June 1st (2015): This year, on May 31st, day 31 of Better Speech & Hearing Month 2015, I dedicated my Facebook post to this Center’s “First Family”.
Where do I begin? For me, the only place is on April 16, 1994 when I met a family on a quiet Saturday morning at my newly opened Children’s Communication Center. Unknown to us, the adults, we were about to begin a journey with Christine, who was 31 months old. Christine and I sat on the floor to “play” aka work, her parents observed through the one-way mirror and I audiotaped the session. When I listen to that audiotape of our first session, I hear my younger SLP self’s voice filled with encouraging words as I confidently share my findings with the Sass family. You see, I was not the first SLP who they visited, but I was the first one who assured them Christine would talk…and so it began, off we went on our adventure for eight years at the Center and interwoven for life. Now 21 years later, we are sharing a portion of our story. Part I is written by Beate Sass, Christine’s mother. My Part II will follow soon and in time, I hope Christine will add Part III.
As written by Beate Sass, Christine’s Mom in 2013: “When my daughter was born in 1991 we were unprepared for the challenges that started with feeding problems and failure to thrive and then the diagnosis of Developmental Delay at eight months old. The next 2 years were a blur as I carted Christine to therapy sessions and followed through with the therapy interventions at home. Progress was slow. What was especially difficult was that at 2 years old, Christine was non-verbal. Speech Therapy up to that point had not been successful at stimulating any communication skills. We were told that Christine might never learn to talk. At this time, a friend of mine told me about a Speech and Language Pathologist, Lori Grayson, who specialized in pediatrics and who was opening a practice in Tallahassee where we were living at the time. On April 16, 1994, we met with Lori and she evaluated Christine over the course of several visits. The diagnosis was Verbal Apraxia and Dysarthria. Because of Christine’s low tone she did not have the muscle strength in her oral apparatus to create sounds. In addition, there was a disconnect between the brain and Christine’s mouth. Lori felt that Christine knew what she wanted to communicate but the message could not get from the brain to the mouth to form the sounds. Lori’s solution to this challenge was to teach Christine sign language. Lori explained to us that it was critical that language was mapped on the brain regardless of its form but she also relayed to us that Christine would learn to speak. With Lori’s guidance and the training my husband received at a “Signing Exact English” class, we took off with signing. To make a long story short, Christine picked up the signing very quickly and soon afterwards started to articulate words. This was music to our ears. Christine is now 22 years old. She graduated from High School in the Spring of 2013 and is currently participating in a Young Adults in Transition Program at a school in our current home, Decatur, Georgia. Although speech is still a challenge for Christine, she is able to communicate her needs and converse with us and her peers. We will forever be grateful to Lori Grayson for providing us with hope and most importantly providing high quality speech therapy to Christine. Her patience and dedication was truly remarkable. Thank you Lori!” ~ You are (all) most welcome! Lori