Archive for October, 2010

Psych Ward

The staff at the in-patient psychiatric ward of our local children’s hospital had taken away his computerized speech-generating device.  That computerized speech generating device is his voice; he has severe apraxia of speech, which leaves him with an inability to plan and execute the coordinated motor movements necessary to form words.  I understood why the hospital staff locked his communication device in the cabinet.  This was an upredictable and sometimes-violent place filled with children so angry and otherwise emotionally troubled that they necessitated this respite from day to day living in order to gain control of their emotional labiality.  He was there because he was biting people.  This biting was more frequent during the school day when his communication device was not in reach.

He cried when he saw me.  Screamed a sad, and painful scream.  I had brought a communication device with me on which he quickly keyed “Go.”  He wanted to go home. He wanted out.  He also wanted to talk.  We spent an hour together that day, me talking with my voice and him talking with his communication device about things of interest to him:  fans, lights, French fries, red ducks and Mom, whom he clearly missed.

As I got up to leave, he screamed and held on to my arm.  He yanked the communication device out of my hands and keyed in, “Paula”. I told him that I needed to go, “No”, he said.   As the first set of double doors locked behind me, I turned to look through the safety glass; he was there, being pulled back by a hospital caregiver.  And, he was biting his arm.

Posted by on October 21st, 2010 No Comments


From Screams to Speech

The first day I met this golden haired three-year-old girl she twirled herself around in circles or flipped through the pages of a picture board book that she held upside down. When doing neither of those things, she screamed a loud, piercing, shrill, anguishing scream.  She produced no words, made no searches for her mother, did not turn when her name was spoken and never looked directly at any of us in the room.

When I met her again for the second time, it was about six weeks later. She returned to CLASS, Inc. for her initial therapy session with us.  Once again, she clutched a book close to her side and flipped through the upside down pages. Sometimes she clutched two or three books with both hands. She ran around the room like a pinball without any apparent direction or purpose and resisted my touch; ignored my words. She screamed, kicked, bit and ran when I held her and asked her to crawl through a play tunnel.

One hour later, she purposefully navigated a four-part obstacle course consisting of jumping on a trampoline, spinning on a turntable, crawling through the play tunnel and walking around a series of four colorful cones.  Even more wonderful was her acceptance of my touch to support her crawling through the tunnel, jumping on the trampoline, negotiating her way around the cones and spinning on the turntable.  She looked at me- right at me, in my eyes- when I stopped spinning her.  She watched my mouth as I formed the word, “more” and, the most wonderful of all, she imitated me by producing an /m/ sound in a functional attempt to use words to request more spinning.

Maintaining the perspective that this golden haired girl was capable while at the same time providing her with gently firm boundaries to establish a sense of predictable security allowed her to relax enough to receive my guidance and instruction.  She communicated in a purposeful, functional, understandable way for the first time.  Well done, my little golden haired friend!!!

Posted by on October 13th, 2010 No Comments