Your speech therapist and developing language.
When Val and I look back on the boys’ early years, we could remember several specialists who provided communication therapies to the boys. But there was a core to the boys’ problems. When you cut through all the behaviors, the anxiety and the confusion one thing was clear. Behind it all lay a desperate need for language. And this is something a speech therapist understands.
So we were advised to start working with speech therapist, Elaine Stevick at the speech, language and learning center in Petaluma California. Elaine was a speech therapist and language pathologist of some 30 years. She had an excitement and determination around children which was just amazing. In her office above her desk was a quote from Helen Keller. “Life is either a great adventure or nothing” and this is how she lived her life.
More than anyone else, Elaine explained what the boys’ language problems were. And more importantly how these problems were traditionally treated. While families like Val and I wanted speech therapy, Elaine explained we needed to take a different path. We came to understand that the boys had great difficulty understanding language. And because of this they were not developing speech. They were “language disordered” and trying to develop speech at this early stage was not going to work.
She also helped to explain the boys’ deafness. It was not that they couldn’t hear. But rather that they could not hear enough to make sense of what we were saying. Additionally, they could barely sit to attend with Elaine and her speech therapists (never mind school!). This meant they had difficulties getting information from their senses and were frequently uncomfortable in their own skins. We learned later this was a condition called sensory integration disorder.
Picture Exchange Communication (PECS)
So Elaine set about understanding the boys’ language disorder. And she was able to recommend a number of other professionals. These included a wonderful audiologist, Phyllis Burt and occupational therapist, Sara Field to mention just two. Most importantly, Elaine first introduced us to visual language or picture exchange communication (PECS) . This was a visual system whereby we were able to communicate with the boys for the first time through images.
This was the start of a long and ultimately successful journey into the learning of language. We started communicating through basic images. Over time we ultimately progressed to the use of sophisticated Pixar media and images. We did not know it then, but we were already on an incredible journey of discovery. Speech and language therapy continued to be at the core of our work with the boys. But it took a path that none of us could have seen in those early days. For more information on what we call the Disney journey click here.