Several years ago, we had a student whose challenges with speech articulation were so significant that his mom explained on our first meeting, that there were certain sounds that he could not physically say.
Grayson was 11 and had had private speech therapy as well as speech services at school for most of his life. After 3 weeks of sessions at Stowell Learning Center, Grayson was able to say every sound both in isolation and in connected speech. His speech therapist at school, who did not know he was attending the learning center, said at his IEP meeting, “Have you noticed how much clearer Grayson’s speech has gotten in the last 3 weeks?”
Last Saturday, as I walked through the waiting room in our center, a mom shared with me that after 5 years of speech therapy at school, her son no longer qualified for services. She was thrilled. Speech, she said, had not been making a difference for some time, but after 3 months at the Learning Center, he had made so much progress that he no longer needed the extra help with speech at school.
It made my day to see this mom so happy and to hear how life at home was changing for all of them as a result of our work at the Learning Center. Do we get to take all the credit? No, not really. It takes the patience and persistence of parents, and I have no doubt that all of the previous support provided to our students at school and through other therapies play a part.
But here’s why we can see changes that don’t seem to occur
with other interventions:
Learning, including speaking, paying attention, organization, reading, spelling, math, and writing is built upon a foundation of underlying processing skills. These are skills such as auditory and visual processing, attention, body awareness and control, memory, and reasoning. These are not typically taught, but rather are assumed to be in place when children go to school. When any of these underlying skills are weak, it can cause students to struggle more than would be expected.
In the case of our students with speech challenges, the weak area was auditory processing. This is not a person’s hearing, but rather the way that the brain perceives and thinks about the information that comes in through the ears. Auditory processing has a dramatic impact on speech, communication, reading, comprehension, social skills, and learning in general.
Weak auditory processing may cause a person to get an incomplete, inaccurate, confusing, or delayed information when listening – kind of like a bad cell phone connection. Dr. Alfred Tomatis, a pioneer in sound therapy research, said that we cannot reproduce what we cannot hear. For our students with trouble clearly enunciating sounds and pronouncing words, improving auditory processing allows them to “hear” or process the sounds and words more accurately, which then makes it possible for them to say them more accurately and clearly as well.
Were previous therapies a waste?
No, most likely not. But if those therapies did not work as well as hoped or expected, there were almost certainly underlying skills that were not providing the needed foundation for what was being taught. Developing the needed processing/learning skills allows the previously taught skills as well as any current remediation to make more sense and stick.
Does your child struggle with speaking, reading, learning, or attention? These challenges can be changed. While there are no simple, overnight solutions, most learning and attention challenges can be dramatically improved or completely corrected through developing the weak underlying skills and remediating the affected academic areas. Need to know more??
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