun ;) .

judy said...

This about made me cry. I love how you celebrate every new achievement of S.P.'s The end of the story is that he's going to be fine. ( OOOps I hope I didn't give it away!) If the Whisperer is like most teachers she would love to read your blogs of S.P.'s journey and how she is such a big part of his success.