Month in Review
We have so many patients at Speech Pathway who have long journeys that require incredibly hard work from their entire family and we want to start recognizing them for the effort they put in daily! Each month we’ll be highlighting up to 10 patients who have shown so much improvement throughout their marathon in speech therapy. See our amazing April patients below!
Spotlight on Autism
April is Autism Awareness month, so we couldn’t miss the opportunity to provide you with information about our friends who rock the spectrum:
What do we know about autism spectrum disorder?
- 1 in 54 children are diagnosed with ASD.
- Boys are 4 times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ASD.
- There is not a blood test to diagnose for autism. Instead, a multidisciplinary team makes a diagnosis based on standardized assessments specific to diagnostic criteria for ASD. These people can include a child neuropsychologist, speech-language pathologist, child psychologist or psychiatrist, developmental pediatrician or a pediatric neurologist.
- Each person with ASD/autistic person is different. If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve only met one person with autism.
A Personal Touch for Autism Awareness Month
As many of you know, our owners, Kent and Emily Hathaway, have a son with autism spectrum disorder. Their journey has been long and filled with emotion, heartbreak, acceptance, and now a passion for sharing their story with other families who may relate.
Our journey with the autistic community began when Liam was 18 months old. He experienced some regression and was less interactive. Emily asked me (Kent) if I had heard Liam use his words recently and I was like, “Yeah, of course,” and she slowly responded with, “Okay, but when?” Following that interaction, we didn’t hear his voice for two more years. It seemed more like hearing loss. He no longer responded to his name, he no longer spoke, no longer pointed or really participated in any joint attention (enjoying activities together). We did at least five hearing tests as well as some testing for seizures until both were finally ruled out. Liam did a full year of speech therapy and occupational therapy before a pediatric neuropsychologist diagnosed him with autism spectrum disorder just shy of three years old and told us what to do next.
The diagnosis was devastating and a relief at the same time. Emily cried, but I honestly didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I had no idea what it was or what I was in for when it happened because I didn’t know much about autism. Emily felt it was validating to know our concerns were legitimate and that there was a reason for Liam’s differences and difficulties. We weren’t crazy, but it was devastating because autism is a lifetime diagnosis. It seemed so final and yet, at three years old there is so much unknown about your child’s future.
In time, we learned that Liam’s diagnosis was important because it gave him access to resources he would not have had without a diagnosis. As a dad, Liam’s future at 2 years old looked just fine. However, I was in the SLPA (Speech-Language Pathology Assistant) program at the time and learning about the interventions available in the schools. That was where I was afraid he would have difficulty if he didn’t have a diagnosis. Insurance coverage has been better and allowed him to attend much-needed therapies (speech, occupational, behavioral, etc.), which have been life changing for him and for us as a family. Without his diagnosis, Liam would have received minimal speech and occupational therapy and behavioral therapy would have had no coverage. These therapies were integral to his progress. Liam’s diagnosis has also given us somewhat of an explanation for his differences. Liam’s brain thinks differently than most others, so knowing he has autism has helped us in explaining his differences to others in his life (teachers, friends, family. etc.). We’ve found that the adults around him are more patient and more hands off. It’s given most adults the opportunity to have some flexibility while still allowing Liam to have the same opportunities as other kids.
Autism is an intimate part of almost everything our family does-it’s always there. Over the years we have learned to focus more on the interesting and positive aspects of what autism brings, despite its challenges. Autism makes it difficult for Liam to participate in everyday activities. Any time we go somewhere new, there is always some work involved in preparing Liam and the rest of our family for the outings. New experiences that are typically fun or exciting for other families can be stressful and exhausting for us but we still try to participate in what we can. It’s important for us that our family gets to experience those activities and that Liam becomes more comfortable with them over time. So far, it’s been a beautiful but difficult journey. It’s amazing to see how hard Liam works and how much he has overcome. Learning more about Liam’s autism was an experience for me. Emily would ask about odd things he was doing growing up and I would respond with, “Oh he’s fine. I did stuff like that when I was younger-all boys do.” The fact was, they don’t all do what Liam was doing. There used to be a running joke from time to time that I had autism as well and it would hurt my feelings. As it turns out, I started investigating my own neurodiversity and was diagnosed at 37 years old as autistic. In the process, I received closure on a life that was, honestly, pretty difficult. I understand more why I am the way that I am and why my son is the way that he is. My position now, as an advocate, has given hope to folks for their kids that they may not have had otherwise. I’m a grown autistic man, fully functioning with a family and doing well.
It’s important to us that autism be known as a spectrum and it can vary from one person to the next. The challenges that can be similar from person to person can also be considered strengths that come along with autism. We want people to know that although autism is a huge part of who Liam is, it isn’t all that he is. Liam is an incredible boy and he has so many cool and amazing things to bring to this world. He has a unique way of seeing things and relating to people. It’s pure, innocent, and completely genuine. He is funny, kind, loving and excited about life and finds joy in the most simple of things. Liam delights in sharing that joy with others and while he doesn’t know how to experience relationships in what we would call the “traditional” way, he finds a way to connect with each person in his life in a unique way. Although his method of relating to others is non-traditional, it is beautiful. Liam touches the lives of almost everyone who has the opportunity to know him. He loves freely and unconditionally. He is AWESOME.
We loved seeing everyone at the Piedmont Park and enjoying the day with popsicles, sunshine, and friendship! Thank you to everyone who joined us!
Our next event is our movie day! We’re so excited to pair up with Flix Brewhouse on May 7th to watch the movie that YOU will vote on! Arrival is between 10-10:15 and all of our families will enjoy a FREE medium popcorn and unlimited drinks! For now, please limit your RSVP to up to 3 family members, as we’d love to provide this experience for as many families as can attend. If you have more than 3 family members, please fill out the RSVP and email email@example.com with your name, your child’s name, and the amount of tickets you would need total! This is an event for patients and their families only! Registration for this event is required by May 2!
Mark your calendars for the PieceWalk! It will be held on Saturday, June 4, at 6:30pm at Scissortail Park. The public voted and our shirt theme will be…HARRY POTTER! We’re excited to roll out our shirt design and order form on our next blog post as well as all our social media platforms, so make sure you keep an eye out! In the meantime, you can join our team for the Piece Walk. It’s free to sign up, even if you can’t make it! We’d love your support for our families who care for someone on the autism spectrum. If it’s in your heart, donations go toward resources for families as well as advocacy and awareness.
We all know the importance of home practice when it comes to speech therapy, but sometimes finding the time can be really difficult! Here are some options of when to incorporate home practice:
- In the car on the way to and from school/daycare. Have you visited this website for specific sounds and word lists? Write down a list of 10 words for the day and practice them going to and from school! If your child has apraxia and is working on syllable structures, ask your therapist for a list of 10 words for the week to work on during your commute!
- Play “I spy” in the car on the way to and from school/daycare. There are so many different things that we pass to work on – colors, descriptions, words, adjectives, etc.!
- Practice a word list while in the bath/shower each night. Pick 10 words and run with it! If your child is working on language skills, talk about the bubbles, imitating blowing bubbles and splashing, talk about the water and how it feels, sequence the time in the bath/shower (First we get in, then we get our soap…). If all else fails, ask your clinician about how to incorporate important goals into your daily routine!
- Spend 5 intentional minutes each day working on language/interaction. It can be in the morning, in the evening, or late at night. Try to set aside 5 minutes per day and see how it feels! If it starts out as 1 minute, that’s okay! Give grace in the attempts to incorporate home practice. It doesn’t all have to look like sitting down at the table to do worksheets!
- Remember: whatever practice you can do, is what you can do and it is GOOD ENOUGH!